Before ex-minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC certificate forgery scandal became an issue of public discourse, she had used the certificate to pass a screening test for her appointment as commissioner of finance in Ogun State.
Guardian reports that even when the forgery scandal was first reported by a popular online medium, not everybody believed it. Some perceived it as blackmail, while others even tried to defend it at a time she (Adeosun) was very calm and sober about it. Now that Adeosun has owned up and resigned her appointment, many believe that there are so many Adeosuns in both private and public sector that have not been identified. This is as a result of increasing rate of certificate/document forgery and the inability or failure of the relevant authorities, including security agents to identify it in time.
It is shocking and disappointing that even when it is a public knowledge that forgery of certificates and official/government documents is a criminal offence that attracts capital punishment, many Nigerians have continued to engage in the illicit activities unabated.
So worrisome is the fact that in most cases, forged documents passed through government agencies, including security agents unidentified. This has once more raised question on the integrity and credibility of the country’s security agencies in curbing the menace.
From school to church, marriage registry to even court, Nigerians have continued to cut corners by forging official documents and using them to get what they want without minding the consequences.
It appears that hint about such forgery by Nigerians only come to fore when those involved or affected occupy public offices or have differences with their collaborators in the crime.
Before Adeosun’s case, Nigerians have witnessed that of the former Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, who forged Toronto University certificate. The list is endless. It all depends on whose own has become a public knowledge like Adeosun, Buhari and others.
Inside Thriving Industry Of Documents Forgery
Gone are the days when one had to struggle to obtain an ‘Oluwole’ medical or doctor’s report as getting it now has become very easy. Whilst some Nigerians are still faking medical reports from non-existent hospitals, most patronizers are now wise as they realize they could get a genuine medical report without stress.
Jola (surname withheld) was about to go for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) but she disliked Yobe State where she was posted. “When I saw where I was posted, I burst into tears immediately as I did not want to move away from Lagos. So, I asked my friends what I could do and they introduced me to a doctor that wrote a report for me saying I was suffering from asthma and diabetes and had to remain close to receive treatment. So when I went to camp, I presented the report and the deal was done!” Jola is one of the thousands that present fake medical reports yearly to NYSC in a bid to manipulate their postings to preferred locations.
On several occasions, the former Director General of the scheme, Johnson Olawuni had vowed to punish corps members falsifying medical reports to secure deployment to new stations as it was discovered that most reports presented were fake. Years after this fire and brimstone pronouncement, nothing seems to have happened as fake medical reports has grown to become big business for many health practitioners.”
Chuks (surname withheld) is a young doctor in a private hospital in the suburbs of Lagos. Claiming that he has been trying to get a better hospital where his service will be better remunerated while simultaneously trying to leave the country for greener pastures, he has a side hustle: preparing medical report for those who need it. Speaking indignantly, he said, “I do not give people fake reports. All the reports I give can be confirmed by anybody. It is the sickness stated therein that is unconfirmed.”
Noting that people need medical reports for a variety of reasons and not just NYSC, he agreed that giving medical reports to corps members is quite lucrative. “Now that there are several streams and batches, things are better. If I tell you my salary, you will cry for me. So, I have to look for alternative sources to make money. It is just that some bad people are spoiling this business. They are not doctors and will want to be giving people fake medical reports. They are the ones drawing unnecessary attention to us. If you present a ‘real’ letter-headed report from me, I can defend it anywhere because I am real and the hospital I work with is real as well. So, you won’t have any problems.”
A corps member who spoke on the condition of anonymity revealed that the situation has become so bad that even lab technicians now write medical reports. “If you want to avoid all those trainings and hard work, get a medical report that states that you mustn’t involve yourself in strenuous activities and you will be let off the hook,” she said.
Tolu who works with a financial institution in Lagos said she had to get a medical report because she wanted to stay away from work for a day. “You cannot be absent from work and if you claim you were ill, you have to present a medical report stating you were indisposed on that day. So I arranged one. I doubt if they checked if it was authentic or not, but they were satisfied.”
