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Fishing out fake graduates in NYSC

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Corps members in a parade ground

Last July, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Shuaibu Ibrahim, accused universities in Benin-Republic of presenting unqualified persons for its one-year mandatory scheme. Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL writes that the DG will be wiser to look inward as a charity, they say, begins at home.

This year, precisely in July, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, accused universities in the Benin Republic of presenting unqualified persons for its one-year mandatory national service and revealed that the corps had begun investigations into the activities of the universities involved in the fraudulent practice.

“It is unfortunate that some institutions of higher learning, particularly in Cotonou, Benin Republic, present to us people who didn’t go through the four walls of the university as graduates for NYSC mobilisation.

“We are presently investigating some of such so-called graduates, many of whom cannot write or spell any word in English,” but nothing has been heard so far. Nigeria is filled with myriads of investigations and little or no resolutions.

Proving that the situation is different this time around, the NYSC disclosed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would work with it in combating fraudulent mobilisation of unqualified graduates for national service.

Nigeria is the seventh most populous nation in the world. With an estimated 42.5 million people in 1960; its population has grown to 200 million people in 2018. According to the United Nations’ projections, by 2050 the country will have a population of 399 million people and that is not good news for the country’s education sector in which severe cuts in financial allocation for the sector have done more damage than good.

The situation has resulted in the unwieldy rise of illegal tertiary institutions in the country with most of them claiming affiliation to established universities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada – even Ghana and the Republic of Benin.

It is not surprising when the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, announced that it had constituted a 16-man committee to screen over 40,000 degrees claimed to have been obtained from Nigerian students who studied in foreign institutions.

The former Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, while inaugurating the committee in Abuja, said the screening by the committee was necessary to detect cases of fake foreign degrees obtained, particularly from sub-standard institutions in Africa and beyond.

According to a preliminary assessment by the government, no fewer than 40,000 Nigerians were either holding such certificates or currently studying in various tertiary institutions abroad, with the education ministry revealing that it had already identified certificates from questionable institutions, especially from countries such as Benin Republic, Togo, and Cameroon.

In 2018, NYSC had informed the National Universities Commission (NUC) of the presence of corps members who displayed “glaring lack of academic ability and intelligence level expected of genuine Nigerian graduates, which were consistently exhibited by the three students from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology”.

It had added: “As contained in the reports, the corps members exhibited signs of incompetence and low intelligence level which range from inability to complete registration formats correctly to not being able to teach pupils at the nursery school level. These inadequacies led to their rejections by their employers in their various states of deployment.”

To uncover how the three illiterates graduated and were cleared to serve in the compulsory one-year programme, the NUC set up a panel, comprising of NYSC officials, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the Department of State Services (DSS).

The mandate of the panel, signed by NUC Director of Quality Assurance, Prof. C.F. Mafiana, is to fully investigate the report with a view to identifying the culprits, including others similarly mobilised and their collaborators, and ensuring sanctions accordingly.

It was reported that one of the illiterate graduates –a lady – could hardly write the Roman figure from one to 10 in words, just as she could not write three states and their capitals. Also, she could not provide the names of two major rivers in Nigeria, just as she failed to name three countries that share a border with Nigeria.

The second person was rejected by King’s College, Lagos after it was discovered that she was “grossly incompetent to perform her duties”. A further test on her by the Lagos State NYSC secretariat revealed that though a graduate of Electricals/Electronics, she did not pass any of the science subjects at the senior secondary school level.

The third person, posted to Abuja, was rejected by a nursery/primary school because of his inability to read and write. Having been rejected by two employers, he had to be reposted by Abuja NYSC to a bakery, pending the final determination of his case by the NYSC. It was not surprising.

The senate of ESUT subsequently announced the withdrawal of the first degree certificates of the trio for demonstrating a lack of “academic competence and intelligence level expected of a genuine Nigerian graduate.”

