The Supreme Court Verdict On Forgery

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It is a judgment well made

The rate at which public office holders in Nigeria indulge in forgery and falsification has assumed a frightening dimension. A day hardly passes without news of a new discovery relating to either certificate, age or tax falsification involving individuals seeking or occupying very sensitive positions in the land. Yet, these ordinarily are people who should be leading by example. More unfortunate is the fact that some of these offenders wait for their accusers in court, relying on either delay, technicalities or outright corruption to stall justice. This is a challenge that should task the authorities.

Recently, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court of Nigeria sacked a federal legislator from Benue State for certificate forgery. Justice Sidi Bage, who read the lead judgment spoke a soothing language of hope: “Allowing criminality and certificate forgery to continue to percolate into the streams, waters and oceans of our national polity will only mean that our waters are and will remain dangerously contaminated. The purification efforts must start now and be sustained as we seek, as a nation, to now change from our old culture of reckless impunity “. Bage went further: “The Nigerian constitution is supreme. It desires that no one who has ever presented a forged certificate to INEC should contest election into the Nigerian National Assembly. This is clear and sacrosanct.”

Unfortunately, the situation is not that clear in our country today. In ministries, agencies and parastatals, individuals with fake certificates are holding sway and desecrating institutions that should be sacrosanct, even when competent and qualified persons abound. The message being sent by such fraudsters is that it doesn’t really matter whether or not one works hard to earn genuine certificates, since forged ones are acceptable.

A state chief executive who came to power presenting fake academic credentials wouldn’t have the passion for academic excellence and the desire to build virile academic institutions. Also a state or federal chief executive who came to power forging his tax papers to meet the urgent need for political power after dodging payment of tax for years wouldn’t have any problem plundering the tax payers’ money which they, in the first place, lack the moral authority to spend.

Knowing that the political institutions most times decide the effectiveness or otherwise of other institutions including the economic institutions, many nations usually put in enormous energy in ensuring that its political process is not tainted with the emergence of people with doubtful moral and academic pedigree. Just last week, the President of Tanzania, Mr John Magufuli said that more than 10,000 civil servants were recently sacked in his country for having fake education certificates. “These people occupied government positions but had no qualifications… they robbed us just like other common criminals,” Magufuli said, urging officials to “name and shame” offenders.”We have been working hard to create new jobs while there are people in government who hold fake degrees,” he said.

However, in Nigeria, once you attain a certain status, you can be elevated above the law. Lionel Messi, easily the most talented and decorated footballer in the history of football is presently appealing a two-year jail sentence slammed on him by a Spanish court recently  for failing to remit accurate tax returns. If his face, fame and humble mien could not stop the Spanish judges from applying the law, then our courts shouldn’t entertain any fear in meting out appropriate punishments against questionable persons retarding our development.

The message is simple: We are bound to continue to fail as a nation if we do not sanitise our political institutions by fearlessly getting rid of those individuals whose actions have become our development albatross. However, the faith of many Nigerians has been strengthened by the firm declaration and re-assurance of the highest court of the land that has now come down hard on those consciously slowing down our development through forgery, falsification and other related offences.

We commend the Supreme Court for that timely judgment.

 

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 We are bound to continue to fail as a nation if we do not sanitise our political institutions by fearlessly getting rid of those individuals whose actions have become our development albatross