By Yemi Badru
No doubt, there is a crazy passion for certification among Nigeria with many willing to go to any measure to get a certificate from any higher institution.
Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), one of the oldest and prestigious tertiary institutions in the country, proving to be a haven for people hoping to get fake academic certificates and certification to their names.
In recent times, Yabatech, which has over the decades produced notable Nigerians that rose to the pinnacle of their careers in various disciplines including Engineering, Accounting, Quantity Surveying, Military, Academics, Music, Creative and Fine Arts, Sports, Administration and Management, has been involved in a multiplicity of academic vices.
These scandalous activities range from admission racketeering to grade-for-cash and sex, to certificate forgery. The institution is swirling in multi-million organized academic crimes.
Certificate forgery may not be entirely new to the Nigerian system but it has taken a frightening dimension since the restoration of civil rule in 1999 as desperate politicians across the nation seek quick and illegal avenues to upgrade their academic inadequacies while aspiring for public offices.
One of such politicians is Alhaji Lawal Mohammed Idris, a federal lawmaker from Kogi State, who has been alleged to have paid N10 million to clerical staff in the Department of Examinations and Records of Yabatech to forge a certificate of the institution.
Investigations by The Educational Tide revealed that the clerical staff, Adekoya Oluwasheun, under police interrogation admitted guilt but insisted he did not act alone.
Investigators at the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCID), in their Investigation Report (Ref. No. CB: 4049/X/GI/ADM/T.LEGAL/VOL.2/), sighted by The Education Tide (TET) show that Adekoya “is the principal suspect that actually forged 1987 ND certificate for Alhaji Lawal Mohammed Idris. He is a non-academic staff attached to the Central Laboratory Section and Certificate Room of Yaba College of Technology.
“He stated that he got to know Honourable Lawal Mohammed Idris through a friend called Kunle Owoseni in the month of September 2015 and that after Kunle had introduced Lawal Idris to him in the school premises as his (Kunle’s) direct boss in office, he (Lawal Idris) later approached him confidently that he presented fake 1987 National Diploma Certificate of Yaba College of Technology to INEC when he was about contesting for 2015 National Assembly Election under Ajaokuta Constituency 1 in Kogi State, and that he needed a perfection of the purportedly forged certificate dated the 26th day of June 1987.”
Investigators stated that Adekoya revealed that he collected a photocopy of the fake certificate and later did a fake perfection for the politician in consideration for payment of N10 million. The money, he allegedly shared with Owoseni and some of his colleagues in the office.
The clerical staff told Police he routinely produced fake certificates in 2016 for interested persons, including politicians, while in cohort with his immediate bosses – Ologunore Jasper Abiodun and Peter Oyebanji, of the Exams & Academic Record Department of Yabatech
The prime suspect explained that since he has unfettered access to the Department of Exams & Records of the institution, it was easy for him to have the original results of Yabatech. Also, he explained that when letters of confirmation of such fake results from their clients’ respective employers were sent to Yabatech, the syndicate would swiftly intercept such letters and process the requests by themselves. They would send replies to the client’s organization affirming the fake results to be genuine. One of the organizations so dealt with was the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),
Fake results for SSS officers
Adekoya further admitted that he and his bosses have helped not only politicians to procure fake certificates from Yabatech but other civil servants and security agents. As contained in the Police investigation report, the suspected forger produced “fake results for Wilson Sandra attached to Edo State Government in the Department of Internal Revenue. Others were Ejoubo Petera, Abayomi Ojo Ajayi, Flora Bassey Oke, Deru Olayinka Folashade, and Olubunmi Olufunke attached to the Department of State Security Service, Ikeja Lagos.”
He concluded that he (Adekoya) usually compensated the staff at the Office of the Registrar of the institution with the proceeds of fake certificates ‘for their cooperation during the forgery exercise’, through his boss, 52-year-old Ologunore Jasper Abiodun, who was the Sectional Head, Exams & Academic Records, having settled Mrs Adewale Iziogba, a 55-year-old typist, Mr Aluko Olugbenga, a 42-year-old staff member of Exams & Academic Records Department, Arejiogbe Bayo, a 51-yr-old staff member of Exams & Academic Records).
Also settled are some staff members of the Exams & Academic Records Department: Funke Madamidola, 41 years old, Mrs Helen Ibitayo
, a 40-year-old staff member in the Transcript Section of the department and Mr Olagunju Nasiru, 40 years old; as well as Mrs Amapakabo Charity, the 55-year-old Registrar.
When detectives searched the home of Adekoya, they were stunned by heaps of fake and official documents in his possession. Among their findings were blank Yabatech certificates, photocopies of the forged 1987 National Diploma certificate, Lower Credit, Business Administration, in the name of Lawal Mohammed Idris; Yabatech Academic Board approved result for the Department of Mathematics &Statistics for the 1991/92 session; letter for verification of result of Wilson Sandra from Edo State Internal Revenue Service addressed to the Rector, Yaba College of Technology; and letter for verification of result of Gbedozin E. Petera, Abayomi Ojo Ajayi, Flora Bassey Oke, Deru Olayinka Folashade, Olubunmi Olufunke Akinsola from DSS, Ikeja, Lagos.
