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‘First in class’ or ‘first class’ – Ibe Kachikwu’s attempt to cover up misleading claims

THE social media has been agog with the debate on whether the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Ibe Kachikwu, graduated with a first class in law from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) or not.

The debate is coming after a fact-check report by Premium Times, showing that the Minister actually had a second class upper in UNN, contrary to his claims during a recent church service in Abuja that he had a first class.

Kachikwu, according to the report, also wrote in his curriculum vitae that he had a first class in law, but a copy of his certificate which was published in the report clearly showed that he had a two-one.

However, in a swift response, Kachikwu admitted that he graduated from UNN with a second class upper honours in law, and also that when he graduated from the Nigerian Law School in 1978, the institution had not started the classification system, but maintained that he never misled the public into believing otherwise.

The Minister explained that he graduated from UNN and from the law school as the best student, suggesting that what he meant in his speech at the church service was that he left school as the first in his class, not that he had a first class honours.

He wrote: “On the presentation I made at COZA (Commonwealth Of Zion Assembly), cited by Premium Times, the substance of the assertions was to the effect that I had a first class performance in school and was emphasizing on the need for hard work amongst youths to get them to the top of their game.”

But many Nigerians did not buy Kachikwu’s explanation.  They said the Minister ought to have eaten the humble pie, admitted the error and apologised for misleading the public.

Former Director General of the Bureau of Public Reforms, Joe Abah, tweeted, “Minister Ibe Kachikwu clearly said in the video shown by Premium Times that he made a first class at UNN. The attempted play on words in his public statement demeans him. He should simply have apologised to the public and confirmed that he did not mislead the govt or NASS (National Assembly).”

Another Twitter user, Onyedika Damian, also pointed out that Kachikwu’s claim of having a first class in Law “is also obvious in his official biography on the petroleum ministry’s website”, adding that “an apology and a retraction of the statement should’ve made us face other things”.

But there are others who believe Kachikwu’s explanation should be enough to lay the issue to rest, especially given that he was not accused of forgery as was the case with former Finace Minister, Kemi Adeosun.

“The honourable Minister has put this to rest. The school issued no first class honours at the time of his graduation and all first class materials were later duly recognised. Can we focus on the key agendas of his ministry and his unrivaled report card?” wrote a Twitter user, whose name simply read Johnbull.

Another wrote: “The man was first in his class with a first class performance. He graduated with Second class Upper. Had another first class performance in Law School, Harvard and Mobil. Did he graduate with First class? No. But he is a proven first class performer.”

The ICIR also reviewed the video of the church service where Kachikwu said he had a first class, and observed that the Minister did not mince words and he was emphatic that he made a first class in law from UNN.

Having narrated how he had wanted to study medicine and become a doctor, and how his father had encouraged him to study law to PhD level and still become a doctor, Kachikwu said he packed his bags, “left the school of medicine and went to read law, and got in there, got a scholarship, became the best student and made a first class from that institution.”

Kachikwu may not have committed any offence. His remarks at the church service were not made under oath, and his credentials are all genuine, but the information he passed was clearly misleading.

When the ICIR checked the website of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on Friday, Kachikwu’s profile still read that he “bagged First Class degree in Law and was best graduand and multiple awards winner from both Institutions”. This is not exactly true.

His profile on Wikipedia has, however, been edited to read that the Kachikwu “is a distinction graduate of Law from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Nigerian Law School”.

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