Controversies over forged (or missing) certificates have become a recurring theme in Nigeria’s political scene since 1999 when the country returned to democracy.
Several high-profile politicians, both in elective and appointive positions, have been caught in the storm of forged certificates. Not all allegations resulted in proven cases of certificate forgery, however. Consequently, some cases were dismissed in court due to a lack of evidence. A few others were rightly found guilty of this shenanigan.
With the current administration ending in less than a week and a new dispensation waiting to take off, there is every likelihood that the drama and distraction of fake certificates will pop up in the weeks and months ahead.
Here is DAILY POST’s compilation of some of the high-profile cases of Nigerian politicians caught, rightly or wrongly, in the never-ending saga of certificate forgery.
Salisu Buhari was the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria from 1999 to 2000.
He became the poster boy of certificate scandals in Nigeria in 1999 when, shortly after his election, he admitted that he had falsified his age and educational qualifications.
He claimed to have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, when actually what he obtained was a diploma.
Buhari resigned from his position as Speaker following the controversy.
He was also kicked out of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, after faking credentials to earn admission into the institution. Thus, he had no opportunity to participate in the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Salisu would later publicly admit guilt over the forgery allegations and ask Nigerians for forgiveness and another opportunity to serve the country again.
President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari became the subject of certificate controversy following his emergence as the APC presidential candidate in 2015.
DAILY POST recalls that the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised an issue over the non-availability of Buhari’s secondary school certificate.
The controversy did not stop Buhari from winning the presidential election.
However, the matter appeared again in the public domain in 2018, when Buhari was seeking reelection and didn’t include his academic credentials in the documents he submitted to INEC for the 2019 presidential election.
Buhari faced attacks due to his inability to present his West African Secondary School Certificate, leading to some Nigerians accusing him of not having a secondary education.
The controversy died down only when the West African Examination Council, WAEC, issued an “attestation certificate” to the president, confirming that Buhari had indeed obtained a secondary school certificate from the examination body in 1961.
Senator Bola Tinubu
The President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was in the news for not presenting his academic certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the 2023 presidential election.
Tinubu omitted information about his primary and secondary education in the INEC form; he, however, stated that he attended Chicago State University.
In an affidavit supporting his nomination form for the office of President, Tinubu said his properties and certificates were destroyed and looted when he was on self-exile from October 1994 to October 1998.
Despite the brouhaha, Tinubu won the 2023 presidential election.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo first accused then-President Goodluck Jonathan of forging his PhD certificate. Jonathan reportedly earned a BSc in Zoology with second-class honours, MSc in Hydrobiology and Fisheries Biology, and PhD in Zoology, all from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The accusation from Obasanjo caused an uproar and rattled the leadership of the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, UNIPORT dismissed the insinuation as having “neither legs nor grounds to stand on.”
The university would later refuse to comply with a request for Jonathan’s academic records through the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act by a civil society organisation, the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
Senator Ademola Adeleke
Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is the current governor of Osun State. He succeeded Gboyega Oyetola in office.
Adeleke was accused and charged before the Osogbo High Court by two members of his party, Rasheed Olabayo and Oluwaseun Idowu, for allegedly falsifying his West African Senior School Certificate Examination results and secondary school testimonial.
The plaintiffs sought Adeleke’s disqualification from the September 22, 2019, governorship election for allegedly submitting fake certificates to get the PDP ticket.
But Justice David Oladimeji of the Osogbo High Court cleared Adeleke to contest the election.
A new lawsuit was filed by Awoosiyan Olalekan, Ojejade Thomas, and Awodire Sina before the Federal High Court, Osogbo, against Adeleke, the PDP, and INEC.
Subsequently, the Court of Appeal cleared Adeleke, saying it was satisfied that Senator Ademola Adeleke possessed the requisite educational qualifications to contest the election.
Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo was the running mate of David Lyon, who won Bayelsa State’s governorship election in November 2019.
However, the Supreme Court sacked Lyon less than 24 hours before his inauguration as governor of Bayelsa State.
DAILY POST recalls that a panel of justices led by Mary Odili had asked INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Lyon and reissue another to the candidate with the second highest number of votes.
The apex court’s decision followed an affirmation of a Federal High Court judgement disqualifying Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, Lyon’s running mate, for submitting forged credentials to INEC.
The court ruled that the action of Degi-Eremienyo affected Lyon because both men had run on a joint ticket.
Adeosun, a former Minister of Finance, was forced to resign after she was alleged to have forged her NYSC exemption certificate.
Adeosun, in her resignation letter, claimed she wasn’t aware.
In July 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja cleared her of any wrongdoing in the NYSC certificate charges.
The tenure of Christian Abah as a member of the House of Representatives representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadigbo Federal Constituency in Benue State was cut short by the Supreme Court in March 2017.
The action of the court followed an earlier judgement by a federal high court in Abuja in 2016, which ruled that he submitted a forged academic qualification certificate to INEC.
The Supreme Court affirmed that Abah had forged the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) certificate purportedly issued in 1985 by the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa State.
The court, therefore, ordered INEC to issue a fresh certificate of return to Hassan Saleh, who was Abah’s first runner-up in the PDP primary held in 2014.
James Ibori served as the governor of Delta State from 1999 to 2007. In 2007, allegations arose that he had forged his bachelor’s degree in Economics and his master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Benin. These allegations were investigated. Ibori was convicted in the United Kingdom on corruption charges in 2012, though the certificate forgery allegations were not the primary basis of his conviction.
Bello Masari is the current governor of Katsina State. During the 2015 gubernatorial elections, there were allegations that he had forged his secondary school certificate. The case was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court due to lack of evidence.
Dimeji Bankole was the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria from 2007 to 2011. In 2010, he was accused of not completing his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and was therefore rumoured to have submitted fake discharge documents.
He provided his NYSC certificate, thereby ending the rumour.
This might not be the best of times for the Enugu State Governor-elect, Peter Mbah, even as his swearing-in is barely a few days away.
The insinuation that Mbah’s NYSC discharge certificate was forged has snowballed into a national issue.
The controversy surrounding the discharge certificate blew open in February 2023, when NYSC, in response to an inquiry by a non-governmental organisation, released a letter stating that it did not issue the certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In April 2023, another letter repudiating the certificate was again issued following another inquiry by an Aba-based law firm, Silver & Co. Associates.
As if that was not enough, the Director General of the NYSC also said during an Arise TV interview that Mbah’s certificate was not issued by the agency.
Mbah has filed a N20 billion case against the NYSC, seeking damages for the injuries caused to his reputation by the controversies surrounding the discharge certificate.
The Governor-elect and his party, the PDP, are insisting that the NYSC was telling lies.