The affected students, according to the university authorities, were Nwankwo Elias Chukwuebuka, code number NG/11B/1660, B.Sc
Electrical/Electronic with call-up No. NYSC/EST/2011/177093; Mba, Linda Alumnae, code number LA/11B/5245, B.Sc Electrical/Electronics, call-up number NYSC/EST/2011/178882 with matriculation number ESUT/2005/96998; and Okochi Adaeze Kate, code number AD/12B/0389, B.Sc Geography and Meteorology with call-up No. NYSC/ ESUT/2012/148292, matriculation number ESUT/2006/10400.

“The general public is hereby informed that following the reports of the investigation panels set up by the NUC, and the university on the matter, the ESUT Senate at its 239th regular meeting held on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, received and considered the reports of the investigation panels and upheld that the certificates issued to the above-named persons be withdrawn and have therefore been withdrawn,” the university stated in a public notice.

Between 2015 and 2017, no fewer than 20 persons were arrested for being in possession of forged certificates, presentation of fake certificates, and forgery of the signature of ministry officials.

However, considering the Federal Government’s appointment of Salisu
Buhari – the disgraced, certificate-forging former Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the governing council of a federal university – it is not difficult to see the kind of support the NUC will get from the government. Buhari was elected into the House based on forgery and perjury – he had lied about his age and academic qualifications. He had claimed a degree from the University of Toronto, Canada, which he never earned.

The then-Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, months ago had tabled a proposal at the retreat for the governing councils of Nigerian federal universities, organised by the NUC.

Anwukah told the councils: “The universities are producing products that are not matching the needs of the industries. I urge the committee of pro-chancellors and committee of vice-chancellors to end the decline in the standard of education.”

A large number of public and private universities in Nigeria have not provided easy access to university education. Some stakeholders in the sector believe that this is due to the low carrying capacity of the universities. They noted that 96 per cent of the candidates who sat the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) chose the university as their preferred institutions; 1.69 per cent chose colleges of education while 1.9 percent settled for polytechnics as their preferred institutions.

It is not surprising then when the NUC in 2018 released a list of 58 illegal universities in Nigeria.

The commission accused the institutions of operating without being licensed and therefore shut them down for violating the national minimum standard for education, according to a bulletin from the office of the NUC dated May 14.

Among the illegal universities were University of Accountancy and Management Studies; Christians of Charity American University of Science and Technology; University of Industry; University of Applied Sciences and Management; Blacksmith University; Volta University College; Royal University; Atlanta University; United Christian University; United Nigeria University College; Samuel Ahmadu University; UNESCO University; Saint Augustine’s University of Technology.

Others are The International University, Missouri USA; Columbus University, UK; Tiu International University, UK; Pebbles University, UK; London External Studies, UK; Pilgrims University; West African Christian University; Bolta University College; JBC Seminary Inc. (Wukari Jubilee University); Western University; St. Andrews University College; EC-Council USA; Atlas University; and the Concept College/Universities (London).

In total, the NUC listed 58 black-market tertiary institutions operating in the country. The commission also said eight universities were undergoing investigation for illegally running degree programmes.

The eight universities are National Universities of Nigeria, Keffi, Nasarawa State; North Central University, Otukpo, Benue state; Christ Alive Christian Seminary and University; Richmond Open University, Arochukwu, Abia State; West Coast University, Umuahia; Saint Clements University, Iyin-Ekiti, Ekiti State; Volta University College, Aba, Abia State; and illegal satellite campuses of Ambrose Alli University.

The Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) is also worried about NYSC products. It does not rain but it pours when it comes to the corps grappling with fake graduates. Higher institutions’ personnel have often employed back-door operations to sneak some ‘students’ into the NYSC call-up list. The absence of a reliable database, corrupt government officials and dishonest tertiary institutions’ personnel have contributed to the menace of fake graduates parading as corps members.

“The issue of having mass failure is a process. Parts of the people contributing to the process are these corps members. t is an abuse to our profession. The government should stop posting youth corpers to teach in schools,” the teachers’ council added.

Giving a sucker punch, the TRCN explained further, “We at the council are against posting of NYSC without teaching background to schools. What we are saying is that NYSC should make sure that only corps members who read education should be deployed to schools.”


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