Other items recovered were an official transcript of the academic record of Bamigboye Ibukun Omotunde for the 2004/2005 session; an official transcript of the academic record of Adebayo Muritala Abiola for the 2010/2011 session; an official transcript of the academic record of Aimudo Benjamin Adeyemi for 2007/2008 session; a photocopy of the forged letter of authentication of certificate of Lawal Mohammed Idris dated 27th March 2017, addressed to the Honourable Speaker, House of Representative Abuja from Yaba College of Technology and official rubber stamp of the Deputy Registrar, Examinations & Academic Records, Yaba College of Technology.
Additional findings were made by the Police in the course of interrogation of other suspects linked to the forged certificate sold to the politician. One was that Kunle Owoseni, the Personal Assistant to Alhaji Lawal Mohammed Idris, who acted as a fixer in connecting the politician to the alleged forger, Adekoya.
Owoseni said after the forged certificate had been perfected, his boss unceremoniously gave him a letter terminating his appointment “without any cogent reason”.
The Registrar, Mrs Charity Amapakabo told the Police that though her role as Head of Registry was to coordinate the activities of all departments, it was always difficult for her to know what her subordinates do on daily basis beyond the reports they send to her. She confirmed that all the official documents shown to her as items recovered from Adekoya’s home were indeed official documents of Yabatech, meant to be treated and filed in appropriate places within the institution.
In his statement to the Police, 54-year-old Oyebanji Ademola Peter, who was the Head of Department (HOD) of Examination and Academic Records before he was redeployed to another department, said that though the forgery happened during his tenure as HOD, Adekoya must have taken the advantage of the movement of the Department from the old administrative building to new location at Bursary/Registry Building.
Oyebanji stated that Adekoya must have gained access to certain important documents and original results of the institution before staff members could settle down in their new office block, and has been using these to perpetuate his illegal issuance of certificates to people.
He added that Adekoya worked directly under Jasper Ologunore who in turn reported back to him. He further added that Mrs Adewale Iziogba, who was in charge of confirmation of results and directly worked with Ologunore cannot claim ignorance of the illegal dealings in fake certificates.
But while the Oyebanji accused both Ologunore and Mrs Iziogba of being in the known of Adekoya’s nefarious activities, a counter-accusation came from Ologunore, who said his HOD (Oyebanji) can also not feign ignorance. Jasper said that when he became suspicious of Adekoya hijacking official documents for nefarious activities; he alerted the school authority by issuing him a query which “did not see the light of the day.”
Ologunore averred that he was never a signatory officer to the issuance of certificate or reply to verification of result enquiries; rather it was Mrs Adewale Iziogba. Ologunore stated that when he discovered that something fishy was going on, he suggested that Mrs Iziogba be posted under him for proper monitoring. He said his suggestion was turned down by the HOD, Oyebanji, ‘who cannot claim ignorance of the illicit acts.’
Ologunore dropped a bombshell by vividly citing a request from NNPC Retail Limited Abuja for verification of the certificate of one of its employees, Ibrahim Mohammed. Dated June 2016, the result was confirmed to be fake.
“Two weeks later, there was a distress call from NNPC Abuja that Yaba College of Technology has issued another counter-confirmation that the said result was authentic. Every effort put in place to conduct an investigation on the signatory officer (Mrs Adewale Iziogba) was suppressed till date by the HOD, Mr Oyebanji Adewale Peters.”
Ologunore concluded by saying he never shared from the N10 million paid by Lawal Mohammed Idris for his fake certificate, neither did he benefit from any other illicit proceeds. He affirmed that the trio of Oyebanji Adewale Peters (HOD), Mrs Adewale Iziogba (typist and signatory) and Adekoya Oluwasehun (prime suspect) “are perpetrators of all forgery of certificates/ confirmation of forged certificates ongoing at Yaba College of Technology.”
Spreading its dragnet, the Police interrogated Prince Aromolaran Adeyemi, HOD, Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The 42-yr-old lecturer said he was amazed to hear that the 1991/92 session master-list result of his department was found in the home of Adekoya Oluwasehun. He said he knew Adekoya only as a clerical officer of the institution and had not even a remote connection to his rackets.
The Education Tide gathered that the certificate forgery scandal caught top college administrators unaware. After his release on bail, Adekoya was queried by Yabatech management and later dismissed from the institution. A massive reorganization and deployment of staff were also embarked to clean out the Department of Exams & Academic Records.
However, some top management staff of Yabatech believe that the forgery syndicate has other members beyond those quizzed by Police.
And the question in the mind of many, within and outside Yabatech was why is the institution, in this age of digitization, still keeping invaluable school records inside file cabinets.