THE National Examination Council (NECO) was recently in the news when it dismissed in one fell swoop, 70 members of its own staff for certificate forgery. The examination body’s action came after a self-cleansing exercise unmasked the felons who had all along paraded, and profited from, fake credentials. It was certainly a surprise to find an examination body statutorily empowered to ensure that the human capital development enterprise in the country remains as credible as possible being enmeshed in a massive certificate scandal that saw as many as 70 members of its staff being booted out of their fraudulently obtained positions.
According to a statement by the Head, Information and Public Relations Division of the body, Mr Azeez Sani, “The certificate verification committee carried its assignment diligently by inviting all staff with questionable certificates to appear before it, during which some staff actually attested (sic) that their certificates were fake.” But this simple discountenance by NECO is really benumbing. It should have taken this outlandish revelation more seriously given its gravity. The entire episode goes to the heart of its very essence as an examining body. It is alarming that the NECO spokesman referred so proudly to the diligence of its management, diligence which only became noticeable after heinous damage had been done to the body in particular, and the country as a whole. To say the least, downplaying the implications of harbouring forgers within its precincts, even if unwittingly, was distasteful.
Obviously, the recruitment of these forgers followed a process that lacked necessary due diligence and this speaks volumes about the efficiency of NECO and its products. If NECO defaulted in the processes that concern it, how can its processes which concern the larger society be trusted? It is shocking to notice how rampant the issue of fake certificates has become in the country. Not even examination establishments are exempt from it. If the diligence of NECO’s management had preceded the recruitment of these forgers, it would have been saved the embarrassment of having to cope with getting rid of as many as 70 members of staff in one fell swoop.
But there are pertinent questions: what about the standard of the jobs done by these forgers while in NECO’s employ? Who takes the rap for them? Is dismissal from NECO enough? These dismissed felons have unjustifiably denied genuinely qualified citizens of the opportunities of employment and this is quite unfortunate, especially considering the hordes of forgers out there in undeserved spaces in public and private sectors. These forgers deserve to be prosecuted under the appropriate extant laws of the land. The sanction should include jail terms and a refund of their ill-gotten wages for the respective durations of employment.
Media reports made quite facetious references to NECO’s board of governors’ zero tolerance for corruption in the fashion of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in apprehending these forgers. But why neglect to make recommendations for sanctions? That was a huge omission. It is only proper to punish these forgers beyond dismissal from jobs which they weren’t qualified to hold in the first place.
We applaud the self-cleansing exercise embarked upon at NECO which uncovered the forgers under reference. We think that similar searchlights should be beamed on many other organisations which harbour certificate forgers in the bid to get rid of them.