Nigeria must be warned of the grave consequences of what governor Peter Mbah is trying to do
By Emeka Ugwuonye
As the most deadly blow on the integrity of Nigeria as a country and on the honor of Nigerians as a people, Mr. Peter Mbah, recently sworn in as Governor of Enugu State, seeks to force Nigeria and Nigerians to accept fake certificates (NYSC Certificate and WAEC Certificate). When the issue was first raised that Mbah filed a fake NYSC Certificate with the electoral commission, the INEC, reasonable people thought it must be a confusion that could be explained easily. Nobody in his right mind would think that indeed a governorship candidate actually forged a certificate and smuggled it in as if it were valid.
The facts of Peter Mbah’s case are glaring and deeply troubling, especially as it appears that Nigeria as a country, may watch such an extreme criminal act go unstopped. As we speak, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has deposed to an affidavit clearly showing that the NYSC Certificate presented by Mr. Peter Mbah is a badly forged document and that NYSC has nothing to do with that Certificate. In the most brazen manner imaginable, Peter Mbah went to court and applied for an order of the court to stop NYSC from disclosing the truth as contained in its record. The NYSC has countered Mbah’s move with a deposition sworn to by Mrs. Rhoda Dawa, an Assistant Director of the NYSC. She works in the NYSC’s Certification Department. That is to say: She is in the best position to tell whether a certificate purportedly coming from the NYSC is authentic or false.
Mrs. Dawa has worked for the NYSC for 32 years with NYSC and 7 years in its Certificate Verification Department. Thus, she is supremely knowledgeable in the facts of Mbah’s case. In her words: “My principal duties as the Assistant Director (Verification) include verification of all Certificates of National Service, Certificates of Exemption and Letter of Exclusion issued by the NYSC to deserving Nigerians.” There is no doubt that the world should trust Mrs. Dawa when she deposes to validity or otherwise of any NYSC Certificate. And she has stated under oath in a court document that the NYSC Certificate Mbah presented is fake, false and a forgery.
The most striking facts deposed to by Mrs. Dawa appear in Paragraphs 4(w) and 4(x) of the Counter-Affidavit in opposition to Mbah’s application. She stated as follows:
“w. … However, contrary to the deposition in paragraphs 17 and 18 of the affidavit in support of [Peter Mbah’s] application that he was accepted by the Law Firm [of Udeh & Associates for his Primary Assignment], nothing was heard from him again by [NYSC]. The purported Acceptance Letter and Clearance Letter attached to the affidavit in support of [Peter Mbah’s] application …. are not known to [NYSC].
“x. That contrary to the deposition in paragraph 19 of the affidavit in support of [Peter Mbah’s] application that he was issued with Certificate of National Service No. A808297 dated 6th January, 2003 upon completion of his service, [NYSC] never issued [Peter Mbah] with any Certificate of National Service No. A808297 dated 6th January, 2003 which is attached to the affidavit in support of his application as Exhibit O”.
THE BIG QUESTION: Who issued Peter Mbah the fake NYSC Certificate he has been using? Peter Mbah issued himself that Certificate. He acted as NYSC to issue himself the certificate and then acted as the corp member to receive the certificate. That is a crime worse than forgery. He manipulated an entire certification process. Nigeria is finished if it were to let that happen. Why would anyone bother to participate in NYSC in the future if they could simply write up their own discharge certificates? And why would anybody bother to go to the university if they could just issue themselves their own Degree Certificates, and the university is stopped from telling the truth, as Mbah seeks to stop NYSC from telling the truth?
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a critical program established by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1973, which has been fully endorsed by law and recognized by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Government Agency in charge of the NYSC administers the program as Nigeria’s own national service program for Nigerian youths upon completion of their basic university education. Millions of Nigerian graduates since 1973 have passed through that program and proudly bear their Certificates as incontrovertible evidence of their service to the nation. The NYSC is thus a vital mechanism through which Nigerian Government has promoted common national identity, national integration and youth development in Nigeria for the past 50 years. Millions of Nigerians who are employed as graduates, especially in the public service are required to have completed their national service under the NYSC. Indeed, the Certificate of National Service issued by the NYSC is at the core of the eligibility requirements for public service, provided one is a university graduate or claims to be a university graduate.
