From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
An activist, Collins Opurozor and a lawyer, Okey Amechi, SAN have written a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Rector of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba over alleged certificate racketeering in the institution.
In his petition to ICPC entitled, ‘Certificate racketeering and certification of a semi-illiterate by Abia State Polytechnic, Aba,’ Opurozor said: “The attention of ICPC is hereby drawn to a series of sleazy dealings which culminated in the award of an Ordinary National Diploma statement of result by the Registrar, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, Mr. Chinyere Oriaku, to one Chief Gregory Okwuchukwu Okafor, whom, from all records and facts, was unfit for such certification.
But the institution, through the registrar, has insisted that the management of the Abia Polytechnic did no wrong awarding a diploma certificate to a deserving student, noting that all appropriate processes and procedures were followed.
Also, Chief Okafor, the former student, also dismissed the petition against him, maintaining that he attended the institution like other students and legitimately earned his diploma, contrary to what his detractors were propagating.
The genesis of the whole matter, according to Opurozor began in 2017, when he said Chief Okafor went to a secondary school in Aba, Abia State and obtained a NECO result with the following registration number: 18632794AC.
“Prior to then, Chief Okafor had no known academic records with the school or any other school for that matter, neither could anyone in the 2017 set of the school, his ostensible classmates, identify him.
“His aim was to obtain the O’level certificate so as to pursue his obsessive political aspiration with it. With this suspicious academic background, he proceeded to Abia State Polytechnic, Aba and secured admission during the 2018/2019 academic session into the Department of Business Administration and Management with the following registration number: ABP/NDP/18/0000015285.”
Alleged doubtful result
The petitioner told ICPC that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant effect on the school system, as academic activities were halted for much of 2020, yet, that while classmates of Chief Okafor were still in school as at December 2021, the student was issued a Diploma statement of result dated November 30, 2021.
“Most of the students were yet to conclude their industrial training, and their final results were still being awaited, as the lecturers were yet to submit the results to the Examinations and Records Department for processing.
“However, Chief Gregory Okafor, obviously in a desperate move to procure an academic qualification so as to contest for the Presidency of Aba Sports Club, an office which minimum academic qualification must be OND, began to collude with the Registrar of the polytechnic,” the petition alleged.
Opurozor alleged that this collusion led to the “manufacturing” of result for the student within 24 hours, using the letter headed paper of the school bearing the name of the retired registrar as a cover up.
After cataloguing the alleged sins of the registrar in his regard, Opurozor in the petition which was copied to the Presidency, Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC and other bodies, including the Federal Ministry of Education and Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, the Visitor to the school, prayed ICPC thus:
“This is on massive rot which we suspect was jointly perpetrated by the Registrar, the Head of Department of Business Administration and Management and some lecturers, and forensic investigation into the examinations papers of Chief Okafor will immediately reveal that he bribed his way to a Diploma result of the Polytechnic”.
Agitated perhaps by Opurozor’s petition, a legal practitioner based in Umuahia, Okey Amechi, SAN, wrote the Rector of the Abia State Polytechnic, Prof. Kalu Osonwa, over what he described as the manner in which Chief Okafor obtained his OND result from the institution.
In the petition, Amechi said Chief Okafor, a businessman in Aba, and a member of the Aba Sports Club 1926, had indicated interest in contesting election for the office of the President of the Club scheduled for December 1, 2021.
The lawyer said going by the constitution of the club, an aspiring member must be a holder of at least a Diploma obtained from a tertiary institution.
He alleged that Okafor, having not the said academic qualification, secured admission during the 2018/2019 academic session into the Department of Business Administration and Management.
Amechi said; “Surprisingly, Chief Okafor who had up to the closure of nominations for the office of the President of the club maintained he was a student of Abia Poly, suddenly brought a purported OND statement of result dated November 30, 2021.
“This statement of result purportedly showed that Chief Okafor had graduated from your school with effect from August 1, 2020,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.
Like the activist emphasised in his petition, Amechi noted that the National Diploma statement of result issued to the student, which the institution said took effect from August 2020, was despite the disruptions in academic activities across the globe in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amechi said the authenticity of the said result issued to Chief Okafor was seriously in doubt, stressing that as at December 2021, the school had yet to graduate students of the 2018/2019 session.
