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‘I was asked to pay $11,550 for doubtful PHD degree’ – Ishaq Oloyede
The Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof Is-haq Oloyede told a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday how he was almost swindled of $11,550 by some individuals behind a suspicious university who offered to award him a doctorate degree at that amount.
Prof Oloyede, who was in court to testify as the second prosecution witness in the trial of Prof David Iornem, said the incident happened in 2012 when he was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin.
Prof Iornem is being tried by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC) on a 3-count for allegedly operating an illegal university and obtaining under false pretence.
Led in evidence by prosecuting lawyer, E. C. Otti, said he became suspicious when he received a letter from one Prof David Iornem, informing him about the offer of professional and academic doctorate degree of the Commonwealth University, Belize, and requiring him to pay a total of $11,550.
Prof Oloyede said, on receiving the letter from Prof Iornem, and having not applied for the degree, he became suspicious about the offer from the supposed Commonwealth University, a development that informed his decision to report to the National University Commission for investigation.
The JAMB registrar said he had never met Prof Iornem before Wednesday when he saw him in person in court.
“When I was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and also, the Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, I got a letter from Prof David Iornem, offering me a professional and academic doctorate degree for the sum of $11,550.
“I suspected that that was not proper for an academic and professional doctorate degree to be so awarded without any application. I did not apply. I considered the offer unethical. I therefore, wrote to the regulator of universities, the Executive Secretary, National University Commission (NUC). And I attached the letter I received from the Commonwealth University.
“My intention was to ensure that the NUC investigate to establish the propriety or impropriety of the action. The degree he (Prof Iornem) offered to award me was a professional and academic degree of Commonwealth University, Belize.
“From exposure, I have about four decades of university life as a teacher and I am very familiar with university system all over the world. I also suspected, given my position in the university globally, I suspected that that university was non-existent.
“I knew this because as at then, I was on the board of the International Association of Universities (IAU), I was a member of the Governing Board of the Association of Commonwealth Universities; I was also a member of the Board of the Association of African Universities.
“I was the President of the Association of African Universities. I was also the Interim Secretary General of the Association of West African Universities.
“All these compelled me to raise the alarm, which is did to the NUC. I considered it a duty.
“The process of obtaining a professional or academic degree is for the candidate to apply, after which he will be notified about the outcome of his/her application.
“This is different from a honorary degree. The letter to me stated that it was academic and professional degree, not honorary. If it were honorary, I would have turned it down,” Prof Oloyede said.
The JAMB boss, who stood in the witness box for over three hours, said after his letter to the NUC, he was invited by the ICPC to make written statement, which he did.
He said by the letter from the Commonwealth University, he was required to pay $9,500 for the doctorate degree, $1,500 for seminar and $550 for academic gown.
After he identified the letter from the Commonwealth University, his letter to NUC dated July 23, 2012 and his statement to the ICPC, the three documents were admitted in evidence by the court.
Under cross examination by defence lawyer, Chris Alashi, Prof Oloyede said he had First Class in his first degree in Arabic, a Masters in Islamic Studies and PHD in Islamic Studies, with specialisation in Islamic Jurisprudence.
He said he has over 50 academic publications to his credit and has attended over 500 academic related seminars and workshops both locally and internationally in his over 40 years as an academic.
He said he became a professor in 1995. He said he was aware that of recent, some countries have started to award professional doctorate degrees in professional fields.
Trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed later adjourn further proceedings to June 8, for Prof Oloyede to continue his testimony.