AS the sixth triennial conference of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, draws closer, The ICIR can confirm that Christopher Isiguzo, one of the seven presidential hopefuls and two-time union vice president, forged at least two of his certificates.
Isiguzo, whose campaign is one of the most prominent, has been for weeks enmeshed in a certificate forgery scandal. In a petition to the NUJ Credentials Committee obtained by TheCable, Ngozi Agbo, an Enugu-based journalist, accused him of not possessing any higher educational qualifications.
“Contrary to what was published by the committee, the said Mr Isiguzo does not possess any educational qualification,” Agbo wrote.
She also said the candidate’s qualifications and eligibility for national office are presently contested at the National Industrial Court, Enugu. According to her, rather than tender his certificate, Isiguzo has instead been attempting to frustrate the case with delay.
In its reply to the petition, dated August 28, the committee had said it found no substance in the allegations and upheld the clearance issued to the candidate. It also said Isiguzo’s candidacy was approved on the basis of a “National Diploma Certificate in Mass Communication obtained from the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, dated 31st December 1998.”
Speaking to Sahara Reporters, Garba Dahiru, chairman of the committee, said Isiguzo did not tender an HND for clearance, and added that the burden of proof is on the petitioner to provide evidence that his national diploma is not authentic.
Isiguzo disowns published certificates, but…
Isiguzo also has insisted that he is not the owner of the certificates published in TheCable.
“I wonder where they got the certificate they published. Those certificates are not mine,” Isiguzo has said about the two contested certificates: a Higher National Diploma from Federal Polytechnic, Oko, issued in 1998, and a diploma in public administration from Hyles-Anderson College obtained in the same year.
TheCable had identified certain irregularities in the documents, including the impossibility of getting two diplomas and a higher national diploma in the August, November and December of the same year. But according to Isiguzo, the only certificate he presented to the NUJ is a National Diploma in Mass Communication.
“I didn’t present any HND certificate,” he said. “If you go to the clearance committee, there is no place in my document that they wrote HND. Those that feel that we are gaining ground in this election are determined to smear us.”
He also denied any relationship with the published certificates “because my name is ‘Christopher Isiguzo’ and the name written on the certificate is ‘Christopher Isiguzoro.'”
The ICIR has however been able to confirm that Isiguzo’s claim is false. Though he may not have not submitted the certificates to the NUJ Credentials Committee, an investigation has revealed that the forged documents were among those he submitted to ThisDay newspaper, where he is presently the South East Bureau Chief.
Forgery gone wrong
The revelation concerning Isiguzo’s diploma from Hyles-Anderson College, a Bible college located in Indiana, United States (U.S.), raises several questions. Perhaps the most obvious is that the college does not offer a course in Public Administration which Isiguzo claimed to have studied.
While there are Bible Diploma, Missionary Wife Diploma, General Studies Diploma, Associate of Science Diploma in Education and Associate of Science Diploma in Marriage and Motherhood, there is no diploma in public administration or anything related to the course listed on the college website.
Also, while the certificate claims to have been signed by the Rector and Registrar, a look at the college’s administration team shows that none of those designations exists in the institution. Rather the offices operated by the college include Chancellor, President, Academic Dean and Director of Admissions.
In addition, colleges in the United States do not write a graduate’s grade as “2nd class” on certificates as Isiguzo’s shows. This is because the U.S. is one of few countries in the world where Latin honours are used. According to the American Public University System (APUS) student handbook, awarding Latin honour designations is standard practice across universities in the country. It also says: “Latin Honors are not posted on official transcripts but will be displayed on your diploma.”
Under this classification system, Summa Cum Laude, not First Class, is used for the grade point of 3.9 and above. Magna Cum Laude is used for points between 3.7 and 3.8, and Cum Laude for points between 3.5 and 3.6. These terms are considered as high honours and are written on certificates. Anyone with a grade point average lower than 3.5 will not have anything written on their certificate to indicate the point.
The HND certificate, which supposedly originates from the Federal Polytechnic Oko, also is a suspect. Compared with another notification of result from the institution issued in 2002 for a 1999 graduate, there are clear contradictions in the font, style, heading, recipient address underline, and page border thickness.
The most striking contrast, however, is in the stamps used. In the latter document, we find that the words “Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra state…” are written in a cursive font, and the stamp has no border lines. But in Isikugo’s certificate, not only are there two border lines, the font is different and in upper case and the stamp belongs to another university entirely: Anambra State Polytechnic, located in the same state as Federal Polytechnic, Oko.
The certificate is fraudulent, replies Hyles-Anderson
The management of Hyles-Anderson college has confirmed to The ICIR that indeed the diploma in public administration is not authentic.
Replying to an emailed enquiry, John Wilkerson, Pastor and Chancellor of the college, said while the document contains the institution’s name, address, and crest, it was not issued by them.
“Neither do the names upon it represent any officiants or graduates of our college,” he added. “We do not issue degrees in public administration and we do not utilize the term, ‘rector.’ Thank you.”
In a second mail, David Stubblefield, the college’s Academic Dean, also confirmed that “Christopher Isiguro is not a graduate of any program” from the school.
