By Linus Usen
For several months, the presidency refused to speak up on the erstwhile Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate forgery scandal. And when the Chairman, Presidential Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee, Prof. Itse Sagay, did speak, the constitutional lawyer blurted rather gleefully: “I do not see anything serious about it…. If I were President Buhari, I would never, ever touch that woman because she’s damn good”.
Like the case of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, who was caught in grass-cutting scandal, it took relentless screaming by Nigerians to ease Adeosun out. And like the cases of Babachir, Abdulrasheed Maina, Ikoyigate scandal, and a host of others, this is another proof that it is a tall order to expect President Muhammadu Buhari to bring his erring aides and friends to book.
Another clear demonstration of the deodorant/insecticide treatment in the way President Buhari fights corruption and sharp practices is that of his Special Assistant on Prosecutions, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, who also doubles as Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP). In its report laid at before the House of Representatives on 24th July 2018, the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Legality and Mode of Operation of the SPIP, held that Obono-Obla parades a fake West African Examination Council (WAEC) O’ Level result.
According to the report, whereas the WAEC result (Examination No. 09403/247 May/June 1982) with which Chief Obono-Obla gained admission and studied Law at the University of Jos as Okoi Ofem Okoi showed that he made five credit passes, including Literature-in-English, an official letter from WAEC dated 17th April 2018 addressed to the Committee and signed by Mr. Olu Adenipekun points to the contrary.
To be double sure, especially since Obono-Obla refused to honour several invitations by the House to clear the air, the Ad-Hoc Committee invited WAEC to the public hearing to testify under oath. The Deputy Registrar, Mr. Femi Ola, represented the examination body on Wednesday, June 5, 2018. Asked how he would describe Obono-Obla’s WAEC result, he said it was “fake, not genuine”.
The Committee also reports that in a letter dated 11th July 2018 referenced as UJ5/8765/85-86 and signed by the Registrar, Monday Danjem, the documents (photocopies of purported WAEC statement of result, completed registration form for undergraduates, completed JAMB form, and admission requirements for Law) forwarded by the University of Jos confirmed that it was the same result described by WAEC as forged and not genuine that Obono-Obla used to obtain admission and study Law for Bachelor of Law degree. In order words, it is on the basis of this result that he obtained his Law degree, admitted by the Nigeria Law School, called to bar, practices as a lawyer, and appointed by the Buhari administration.
Therefore, the Committee recommended that “the law degree obtained by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla having been done fraudulently should be withdrawn by the University of Jos”. It also asked the Body of Benchers to withdraw the Law School Certificate awarded to Ofem, Okoi Ofem (now known as Chief Okoi Obono-Obla) as this was based on the degree, which he obtained from the University of Jos through fraud. It further called on President Muhammadu Buhari to discharge Okoi Obono-Obla of his responsibilities as Special Adviser and as Chairman of the SPIP. Again, it directed the Inspector-General of Police to prosecute the presidential aide.
In a sane society, news of the alleged forgery would have shaken the entire government when it first broke. The presidency wouldn’t even have waited for the protracted House of Reps investigation before deploying its massive investigative resources to treat the matter with the deserved dispatch. But this administration which prides itself on anti-corruption, change, and integrity, has arrogantly played the deaf and dumb over such a very grievous matter.
On his part, Obono-Obla, who was always the first to come on television to defend the midnight raids on the homes of Supreme Court Justices, refused to appear before the House or address the press to clear his name.
The University of Jos, caring less about her reputation, also wants to be sued and embarrassed in court to withdraw his degree certificate, especially when WAEC, the authority that conduced the examination in question have tendered both written and oral evidences before the House Committee.
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) doesn’t feel obliged to take up the matter to protect its institutional integrity. It has kept mum just as in the many cases of the desecration of rule of law and critical institutions of democracy, including the armed invasion of Rivers State Judiciary Complex, snatching of Senate Mace, siege to the National Assembly complex and residences of Senate leadership.
But imagine that Adeosun or Obono-Obla were Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye, Olisa Metuh, Col. Sambo Dasukki, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe, Prince Uche Secondus, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, other notable opposition leaders or Supreme Court justices, etc. The Inspector-General of Police would have since transmitted hordes of his men to surround their homes. Men of the Department of State Services (DSS) would have carried out a midnight ‘sting operation’ on their residences and University of Jos. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would since have detained, tried them in the media. Just see how speedy and ferocious the police are investigating PDP’s gubernatorial candidate in Osun, Senator Adeleke, over his secondary educational certificate/testimonial. The principal of his former school was even arrested and detained.
Nigerians have never seen the law so partially applied since 1999 at least. Even under various Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administrations, several of their Ministers, Governors, Senate Presidents, House Speakers, Inspector General of Police, etc. were dethroned and put on trial on account of alleged corruption and related matters like forgery.
Little wonder many international reports such as those released by the US State Department, Transparency International, etc. rate Nigeria more corrupt than she was before 2015. And I am afraid; the world may not take this administration seriously when it ignores the alleged corruptions and fraudulent conducts among members of government officials, but chases after the others in the name of anti-corruption.
Obono-Obla should resign, be investigated and prosecuted if investigations uphold WAEC’s claims; same with Adeosun. What is good for Saraki, Melaye, and others should also be good for Adeosun and Obono-Obla.
- Usen lives in Mararaba, Nasarawa State