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By Ugochukwu Alaribe, UMUAHIA

Controversy is raging over the National Diploma statement of result issued to a student/businessman, Chief Okafor Gregory Okwuchukwu, by Abia State Polytechnic, Aba.

This is coming one month after the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, had withdrawn the accreditation of the polytechnic over non-payment of over 30 months arrears of salaries owed workers, an action the state House of Assembly is investigating.

The student, Okafor Gregory Okwuchukwu, an Aba based businessman, was admitted into the Department of Business Administration and Management in the 2018/2019 academic session with registration number, 2018NDE/O4397/BA.

In August 2020, the polytechnic graduated Okafor and awarded him National Diploma (ND) in Business Administration and Management at lower level, CPGA 2.99.

Meanwhile, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the ND award is generating controversy as Chief Okey Amechi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, has written the polytechnic for clarification on the ND.

A human rights organization, Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy, CRPA, has, under the Freedom of Information Act, also written the Rector of the polytechnic, Prof. Kalu Okorie Osonwa, asking him to clear the air on the ND awarded Okafor.

CRPA noted that in dealing with the application, the Rector should be guided by the need to protect the sanctity of the academic certificates of Abia State Polytechnic.

An activist, Collins Opurozor, on his part, in a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC , accused the polytechnic of certificate racketeering and tasked the commission to investigate the ND and ascertain if due process was followed in the award and punish officials of the institution if found culpable.

However, the polytechnic has denied wrongdoing, stressing that it followed due process and standard practice in the award of the ND to the student.

Disputing the ND award, Amechi alleged that what appeared to have cast doubt on the ND was the election by the Aba Sports Club 1926 in which the minimum qualification for a member to contest for the presidency was ND. The SAN alleged that Okafor did not possess the minimum qualification at the time he indicated interest in the presidency of the club in the election which held December 1, 2021. He alleged that the businessman recognized his academic deficiency and enrolled for a programme in Business Administration and Management at Abia Polytechnic during the 2018/2019 academic session.

His words: “Surprisingly, Chief Okafor, who had up to the closure of nomination for the office of the President of the club maintained that he was a student of the Abia Polytechnic, suddenly brought an ND statement of result dated November 30, 2021”.

According to the lawyer, what the statement of result showed was that Okafor had graduated from the school with effect from August 2020. But Amechi claimed that the student could not have graduated in August 2020, having gained admission during the 2018/2019 session, as academic activities were disrupted worldwide in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The SAN alleged there were contradictions in the statement of result dated November 2021 and issued with the letter head of a retired Registrar of the Polytechnic, C.A. Nwabughiogu, instead of the current Registrar, Oriaku Chinyere.

“The statement of result, though signed on November 30, 2021, bears the letter head paper of the retired Registrar of the school, Chief Mrs C.A. Nwabughiogu, instead of the current Registrar, Mr. Oriaku Chinyere”, he said.

“The statement of result was not signed by the current Registrar himself but was signed for the Registrar by one Ogbuji Ebere Peace. “When the Management of Aba Sports Club 1926 petitioned your school for clarification of the status of the result, a response from your school, dated November 30, 2021, showed the same Ogbuji Ebere Peace who, again, signed for the Registrar, using a letter headed paper bearing the current Registrar of the school”.

The senior lawyer argued that as at December 2021, Abia Polytechnic was yet to graduate students of ND programmes that were admitted during the 2018/2019 session.

Sunday Vanguard investigation reveals that Aba Sports Club 1926 had, in a letter dated November 23, 2021, written the polytechnic, seeking clarification on Okafor’s status.

In response, the polytechnic wrote an attestation letter affirming that Okafor graduated in August 2020. However, the attestation letter was rejected by the Trustees of the club as an alternative to certificate.

In his petition to the ICPC, Opurozor insisted that Okafor was not qualified for the award of ND as at the time he was said to have graduated from the polytechnic.

His words: “The statement of result, dated November 30, 2021 and signed by one Ogbuji Peace Ebere, bears the letter headed paper of the retired Registrar, Chief Mrs C.A. Nwabughiogu, who had left office two months earlier.

“The attestation letter sent to the management of Aba Sports Club, dated November 30, 2021, signed by the same Ogbuji Peace Ebere, bears the name of the current Registrar, Mr. Oriaku Chinyere C.

“Does the Abia State Polytechnic have two Registrars? Why was the Diploma statement of result signed on the same date, November 30, 2021, by two Registrars, Chief Mrs C.A. Nwabughiogu and Mr. Oriaku Chinyere C, respectively, when the former had retired from the polytechnic?

“This means that the polytechnic had two Registrars on November 30, 2021? This is not possible because the former Registrar could not have issued an official document with her headed paper when she had retired.

“It is pertinent to ask why the current Registrar chose to issue a statement of result under the name of his predecessor even when the date on the document shows him as the issuer?

“Which of the Registrars instructed Ogbuji Peace Ebere to sign the attestation letter and statement of result on November 30, 2021?

“Was it the retired Registrar whose name appears on the statement of result but had left office two months earlier or the current Registrar who had assumed office as at November 30, 2021 when the attestation letter and statement of result were issued?

“We all went to school, results of students are processed in batches and the academic boards of the various departments and faculties sit and approve same.

“After this, the Senate of the institution also sits and approves the results from various faculties before they are published.

“In view of the Covid -19 pandemic which halted academic activities across the globe in 2020, when did Okafor start and complete his Industrial Training programme which is a condition for the award of Diploma?

“When did the department and faculty boards and the Senate of the polytechnic sit to approve the ND result issued to Okafor Gregory Okwuchukwu?

“The management has lots of questions to answer on this ND statement.

“This is why I have petitioned the ICPC to investigate the matter and punish anyone found culpable”

Contacted, the retired Registrar of the Polytechnic, Nwabughiogu, said she had left the polytechnic and didn’t know what happened after she left.

Her words: “At the time I left, there were letterheads there, they asked somebody to come and change those letterheads.

“What happened after that I can’t say. I handed over everything. I couldn’t carry my letter heads because I don’t need them.

“Those letter heads may be used as rough paper or anything, but not as official document.

“Whatever happened at that time I cannot say. I can’t remember signing any letter after I left office.

“I can’t answer a question on what happened after I had left office.

“I don’t know what happened after I left office. I left everything that belonged to Abia Poly. I inherited letter headed paper but I used it to do rough work”.

Reacting to the petitions, current Registrar of the polytechnic, Chinyere, said the allegations are being peddled by those who don’t know the operations of the polytechnic, insisting that the student fulfilled all conditions for the award of ND.

He said; “I can tell you that those things are false allegations being peddled by those who don’t know the operations of the institution. “All documents necessary for clarification on the matter are with us and we’re ready to make them available.

“But I can categorically tell you that those allegations are false”.

On his part, the Rector of the polytechnic, Osonwa, said he signed the certificate of the student and urged people who don’t understand the workings of the institution to stop peddling rumor.

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