- Undercover reporter, Audu Umar had his degree result from Benin Republic university delivered to his door steps within six weeks of “academic period”
- The reporter also enrolled in NYSC after beating its security checks
- NYSC gives reasons for the reporter’s ability to enroll in the program twice, as Ministry of Education suspends verification of degrees from Benin Republic, Togo
On December 30, 2023, the Daily Nigerian online newspaper published an investigative reports, detailing how one of its staff, obtained a University degree from Cotonou Benin Republic within a period of six weeks.
According to the report, the investigative reporter Umar Audu went a step further by enrolling in National Youths Service Corps, NYSC with the fast-tracked result, thereby exposing the rot in our education system.
Exposing the rot in the system
There is no gainsaying the fact the recent under cover investigation by Daily Nigerian reporter has unearthed a lot of rot in our education system. Since the publication of the report, there has been uneasy calm in the affected public establishments mentioned by the reporter. Some of such establishments like National Youths Services Corps has come out to give reasons as to why Umar Audu was able to enroll twice in the program.
According to the NYSC, Mr. Audu changed his recognized phone number, and so their database couldn’t recognize ever handling such number ab initio.
But like one of the analysts has asked the NYSC, if the reporter changed his phone number, did he also change his finger print which was already in their database?
Knocks/praises on the report
While many Nigerians including the affected or mentioned public establishments in the whole saga, have continued to commend the journalist for his bold steps taken to uncover the high level shoddy deals going on in our education sector, many have as a matter of fact taken a different line of thought.
Though lauded as one of the revealing investigative reports, Audu’s investigation has been called into question by some well meaning Nigerians over ethical issues.
According to an Enugu-based Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Paulinus Ogara, the investigation of magnitude and importance should not compromise the very standard it wants to expose.
“While Umar Audu’s actions may be framed as investigative journalism aimed at exposing vulnerabilities in academic systems, it is crucial to evaluate the ethical boundaries of such endeavours. Investigative journalism traditionally involves uncovering issues of public interest while adhering to ethical standards.
“If the intention is to expose flaws in academic institutions, the ethical responsibility lies in ensuring that the investigation itself does not compromise the very principles it seeks to address.”
It is not alien to Nigerians especially in the South East zone that many schools and colleges said to be affiliated to one popular university or the other, some of which state-owned, offering degree programs are more or less operate like the Cotonou university that delivered Umar Shehu Audu his university degree result “like a pizza to his doorsteps.”
In the south East zone, many of such programs are taken under weekend programs, yet they heavily fast-tracked. For instance, courses that are supposed to run full time for four years are fast-tracked to two years on weekend programs.
Many of such institutions have their admission letters backdated to comply with the four-year programs they ought to be in full time university degree programs.
For instance, about three decades ago, a popular federal university in the south East was running Sandwich degree programs for five years.
The programs were designed purely for Faculty of Education and for teachers during long vacation.
However, with the proliferation of degree awarding institutions and fast-tracked degree programs on our education system, the university reduced the duration of their courses to four years, yet the number of their students has continued to dwindle as the years pass by.
Today, the Sandwich programs of the university are as good as dead. Majority of teachers no longer seek admission into the university for the Sandwich. Rather, they have diverted to these fast-tracked degree awarding institutions where NCE and SSCE holders obtain their degree within one and half years and two years respectively, in spite of the fact that they attend lectures only on Saturdays. Like Audu Umar, many students never attend classes, yet their degrees are there to be delivered to them, “should they do necessary things.”
Valentine Utah commended the reporter for his efforts in unraveling the rot in the system.
Mr. Utah, a graduate of superieure de management Benin university (ESM) and a Corps member at Ijebu-Ode explained that not all Universities in Benin are as bad as portrayed by the report.
“I commend the investigators for a job well done. Round the world today we have good and bad eggs in every organization, I can also tell you that there still schools in Cotonou that are doing well in terms of training their students academically.
“I would like to refer you to a school I graduated from in Cotonou and I promise you that your certificate won’t be valid even if you passed through such back doors to get it , I dropped out of osun state university Ikire campus in 2011 in my year two due to financial difficulties, then I started at Ecole superieure de management Benin university (ESM)2019 freshly in the same course international relations and diplomacy. I am now serving at Ijebu-ode .
“Even in Nigeria university today if you want to buy certificate you may still have your way just that it may be expensive than that of Benin republic.