Casting further doubts on the authenticity of the result, the lawyer averred: “The Diploma statement of result, though dated November 30, 2021, still bears the letter headed paper of a long retired Registrar of the school, Chief Mrs C.A Nwabughiogu, instead of the current Registrar, Mr. Oriaku Chinyere. C., while an attestation letter to the Aba Sports Club, also dated November 30,2021, had Oriaku’s letter headed paper”.
Amechi, therefore requested the Polytechnic to verify in writing, the status of the ND Statement of result issued to Chief Okafor to avoid legal actions.
Rights Group’s demand
Meanwhile, the Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy (CRPA) has also requested the institution to verify and make public the authenticity of the ND result issued to Chief Okafor.
CRPA added that in dealing with its request, the Polytechnic should be guided by the need to protect the sanctity of the academic certificates of Abia State Polytechnic.
Contacted about the petitions, the Rector of the Polytechnic, Prof. Kalu Osonwa directed inquiries to the Registrar.
However, the Registrar, Mr. Oriaku dismissed the allegations, saying the school did nothing wrong. “Our hands are clean,” he declared, adding that the student, whose result is the bone of contention, was properly admitted in the 2018/2019 academic session.
Oriaku showed some documents to prove that on finishing his OND, the student was not issued result in isolation as is being alleged, but alongside other students. Indeed, Okafor’s result was number 30 on the log.
Oriaku said the institution had not and could never compromise its standard on the issuance of her certificates, adding that the OND result given to the student, Okafor, did not contravene any laid down rules.
The registrar stated that the student, having gained admission in the 2018/2019 academic session, was due to have his result in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding.
When asked about the issue of the attestation letter he sent to the Aba Sports Club 1926 and the Diploma statement of result, both dated November 30, 2021, and which bore his letterhead and that of the immediate past Registrar of the Polytechnic, Chief Mrs. C.A. Nwabughiogu, respectively, and signed by one Ogbuji Ebere Peace, Oriaku said Mrs. Nwabughiogu came into the picture because at the time of issuing the result, the school had not printed letterheads bearing his name.
On her part, the immediate past Registrar, Mrs Nwabughiogu denied any wrongdoing, insisting that she retired from the polytechnic before November 30, 2021.
In further clarification of the issue at stake, the polytechnic, in a statement signed by the PRO, Mrs Stella Nwakanma declared as follows:
“That the institution has at no time compromised its standard by engaging in certificate racketeering.
“That the student in question was duly admitted by the institution and also fulfilled all conditions required for the issuance of his National Diploma Statement of result.
“That the institution is ever ready to respond to any inquiries relating to its operations in line with laid down procedures.”
While demanding a balanced reportage on the matter, the release warned those who it said are hell bent on dragging the name of the institution to the mud to desist from such.
The institution said it was not unmindful of the antics of some people who are hell bent on tarnishing the image of the Polytechnic and has therefore mandated its legal team to explore all legitimate options to redress the issue.
The student, Okafor, the man in the eye of the storm, while responding to the allegations, said he gained admission into Abia Poly in the 2018/2019 academic session and finished his OND in 2020, but was issued with his result in 2021, when he asked for it.
“Those who are saying I did not attend primary and secondary Schools before jumping into Abia Poly don’t know what they are saying. There is no way I would have counted three without first counting one. I attended primary school in my village, Ukpor, Anambra State, and attended secondary School in Aba, before gaining admission into Abia Poly,” he said.
Okafor said he was not the only student issued result by the school in his set, and would not know why it was only his result that was generating problems.
“But the truth remains that some people who believed I stood on their way to becoming president of Aba Sports Club, are those levelling these unfounded allegations against me, thinking that with it, they can get me out of the way, but that’s not possible.
“I got admission into Abia Poly, attended classes and wrote my exams like any other student and at the end of the programme, was awarded the OND certificate alongside my course mates”. he said.
He exonerated Abia Poly from any wrong doing in issuing him the result, insisting that he merited the result.