Bayelsa senator caught in certificate scandal

2018-04-11
DAILY TRUST Newspaper


Senator Foster Ogola (Bayelsa, PDP) is parading a fake doctoral degree certificate obtained from an unaccredited university in Nigeria, investigations by a consortium of newsrooms and civil society have shown.

Daily Trust is a member of the Leaks.NG, a coalition of news and civil society organisations, which provide a platform for Nigerians to submit evidence of wrongdoing by public office holders in Nigeria.

How the bubble burst

A few weeks ago, a confidential report was made using the Leaks.NG platform hinting that the senator has fake credentials from an unaccredited university in Nigeria.

“Sen. Foster Ogola has a fake PhD. His official profile on the NASS website says he has a PhD from GMF Christian University. There is no official site for the university and it is not accredited by the NUC. There is also no research paper or thesis to his name online. Although he got the degree in 2012,” the report said.

On his official National Assembly profile, the senator is credited with having a PhD in Christian (sic.) Leadership from the GMF Christian University Lagos, the same course he reportedly has an MSc. in from the Imo State University, Owerri.

Four-room university

In an attempt to verify GMF Christian University existence and understand how it operates in Nigeria, another member of the Leaks.NG coalition, TheCable, paid the academy a visit.

TheCable traced the Gospel Missionary Foundation (GMF) Theological University to 165 Isolo road, Cele bus stop, Egbe-Ikotun, Lagos and they revealed that the controversial university lies on the first floor of a two-storey building. Besides the one and only lecture room, which was empty at the time of visit, there are about three other rooms serving as offices. Hope Obioha, the registrar, and wife of the President of the University, Daniel Obioha, who claimed to be professor, received the reporter who went there under the guise of a prospective student.

She took the reporter to her office where she introduced him to the university and the courses it offers.

According to the material given, GMF Christian Theological University was established on the 4th of May 1988 and is registered by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It seeks to fulfil its commitment to the individual special ministry calling, through graduate education, professional development and spiritual formation in all its activities including teaching, nurturing, worship, service, research, publication and missions.

Daniel Obioha Anthony and his wife established the university. When asked if National University Commission (NUC) has accredited the university, the registrar said that they do not operate like a secular university, hence, the university is not registered under NUC. She presented the “accreditation certificate” of the universities by some international bodies. Checks revealed that all the bodies that gave the debatable accreditation do not have an online presence.

However, one of the materials she released contains the graduating list from 2013 to 2016. It is worthy to note at this juncture that 2012 is the year Senator Ogola claims to have obtained his PhD in Christian Leadership. Additionally, the Christian Leadership course was not reflected in the list of courses offered by the school at doctorate level.

On a second visit to the GMF Christian University on the March 13, the centre was empty again as the man who introduced himself as a lecturer said it was examination time. He said, while the full-time students attend lectures on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the part-time students go on Saturdays alone.

He was reluctant to release the list of those who graduated in 2012 but the reporter obtained a Skye bank account of the university in order to pay for the admission process for a “diploma in theology.” At the end of both visits, TheCable was still unable to establish the veracity of the Senator’s claim that he attended the university and has a PhD. in the Christian Leadership course.

Another member of the coalition, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) was unable to find any Christian Leadership course offered in Nigeria but a University in Boston explained that the course teaches how to apply biblical and theological principles to leadership situations.

A quick search through National Assembly archives by OrderPaper NG shows that the senator in question has sponsored just 2 bills and one of them was stood down. He is however credited with contributing a lot to motions and debates.

We don’t know GMF varsity - NUC

Upon enquiry by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), it was revealed that the federal government has not licensed the GMF Christian University, Lagos, where Senator Ogola claims to have earned his PhD from in 2012.

The Director of Corporate Communications from the National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr. Ibrahim Yakasai was contacted on the validity of the institution and he said, “We have never heard of that name.”

A copy of the commission’s weekly bulletin provided by Mr. Yakasai showed a list of 57 illegal universities operating in the country; GMF Christian University was not among, buttressing the fact that the commission is not aware of its proceedings.

Yakasai said since 1999 the NUC has approved 74 private universities in the country and any certificate obtained from the GMF Christian University or any other degree mill will not be recognised by their authority.

Other discoveries made by Leaks.NG coalition said the GMF Christian University still has no website offering information on the institution or its courses and there is no information on the Christian Leadership course the embattled senator purports to have a PhD in.

Daily Trust tried to speak to the senator without success. Our reporter visited his office at the National Assembly several times without meeting him. The senator didn’t reply to a text message sent to him over the story.

Mischief-makers at work - Senator

Premium Times, however, reached out to Senator Ogola, who is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information Communication Technology and Cybercrime, to speak on the allegations levelled against him and give his reaction to GMF Christian University being an unaccredited institution in Nigeria.

 

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