The recent development in Kwara State where some syndicates who specialise in the production and distribution of fake certificates and employment letters were nabbed and paraded by security agencies, has unravelled the activities of the suspected criminals in the state. TOPE SUNDAY, Bureau Chief, North Central, writes on this new trend of crime in the state.
In the build up to the 2015 general elections, some state governors were unable to pay workers’ salaries and hinged their argument on the dwindling federal allocation, while some who were in the opposition accused the People Democratic Party-led Federal Government of persecution.
The song, however, remained the same despite the electoral defeat suffered by the PDP.
Almost a year into the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, some states are also battling with the same problem and blamed ghost workers for their predicament.
Piqued by the development, Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, who recently offset salary arrears of some of the state’s civil servants, set up a committee to fish out ghost workers in the state by taking the inventory of the state’s workforce.
Christened Personnel Database Development Committee, it is jointly chaired by Governor Ahmed and the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Isiaka Gold.
The exercise, according to the governor, is to enable government determine the actual number of staff on its pay roll and their monthly wage bill at different levels.
The governor said the verification will also end once for all the delay in payment of workers salaries currently being experienced in the state.
To this end, Governor Ahmed-led government engaged a consultant to conduct biometric and physical verification for its 82, 000 workforce comprising serving, retired and local government staff.
But hardly as the committee settled down for business,it got what it did not bargain for following the discovery of 100 fake Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).
And subsequently, the committee during a physical verification exercise that followed the BVN screening in Ilorin West Local Government secretariat also arrested 10 persons with fake academic papers.
Confirming the development,the Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Media and Communications,Dr Muideen Akorede, said the institutions which most of the suspects claimed to have attended are based in the state.
Akorede had told reporters in Ilorin that the arrest of the 10 suspects was an indication that there are more to unravel in the ongoing screening.
He said with the discovery and arrest of suspects at an early stage of the verification,the government is hopeful that it would save a reasonable amount of money from it monthly wage bill and submitted that reports of the committee will be made public at the end of the exercise.
The verification, which was initially meant to uncover ghost workers in the state, however, turned out to be an eye opener to the activities of the suspected fake certificate and employment letter production syndicates.
Consequently,the arrest of the 10 persons latter led to the arrest of another four job scammers.
The suspects, according to the police, were allegedly found with over 200 copies of letters of appointments and 100 letters of posting into various units and agencies.
Items recovered from them included appointment letter of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Hajj Commission (NHC), Kwara State Teaching Service Commission and Kwara state Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
The Commissioner of police, Mr. Sam Okaula, who paraded the suspects before news men at the state police headquarters ,Ilorin, recently, said the four men were nabbed following intelligence tip-off on their activities.
The commissioner said that the suspects are responsible for the ghost workers identified at every levels of both the federal and state’s offices.
The police boss said that the suspects confessed to have made over N4 million in the course of their illegal recruitment, adding, “we are making sure that we get the money back and return them to their various victims”.
He gave the names of the suspects as ;Hassan Taiwo Abdulwahab (32yr), Ajidagba Ibrahim Abdulrasaq(38yr),Tajudeen Adebayo (47yr) and Yajudeen Hussein (42yr).
“The syndicate specialises in the act of forging employment letters and letters of posting of different Government Agencies and Parastatals like; Nigeria Hajj Commission,Nigeria Port Authority,Kwara State Teaching Service Commission,Kwara State Universal Basic Education,SUBEB and others.”They charged and collected between N40,000 and N70,000 for state appointments and between the range of N200,000 and N350,000 each for Federal appointments.
“The activities of these syndicates had led to the injection of fake workers into the work force of the state which made the current verification embarked upon by the state government timely.
“Fake documents of different Government Agencies and Parastatals were recovered from them. They confessed to have made about N4 millions from the process. Suspects will soon be arraigned in Court”,the CP had narrated while parading them.
Okaula while commending the Kwara state government over the exercise, vowed that the suspects and beneficiaries of such fake appointments will be prosecuted.
While the dust raised by that discovery was yet to settle, the Department of State Security (DSS) in the state, two weeks after, arrested another six-man certificates forgery syndicate .
The suspects, Abdulmajeed Olaide, Musilimat Majeed, Adebimpe Ayodeji, Moshood AbdulHafiz, Sikiru Rafiu and Aliyu AbdulFatai, were alleged to be members of a syndicate which specialised in the production and distribution of fake certificates of several higher institutions in the country as well as issuance of fake citizenship certificates of several local government areas of the state.
Their arrest also, according to the service, came on the heel of an ongoing inventory of workers on the pay roll of the state government.
Parading the suspects, Director, Kwara State command of the DSS, Mr. Abdullahi Shinkafi, said the prime suspect in the incident, identified as one Abdulmajeed Olaide, had jumped bail and is currently on the run.
Other suspects, however, denied knowledge of the deal but one of them confessed that he was nabbed for being in possession of a fake Citizenship Certificate.
Items recovered from the suspects include a stamp of Kwara State High Court, Ilorin, hundreds of Kwara State Indigeneship Certificates of Oke-Ero, Ekiti, Ilorin South, Ilorin West, Ilorin East, Edu and Irepodun Local government areas, several First School Leaving Certificates, several NYSC Discharge Certificates and several NYSC Exemption Certificates.
Other items include over 100 copies of Kwara State Polytechnic Certificates, College of Education Ilorin Certificates, hundreds of University of Calabar Certificates, Lagos State University Certificates, hundreds of NECO Certificates, hundreds of WAEC Certificates, several Passport photographs and stamp pads and seals of several institutions.
“The stamp pads and the fake certificates and documents look very genuine that unsuspecting persons will find it difficult to substantiate. Further investigations revealed that many unscrupulous persons particularly in Kwara State have patronised the fraudsters to get unmerited certificates to gain employment into government agencies and institutions.
“The Service’s findings is not unconnected with the discovery of some employees being in possession of fake academic documents during the ongoing screening of workers and pensioners in some local government secretariats by Kwara State Committee on Personnel Database Development, the DSS boss explained.
Also, barely less than two weeks after the discovery of another six-man fake certificate and employment letter syndicate in the state, a University Administrator, Dr Folaranmi Akinosun, was arrainged before an Ilorin Chief Magistrate Court for allegedly defrauding “unsuspecting innocent admission seeking students” to the tune of N600million.
Akinosun, 47, was charged with Criminal Conspiracy, Cheating, Forgery, Giving False Information with Intent to Mislead Public Servant and Obtaining Money Under False Pretence contrary to sections 97, 322, 364, 140 of Penal Code Law and Section 1 (3) of Advance fee fraud and other related offence Act CAP A6 Law of Federation of Nigeria 2004.
According to the police, the suspect is operating an illegal degree awarding institution under the name Deltas University College Keta, Ghana through foreign links campus at Moro, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
“Investigation further led to the recovery of several documents you (suspect) issued to the unsuspecting students which includes the following: several forged NYSC posting letters for 2012 Batch ‘C’ Corps member; several forged provisional offer of admission letters into various Departments in the fictitious Detals University College, Ghana; forged School Registration forms; identity cards; semesters’ results sheets; receipts and Clearance Forms; School Identity Cards and Students Examination Slip, all suspected to be forged,” the FIR alleged.
With this development, fake certificate and employment letter syndicate seem to be on prowl in the state and pundits called on the government and all relevant security agencies to continue the manhunt for their cohorts in order to save the unsuspecting members of the public from their antics.