By Dan Ugwu.
Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins is a household name in Imo State politics now. He is the Hon. member representing Isiala Mbano in the State House of Assembly. He is also the current Speaker of the Imo House of Assembly.
The belly-rich Collins was elected to the House on the platform of APGA. Shortly before the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, he decamped to PDP and hobnobbed with then governor, Emeka Ihedioha. Shortly after the Ihedioha’s loss to power, Collins switched to APC to align with Hope Uzodimma. The rest in this category is history.
Our honourable Speaker has been embattled with Certificate saga. In fact, he has been on the spotlight recently. It would be recalled that late last year, a front-page news item carried by Big Truth Newspaper; an Owerri based Tabloid published by one Mr. Modestus Nwankpa came up with an allegation against the speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Chiji Collins.
The newspaper accused the speaker of having discrepancies in his academic record which suggest that there could be forgery of his NYSC and PHD certificates obtained. Moment after the publication hit the newsstands, the state legislature was alerted and subsequently issued a summon for the publisher of the Big Truth; Mr. Nwankpa to appear before it for clarification.
Ever since this development, Chiji has been in and out allegations bordering on his credentials. Consequently, the House had in November last year set up an ad-hoc committee headed by a former Majority Leader; Chigozie Nwaneri, to investigate the matter.
Also, a former lawmaker in the state, Lawman Duruji had accused the Speaker of prevailing on the ad-hoc committee to sweep the matter under the carpet, insisting that such attempt would not save him from being prosecuted. According to Duruji, “Quote me, Chiji parades fake credentials, his PhD is fake and he also forged National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate”.
Unfortunately, ever since the committee saddled with the tasks of unearthing the truth behind this controversy was constituted, nobody can place hands on anything as the outcome of the committee’s finding is yet to be made public. Little wonder, this certificate controversy has eventually snowballed into a full-blown scandal; as the embattled Speaker’s many opponents and the critics are such in a hurry asking him to resign his position.
What are the Speaker’s allegations? Chiji Collins having first obtained HND in Ceramics from the Institute of Art, Reggio Calabria in 1981, Chidi Collins whose documents stated was born on October 27, 1957, and who obtained the qualification at age 24 is unqualified to enjoy an exemption from participating in the compulsory national youth service because he obtained the certificate ahead of his thirtieth birthday as a ground for which suitable individual could be exempted according to the law.
From common analysis then, except Chiji concealed his HND certificate, the allegation holds strong view that there was no ground other than that, which the bearer could be issued the NYSC exemption certificate issued to him dated July 22, 1993. Should this be the case, Chiji Collins then lied under the oath, an act which ought to be brought to justice and sanction upon discovery.
In response, the speaker who has been charged to make his credentials public for scrutiny has not done so. He has rather placed a $10,000 booty on any one who is willing and ready to travel to Italy to verify the authenticity of his academic certificates. Chiji has even indicted some other lawmakers in the state, saying they are currently being investigated over the authenticity of their educational certificates. This is an ugly development in our state polity.
Consequently, Chiji is not alone in this embarrassing certificate allegation in Imo state. Recall that on January 18, 2020, one Mr. Jackson Ude, a North American based journalist had alleged that Senator Hope Uzodimma has a fake result from a Washington University. In a series of tweets on his twitter handle, Jackson Ude alleged that he personally investigated Uzodinma’s claim of having obtained a Washington University Certificate.
According to Ude, his investigation revealed that the School do not have educational accreditation by any accrediting body in the U.S. More still, he noted that after he exposed the racket in 2012, his accused quickly deleted his academic records from his profile and till date, has not yet made his academic records public.
We will not quickly forget Mr. Ikechukwu Amuka; the former Chief whip and member representing Ideato South State Constituency at the Imo State House of Assembly who was exposed, disgraced and sacked by the election petition Tribunal sitting in Owerri in 2015 on the basis of Certificate fraud, impersonation, forgery and perjury.
Chiji’s matter has dangled in courts. While his accusers sued him for forgery, he has sued them for false accusation. As at December 2019, the matter hit National TV glare with AIT making analysis of the issue. This is a serious issue in Imo state and an affront on the people’s sensibilities and intelligence.
How can Imo state which produces more than 5000 graduates every year be ruled by persons struggling to affirm their academic qualifications? A state with brainy graduates and notable people in the academia and intelligentsia units is being engineered by leaders with questionable academic status.
It is a disservice to fairness. The Speaker owes the nation a duty by explaining the motive behind the deliberate masking possession of a qualification compelling him like every other Nigerian captured under the NYSC Decree 1973 from offering himself to participate in the one-year mandatory service.
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Already some other stakeholders in Imo have made clear their opinion in the ongoing saga. The matter has lingered, it is advisable for the speaker to resign his post and face his court process which will determine his stay in the hallowed chambers. Such an action even if taken now will be seen as the best attitude coming so late. He cannot be presiding over reputable decisions when he has much Augean stables to clean.
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Dan Ugwu and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”