Certificate Racketeering: FG Urged To Address Systemic Corruption

The federal government has been urged to address the fundamental causes of certificate racketeering and tackle the prevalence of  “degree mills” in the country.

The call follows an investigative report by Daily Nigeria Newspaper reporter Umar Audu, revealing how he obtained a degree within six weeks and even embarked on a mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.

The federal government had set up a probe panel while suspending the evaluation of certificates from over 18 varsities while the investigation lasted.

Professor Magdalene Igbolo led the latest call for the federal government to frontally and holistically tackle certificate racketeering during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja.

Prof. Igbolo stated that the government of the day must seize the moment to address the root causes of certificate fraud not only at the university level but at every other level. The administration should also beam the searchlight on the operation of every degree-awarding institution in the country.

She noted that if the nation must survive the challenges rocking the education sector, then it must address “systemic corruption” while calling on the federal government’s committee probing degree certificate racketeering to thoroughly question the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), Ministry of Education, National University Commission (NUC) and others on why people can easily purchase the certificate.

“For somebody to be in Nigeria and get a certificate within six weeks, it is something that we need to worry about. This is not only happening in Benin or Togo; it is happening right inside Nigeria.

“We need to address the root causes of this problem, and the root cause is in the system. We have people who carry fake WAEC results and get admission into the university; we have people who don’t write jamb, and they get admission into the university. We have people who didn’t sit in class for one day, and they get degrees. So how did it happen? It is people that are helping these people to get these things done.

“We need to address the fundamental issue of corruption in the system. All of these are happening because there is corruption in the system. People can buy and sell degrees. We need to get the system to function,” Prof. Igbolo said.

She called on NYSC, NUC, Ministry of Education and other degree awarding institutions to use technology to combat fake certificates and operations of degree mill universities while cautioning against too much emphasis on paper qualification rather than competence.

“The root cause of all of these is corruption. Now, all the regulatory bodies and institutions must rise and do their work. We need to put systems in place to check all these things,” Prof. Igbolo stated.

Towing the same line, the Head of the Department of History and International Studies, Associate Professor Nwachukwu Obiakor, called on NUC, NYSC, and the Ministry of Education to collaborate in waging war against certificate racketeering.

While lamenting that buying and selling of certificates was an age-long problem in Nigeria, Prof. Obiakor said the latest revelation on degree mills provides the avenue for the government to study all universities in the country.

He said, “The federal government started the process by suspending the degrees of all universities around. First of all, this university is a case study, so they should identify the university, then let the University also partner with the committee and the relevant government agency, that is, the Ministry of Education, to verify all certificates being awarded to Nigerians”.

Prof. Obiakor, however, advised that the emphasis should shift from certificate to skill acquisition and competence going forward.

Narrating his ordeal earlier, Daily Nigerian reporter Umar Audu identified the institutionalization of corruption as the greatest weakness of the system in Nigeria.

“The weakness of our system lies in the fact that corruption has been institutionalized. We have a serious problem: there are people within the system who are cheating the system to make certificate acquisition and cheating easy for undeserving people to get what they didn’t work for, and they go about parading it and work in top institutions in the country,” Audu stressed.

Meanwhile, Nigerians await a report from an eight-man inter-ministerial committee set up by the federal government to probe degree certificate racketeering by foreign and local private universities in Nigeria.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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