Who is Ikechukwu Isiguzoro?
One of Isiguzo’s most convincing defences is that the published certificates could not have been his because while his name is Christopher Isiguzo, “the name written on the certificate is ‘Christopher Isiguzoro'” — though what is truly on the documents is “Isinguzoro”.
But checks have revealed that, though not common usage, these names have been attributed to the ThisDay journalist in the past, long before the scandal broke out.
In this news report of August 3 by Steve Oko, where the Abia State Council of the NUJ was said to have secured nomination form for Isiguzo, his name was stated in four places as “Isiguzoro”.
Another story by The Tide, published in November 2014, announcing John Emejor as the NUJ Abia State Council Chairman, reported Isiguzo’s name as “Ikechukwu Isinguzoro”.
Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic?
The ICIR‘s investigation also revealed that Isiguzo has identified himself as someone he is not in other domains. A visit to his Facebook account shows that he also inaccurately refers to himself as “Isiguzo Christopher Cfr” — in other words, Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic. This is not only very unlikely, but it is also punishable under the law if inaccurate.
Though all citizens of Nigeria are eligible to be appointed, past awardees mostly include traditional ruler and security chiefs; and no more than twenty persons may be conferred the rank each year.
According to section 2 of the National Honours Act, if a person is not entitled to a particular rank or honour and then “uses a designation or abbreviation specified by the warrant in respect of the honour or rank or a description so nearly resembling such a designation or abbreviation as to be likely to deceive …”, he shall be sentenced to imprisonment for six months or ordered to pay a fine, or both.
“We will do a thorough job” — Credentials Committee
During a phone interview with The ICIR, Abimbola Oyetunde, secretary to the 2018 NUJ Credentials Committee emphasised that Isiguzo was cleared because his OND certificate in Mass Communication satisfied minimum standards of the union.
“That’s the prerequisite for being a journalist in the union and to qualify for any position,” she said.
“So, I wouldn’t say if he had other certificates, but that was what he presented. And it is not even our own duty to go and find out whether it is fake or original. So I wouldn’t like to talk about that. What he presented was an OND from the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, dated December 31, 1998.”
Asked if the committee will simply look the other way if findings reveal that one of the candidates has questionable records, she replied in the negative. “If it’s backed up with evidence from those schools and they wrote that they are not original or they are forged,” she added, “then the committee will know what to do. But if it is not backed by evidence, there’s nothing we can do.”
When The ICIR asked what the likely outcome will be if that confirmation is made, she simply said the committee will do a thorough job. “I wouldn’t say for now because I am not the only one in the committee.”
ThisDay issues a query
Sources at ThisDay told The ICIR that the paper has issued Isiguzo a query and is expecting a response, following the forgery allegations against him. It was also gathered, however, that no independent investigation has yet been conducted to confirm the merits of those allegations.
However, when Kayode Komolafe, ThisDay Managing Editor, was contacted to confirm what steps the news organisation is taking and whether they are familiar with the diploma certificates, his number could not be reached. Texts sent to him have also not been replied.
You all have been paid to run me down, Isiguzo alleges
When Isiguzo was contacted by The ICIR, he alleged that Waheed Odusile, president of the NUJ, is blackmailing him and had paid for online reports against him in order to undermine his campaign. He did not, however, specify when he was asked how much. He also said he will not be responding to questions unless allegations of corruption against Odusile have been investigated.
“What is the interest that all of you have in me?” he asked. “Waheed paid all of you to come and run me down, right? No, no, no, I know. Listen, listen. Of course, you acknowledged… you are a Yoruba-speaking [man] like him. He paid all of you because he knows he is going to be defeated on Thursday.
“He is going to be defeated in a manner that he has never seen before. He has been rejected by journalists across Nigeria. Why is he buying you people to run me down? He is buying all of you. I have been informed … I’ve been told how much you were given… He has paid the journalists in Nigeria.
“Did you also see other petitions that were reported in other online platforms where the president of NUJ is accused of planning to steal NUJ car worth of 11 million? Did you also see it? Did you also see the online report where he was said to have stolen 9 million in Plateau state, 3 million in Borno, stealing 2 in Adamawa, and most other states? Did you also see them? … Please go and check for them. When you have investigated them, you can call me.
“It is not about the certificate. Let him come out and let two of us stand up and address journalists. It is really unfortunate. It is unfortunate.”
When he was probed further, he maintained his position, while adding that he has consulted his lawyer and has decided to respond after the NUJ election on Thursday.
“I have asked you to go and investigate your brother,” Isiguzo said. “Investigate him and right now. Go to Disco companies, where he bought the car from…. Go and investigate your own brother. When you are done, you can come. I will give you everything you want. I can assure you.”
He added that if he does not have a certificate, he will not be bold enough to stand for election. He also explained, about the CFR abbreviation on his Facebook account, that it means “Comrade of the Federal Republic” and not “Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic”.
“People also put all those things,” he said. “I have an award where I was called [that]. You know [inaudible], they call them comrades of the federal republic. They give awards.
“NANS [National Association of Nigerian Students] too, they give awards. You know, all these groups, they give awards. We need to put all of them there. You know, people honour you here and there.”