A thread on social networking site, Nairaland, boldly asks users, “How do I obtain fake medical report?” because he missed an exam in school and someone replied by asking him to go to Ikeja General hospital and speak to the touts or security men at the gate to help him out. This is not untrue as checks by The Guardian at a general hospital in Yaba show that you can obtain referral letters to see a specialist, purportedly written by a doctor in the general Out-Patients Department (OPD). The letter is signed and stamped. The process costs N1000.00 only. When you get to the clinic, you will be asked if you have a letter or not. If you do, you would be allowed. Otherwise, you would be told to speak with the security man who would arrange how to procure the required letter.
Tolu confirmed that getting a fake report or a backdoor report is easier and less stressful. Unlike going through the official channel that is always cumbersome.
A medical doctor who did not want his name in print lamented that some doctors were giving the profession a bad name by issuing fake reports for people, using the hospital’s name. “Asides the fact that it is highly unethical and they are ridiculing the profession, if you are discovered, you would be disgraced and the person you gave such report to could land in a big trouble. We don’t even think of the implications of these things in the long run. What manner of hunger would drive you into telling lies and putting your honour and dignity at risk? It saddens me to see that everybody is presenting all manners of medical reports these days like bread, even from reputable hospitals. Yet, they are fine and in good health. We need to discourage the misconduct. It will get us to nowhere.”
How Importers, Clearing Agents Defraud Nigeria Yearly With Falsification Of Documents
If there is anything that has given the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) much trouble, over the years, it is the issue of falsification of documents by importers and clearing agents.
Ranging from false declaration of cargo to fake insurance documents, the Federal Government is losing billions of Naira to such unwholesome practice.
False declaration of goods is the act of giving false description about the nature, type, quantity of goods imported into the country.
Importers or clearing agents, many times, made false declaration in a bid to smuggle banned items into the country or reduce the amount of duty payable on such goods, since rate of duty are charged based on category of goods.
Statistics by the customs indicated that less than five per cent of importers processed their consignments with genuine invoices, meaning that 95 per cent of imports engage in falsification of documents.
This lack of trust by importers and traders is the major bottleneck in fast-tracking the clearing of goods in the ports. This, according to Customs explains why it insists on 100 per cent physical assessment of goods imported into the country.
The Comptroller–General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, said: “Our major problem today in the issue of clearing container within 24 hours is false declaration. Many people are not honest in dealing with the Customs. How can someone bring in a container containing motor parts and rice, but it was declared to be rice only.
“Last time we caught some containers loaded with arms and ammunition. If we didn’t do a thorough job, they could have entered into the country. Only God knows how many trucks of such have entered and about to enter. We must do our job to save this country.”
However, further revelations on smuggling of arms showed that series of falsifications permeates the system.
President, National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero in a chart with The Guardian bemoaned a situation whereby importers and agents falsify documents and thereby deny the government of due revenue.
He said the act of false declaration is a criminal act as it contravenes the Customs Act, adding that any one found wanting should face the music in the court of law and if found guilty such agent will automatically forfeit his certificate and can no longer practice.
He applauded the Customs for their efforts towards combating the menace, adding that their association also warns members frequently to desist from such an illegal act.
Founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Boniface Aniebonam urged freight forwarders to earn their living by getting paid legitimately as agreed with importers, rather than falsifying declaration to determine customs duty as it suites them.
He said: “We advise all freight forwarders to follow the Standard Trading Conditions as approved by CRFFN and Import Guideline of 2013 as amended.
“Every importer is expected to retain the services of a freight forwarder with all relevant import documents and evidence of Customs duty thereto.
“You are therefore expected to receive professional or handling charge as may be agreed upon by both parties in that regard.
“It is wrong for practitioners to determine Customs duty payable under falsehood as a result of unhealthy competition among freight forwarders.
“The need for genuine declaration for Customs purposes is the tonic needed for a professional freight forwarder to be afloat in business.” He said.
Affidavits Could Cost Less At Litigation Registry
At the vicinity of the Lagos High Court in Ikeja where affidavits are processed, the beehive of activities could confuse a first timer. It was an open market scene. So, the service providers were beckoning to prospective customers. The Guardian approached an elderly woman who agreed to get the affidavit done at N1500. She had earlier pleaded: “Please patronize me. It is a genuine affidavit. I will quickly get it typed and stamped!”
Although her fee appeared moderate compared to N2,000 another young man had charged earlier, the insistence to be directed to the Litigation Registry paid off as it was discovered that the document could be procured with just N500.