•800 may be sacked
By Moshood Adebayo, Abeokuta
There are palpable fears among primary and secondary school teachers in Ogun State over alleged discovery of no fewer than 527 ghosts teachers during an audit exercise. It is not just ghost teachers, there were also allegations of many teachers, particularly in primary and secondary schools teaching with either with fake certificates or letters of attestation for over two decades.
To confirm authenticity of the teachers’ certificates of results as well as attestation letters submitted during the audit exercise, the state government is currently screening no fewer than 6,531 teachers in what it described as the secondary review audit. Sunday Sun reliably gathered that in this on-going exercise, no fewer than 800 teachers may lose their jobs. It was further learnt the exercise has forced many teachers and others within the state’s civil service to voluntarily resign from their jobs.
Authorities of the Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta, are also not helping matters in the screening of the teachers’ certificates as it gave only attestation letters to hundreds of its former candidates, who completed their programmes for over 20 years. For example, many teachers who had successfully completed their courses of study and even graduated from the college since 1994 have not been issued their certificates. One of such attestation letters addressed to Chairman, Ogun State Universal Basic Education Board, Oke Mosan, reads: “This is to confirm the fact that student with Matriculation No. …..read and graduated upon successful completion of his/her course of study in the year with the following grades.”
The letter further urged the Board to give necessary assistance and cooperation to the bearer as an ex-student of the college pending release of his or her certificate as soon as it is made available by the National Commission for College of Education (NCCE), Abuja. Another letter dated last September and addressed to Director, CITC-Moving to a New Ogun State government Payroll System also states that the college was still processing certificates of many teachers. It reads: “We wish to note that the college is still processing his certificate along with others and the certificate will be issued to him immediately action is completed on it, please.
Consequently, we plead that you accept the statement of result issued by the college as an authentic document by our institution. “For the avoidance of doubt, we attach herewith the duly stamped and signed College Graduation Brochure where his name appeared as a further confirmation of his status as a bona fide product of this noble institution. “We sincerely hope that this correspondence and attached documents would be accepted in lieu of his certificate so that he would not be deprived of any entitlement due to him as a product of the college.”
The FCE-Abeokuta is not alone in this, the state’s Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, where majority of primary and secondary school teachers did their degree programmes until recently also had piles of unissued degree certificates. Acting Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Adesanya, who confirmed this during a recent press conference, said the university’s authorities were doing everything humanly possible to clear the arrears of unissued certificates. “Since we came on board few months back, we have tried our best to address this problem, and I can assure you that many of our students have been issued their certificates.
Aside this, we have streamlined things so that it would not take too long for graduates of the school to receive their degree certificates.” The inability of the two tertiary institutions in the state to issue certificates to their graduating students has promoted sharp practices among some teachers, who sources disclosed, had played a fast one on the state government before the cat was let out of the bag. At the State Universal Basic Education Board, Oke-Mosan, a number of cases of certificate forgery had been uncovered during the last teachers audit exercise, which forced many teachers to “voluntarily resign their appointments”.
Reacting to this development, Chairman of the Board, Mufutau Ajibola, who confirmed what he described as ugly development, added that the state government would not accept resignations from those already identified as fraudulent. According to him, the state government was compelled to write directly to the affected school authorities purportedly attended by the teachers to verify the allegation of attendance as well as verify letters and statements of result presented during screening exercise. He cited the case of a teacher he said was employed in 1978, but was still presenting a statement of result 34 years after.
“Such a case is highly suspicious because in 1978, there was no backlog in issuance of degree certificates,” he said. Ajibola described as worrisome the incident of falsification of birth certificates, impersonation as well as no appearance of over 223 staff during the four-week screening exercise. “Such cases will be referred to the police for prosecution. For someone to teach children when he or she does not have even the minimum qualification is a serious and deliberate act of fraud, not just financial fraud, but moral fraud, too,” he said. The board’s chairman, who said the exercise was not to witch-hunt any one, added,
“This process is about Ogun State knowing and being sure that those teaching our children are qualified to do so. Genuine, suitably qualified teachers have nothing to fear.” Among speculations of possible injustice, the state government set up a review panel under the office of the Head of Service to hear any appeals arising from the process.
“The panel includes representatives of a number of agencies and relevant teaching unions that would give those affected a chance to have their cases reviewed if the need arises,” Mr Ajibola said. Speaking on the development, an official of the state’s Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Sunday Sun that the union was still studying the situation. “We are aware of the development, but I can’t confirm now if the allegation of ghost workers is true or not.
All I can say is that many of our members, who have not attained the retirement age are resigning en masse, and we don’t know what is responsible for this.” He cautioned the state government not to use the exercise to witch-hunt their members. According to him, the NUT members should not be blamed for their inability to procure certificates years after completing their programmes.
“I think it will be wrong for the government to shift the blame of non-presentation of certificates during the screening exercise, if the affected tertiary institutions had issued the certificates and our members failed to present them during screening that would be another thing.” He lamented what he described as “non-challant attitude” of the FCE- Abeokuta management, which he accused of compounding the problems of primary school teachers by not issuing them certificates after their programmes in the college.