Certificate racketeering has escalated from a persistent issue to a widespread problem in Nigeria. This alarming trend is highlighted by recent revelations of individuals obtaining degrees in record times, such as the case of a Nigerian earning a first degree from a university in Cotonou in just six weeks. This person even participated in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program, showcasing the extent of the fraudulent activities.

Rampant Certificate Fraud and The Plague in Nigeria’s Education System

The Federal Government’s response has been to suspend the evaluation of degrees from institutions in Benin Republic and Togo. This decision follows an investigative report by a Nigerian newspaper that exposed the ease with which a degree could be acquired illegally. Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman, announced that the crackdown would extend to other countries with similar issues, such as Uganda, Kenya, and Niger Republic.

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In 2019, the then-Director-General of NYSC, Brigadier-General Shuaibu Ibrahim, highlighted the problem of universities in Benin Republic presenting unqualified graduates for the NYSC program. An investigation was launched to uncover how these graduates managed to pass through the system undetected, involving the National Universities Commission (NUC), the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), and the State Security Service (SSS). However, the results of these investigations have not been publicly disclosed.

The recurrence of such incidents points to a deeper systemic issue within Nigeria’s education sector. Despite previous efforts to tackle certificate fraud, the problem persists, often exacerbated by political figures with questionable credentials themselves. For instance, Salisu Buhari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives who was caught forging certificates, was appointed to the governing council of a federal university.

The government’s efforts to address the issue include blacklisting unaccredited institutions and auditing foreign certificates. Yet, the demand for higher education continues to drive students to seek degrees abroad, often from dubious institutions. The NUC and other regulatory bodies are urged to intensify their scrutiny and enforce stricter measures against academic fraud.

Experts suggest that improving the quality and accessibility of education within Nigeria is essential. This includes better funding for universities, higher admission standards, and measures to curb corruption. Additionally, employing advanced verification systems for academic credentials can help ensure the authenticity of qualifications.

Certificate racketeering remains a significant challenge for Nigeria’s education sector. It undermines the value of legitimate academic achievements and hinders the country’s development. A comprehensive approach involving stricter regulations, better funding, and improved verification processes is necessary to combat this pervasive issue.