The NYSC program is a mandatory government program that requires citizens to serve in a private or public organizations or institutions for a fixed period of one year. Other countries that have national service programs include Israel, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Germany, and many others.
The importance of national service varies depending on the country and its unique circumstances. In the case of Nigeria, after the country went through a painful and costly civil war, it was deemed necessary to pursue the course of national healing, cohesion and integration and to support a purposeful youth development for Nigerian citizens. Some of the reasons why national service is considered important include:
1. National orientation: The NYSC service helps ensure that the country’s youths develop a sense of national identify and the spirit of patriotism. The NYSC service programs were designed to foster a sense of national unity and shared purpose by bringing together young people from diverse backgrounds and exposing them to a common experience. This can help break down social, ethnic, religious and cultural barriers and promote understanding and respect among different groups.
2. Personal development: The NYSC is meant to provide young people with valuable life skills, such as discipline, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving. It can also help them develop a sense of responsibility and civic duty, and instill in them a sense of pride in their country.
4. Economic benefits: the NYSC program is also meant to provide a source of labor for public works projects, such as infrastructure development, disaster relief, and environmental conservation. This can help stimulate economic growth and development, and provide valuable services to the community.
5. Equality: The national service is meant to promote social equality by ensuring that all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have an opportunity to serve their country and contribute to its development.
As vital instrument of nation building and personal development, the NYSC program requires some process of certification. The country and the citizens must be able to know who has participated in the NYSC program and who has not. The way this is done is through the certification process. That is to say: the Government Agency in charge of the NYSC issues a certificate of completion to every citizen that participated in it as conclusive evidence that the citizen has met the requirement of national service. The whole essence of the NYSC program is that every citizen that has gone through it will have a certificate which will be readily accepted as conclusive evidence of participation and completion of the program. The NYSC certificate is thus a vital certificate issued by an agency of the Government of Nigeria. Such certificate must be credible. The integrity of such certificate must be without doubt, as a certificate issued by government, just like other vital certificates such as birth certificate, death certificate, marriage certificate, passport, national identity card, etc. These vital certificates and the certification process itself are at the heart of legitimate and well-functioning government. Whenever these certificates or the certification process itself lose their integrity, the country becomes a failed state and it loses its place in the committee of nations.
Nigeria as a country must defend the integrity of certificates issued by government agencies for several reasons:
1. Trust: Certificates are used to establish trust between individuals, organizations, and governments. If certificates issued by government agencies are not trustworthy, it can undermine the trust that citizens have in their government.
2. Security: Certificates are used to secure online transactions, such as online banking, e-commerce, and government services. If the integrity of these certificates is compromised, it can lead to security breaches and identity theft.
3. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Many industries and sectors have regulations that require the use of secure certificates issued by trusted government agencies.
4. Diplomacy: In international relations, governments often rely on official certificates to authenticate the identity of officials and to secure communications. If these certificates are not trustworthy, it can undermine diplomatic relations between nations.
5. Public Safety: Certificates are also used to secure critical infrastructure systems, such as power grids, transportation systems, and water treatment plants. If these certificates are not secure, it can lead to serious public safety risks.
Overall, the integrity of certificates issued by government agencies is critical to maintaining trust, security, legal compliance, diplomacy, and public safety.
To further appreciate the danger posed by Peter Mbah’s case, one must consider the dangers forged certificates poses for us all. Forged certificates can have serious implications for security and authentication. Certificates are used to establish trust between parties, such as a legitimate officials and fake officials, qualified doctors and fake ones, qualified pilots and fake ones. Licensed driver and fake ones, citizens and non-citizens, etc, by verifying the identity of one or both parties. If a certificate is forged, it can be used to impersonate a trusted entity and gain access to sensitive information or resources. Allowing Peter Mbah to get away with forged NYSC certificate can lead to a total loss of confidence in the NYSC program. Indeed, it will affect the entire certification process in Nigeria. If someone can brandish a certificate he likes and claims it came from a government agency, and such agency is not allowed to correct such obvious falsehood, then we are finished as a country.
Therefore, it is important to take measures to prevent forged certificates and to detect and revoke them when they are discovered. Peter Mbah must be stopped in order to avoid setting a dangerous precedent with far-reaching consequences for this nation.
Emeka Ugwuonye is the Founder and CEO of DPA International, and President of ECULAW Corporation.