In what can be described as the lowest part of the Nigerian education system, a joint team of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and the National Universities Commission confirmed the worst fears of education lovers that the fraud and scams in the financial and government sectors have finally lounged in the tertiary education system. This is evidence that corruption and politics are winning.
There is no denying that the reputation of this country, in dealing with economic and financial sectors lies in tatters today. But there is absolutely no way the nation can recover from its present quagmire if the system of university education is also thrown into this dirty mix.
In a novel venture of its type, the ICPC and the NUC recently set up a joint team to report on the “proliferation of illegal universities in Nigeria, which has become a source of embarrassment to the government of the nation”.
The shocking finding of the joint committee was that “not less than 67 illegal degree mills (universities) have been identified” and that many more are there and have yet to be discovered.
One particularly shocking incident in this regard is the discovery of the Richmond Open University, Enugu, leading the arrest of its proprietor, “Professor” Mazi Chris Okoro. As reported by the media, the law enforcement agents picked up the son of the university’s Proprietor and four other staff of the institution as well as a Catholic Reverend Sister.
The ICPC officials reportedly interrogated the Reverend Sister in-charge of the Luminary International Centre for Health and Alternative Medicine which had metamorphosed into Society for Energy Health with its headquarters at Mgbowo in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Records following a raid by the ICPC revealed recovered items, including, among others, large quantity of WAEC and Diploma certificates, Doctorates, Masters and Bachelors’ degrees as well as honourary doctorate degrees.
“Professor” Okoro who claimed that he bagged his professorship by “convention” instead of merit, said he could not remember the total number of his graduates in each academic session, adding that he could not also recollect the names of the Vice Chancellor of his university as well as members of the senate committee of the institution.
Okoro further said that although his university was not registered or any of the courses offered in the institution accredited by the NUC, he was not perturbed since the Court gave him judgment to run the university as well as award honourary doctorate degrees to members of the public, adding that he was just rendering humanitarian service to the people.
“I do not have any registration with NUC because I opened this school as a distant learning institution. This university has been operating since 2005 the court gave judgment in my favour. The NUC went on Appeal and failed. The Richmond University has nothing to do with NUC. It was formerly called Institute of Journalism and Continuing Education. I have trained many people in this school and that is why I am a professor. I teach journalism. I am a professor of journalism”, he added.
If the nation was shocked by this alarming discovery, the nation’s media system is certainly not. For the past one month since this revelation was made, the media have acted as if there is no news in Nigeria except the implosion rocking the ruling party at the centre, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Many might think that there is nothing new in this same culture of corruption and robbing the nation of its wealth and pride that has been going on for decades. As can be seen from the ICPC’s narrative above, these scammers have been acting arrogantly since time immemorial, with impunity licensed by the courts of law and officials in high government offices. Even the media’s lack of general interest in these scams do not evoke any surprise.
The culture of investigation and follow-up on breaking stories is gradually being abandoned. But where there is work to do as in this case, the media mustn’t float in sensational reporting alone.
Common Nigerians believe that where there are vested interests, government is not accountable to anyone. No one close to the powers-that-be will get punished.
What this teamwork between the ICPC and NUC is doing to dig up the facts, hoping that consciences may be struck, the media aroused, and the people woken up from their sleep to challenge the continuing proliferation of illegal degree-awarding universities.
This country cannot achieve national development with illegal institutions that have no standards and infrastructural facilities. Without labs and libraries, without qualified academic and support staff, these illegal institutions are only focused on making money at the expense of parents desperate to have their wards get academic qualifications. The NUC, according to this report, has found some of the closed institutions to be training doctors and other medical professionals without qualified academic staff and teaching hospitals. We are used to having fake policemen and fake tax collectors.
With fake doctors, where are we going from here? It is ironic but true that a government under fire from all directions for its own corruption may in the end, be successful in giving cure to the corruption in tertiary education. But the ICPC–NUC team-up can only succeed with an aware population that is itself determined to see a change in this unwanted situation.