“Please do well to acknowledge those of us who went through that hardship in that country Benin republic due to naira devaluation .I earned my degree.
They gave you what you wanted.”
Reactions of the authorities in Nigeria
Nevertheless, despite the fact that the report opened a can of worms going on in Nigeria education sector, the affected institutions hailed the report.
Federal Ministry of Education
Shortly after the report went viral, the Federal Ministry of Education swiftly released a statement, suspending verification of degree certificates obtained from Togo and Benin Republic.
The statement, released by Mrs. Augustina Obilor-Duru, of the ministry’s Directorate of Press and Public Relations, read: “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Education has been drawn to the commendable work of investigative journalism that led to the publication by the Daily Nigerian Newspaper dated December 30, 2023, titled “UNDERCOVER: How DAILY NIGERIAN reporter bagged Cotonou varsity degree in 6 weeks, participated in NYSC scheme”. This was also carried in various social media.
“This report lends credence to suspicions that some Nigerians deploy nefarious means and unconscionable methods to get a Degree with the end objective of getting graduate job opportunities for which they are not qualified.
“The Federal Ministry of education vehemently decries such acts and with effect from 2nd January 2024 is suspending evaluation and accreditation of degree certificates from Benin and Togo Republics pending the outcome of an investigation that would involve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria and the two countries, the ministries responsible for Education in the two countries as well the Department of State Services, DSS, and the National Youths Service Corps, NYSC.
“The Ministry therefore wish to call on the General Public to support its efforts, show understanding and provide useful information that will assist the Committee in finding lasting solutions in order to prevent further occurrence.
“The Ministry has also commenced internal administrative processes to determine the culpability or otherwise of her staff for which applicable Public Service Rules would be applied.
“The issue of degree mills institutions, i.e institutions that exist on paper or operate in clandestine manner outside the control of regulators is a global problem that all countries grapple with. FME has been contending with the problem including illegal institutions located abroad or at home preying on unsuspecting, innocent Nigerians and some desperate Nigerians who deliberately patronize such outlets.
“Periodically, warnings have been issued by the Ministry and NUC against the resort to such institutions and in some instances, reports made to security agencies to clamp down on the perpetrators. The ministry will continue to review its strategy to plug any loopholes, processes and procedures and deal decisively with any conniving officials.
“The ministry had always adopted the global standard for evaluation and accreditation of certificates of all forms which relies on receipt of the list of accredited courses and schools in all countries of the World.
“The ministry wishes to assure Nigerians and the general public that, it is already putting in place mechanisms to sanitise the education sector, including dissuading the quest for degree certificates (locally or from foreign countries) through a re-invigorated focus on inclusivity: reliance “on all skill sets as directed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“The Federal Ministry of Education is committed to collaborating with stakeholders, including civil society organizations, to consistently enhance the Nigerian education system and we value the public’s understanding and patience as we strive to address these issues.
“The Federal Ministry of Education wishes all Nigerians a happy new year. A year in which we would all work together to strengthen our education sector.”
National Youths Service Corps
By and large, the spokesman of the NYSC, Eddy Megwa, also defended the NYSC for allowing the reporter enroll twice in the program. Megwa said the reporter used different phone numbers to beat the system.
Speaking on Channels Tv breakfast program, Sunrise Daily, Megwa stated that “it is not that we don’t have checks and balances in place to detect possible breaches of the system. When the undercover reporter first put in his data, the system rejected him because he had served in the scheme before.
“He later changed his email address and his phone number which made the system to accept him. And he was initially posted to Osun State.
“He did that because he was out for a particular purpose. We are looking at the situation and ensure that it does not happen again. We don’t have a database of graduates who served in the scheme. We only rely on the lists sent to us by the Senates of the various universities stating the number of graduates to expect from them.”
On how the NYSC can guard against such in the future, the spokesman said: “It is not our duty to assess their certificates, but we have resorted to inviting foreign students and giving them tests to know their abilities.
“In the course of doing that, we have made startling discoveries. Ask some of them to write a simple essay, you will be surprised at what you get. I have some of such materials that I can show you. NYSC is an elite scheme, not for illiterates and the means of communication is English language.
“In 2006, the then DG of NYSC, Brig.- Gen. Yusuf Bomoi, went to an orientation camp and asked a supposed corps member the title of his final project, the answer he gave was incredulous, and further investigation revealed that his name was smuggled into the list of graduates from a particular university.”