SaharaReporters reported that Uche Modum, a well-known professor at the University of Nigeria Nsukka and a former Commissioner with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) was embroiled in academic fraud. We stated that a fellow lecturer at UNN had accused Mrs. Modum of forging a letter of acceptance letter, dated September 2, 1991, purportedly from an American academic journal, Management Accounting, which has since been renamed Strategic Finance. The letter in question purported that the journal had accepted two of Mrs. Modum’s research papers for publication. Our sources at the university disclosed that she had used the forged letters as a supporting material for her 1995 professorial assessment and promotion.On December 13, 2012,
SaharaReporters obtained and published a disavowal letter written by Kathy Williams, the editor of the said journal, denying that the letter used by the UNN professor emanated from the journal.
Since the publication, SaharaReporters and some of its writers have received many phone calls and emails (with documents) from Professor Modum accusing the website of biased reporting.
As a result, SaharaReporters assigned a correspondent to reopen our investigation. We have now obtained a copy of the forged “acceptance letter” purportedly issued by Management Accounting. A cursory analysis of the said letter shows that it was shoddily forged. The letter seems disjointed and contains numerous irregularities, including a mix up of English and American spellings. For example, the letter contains “organizational” and “organizational.” In addition, the purported letter uses using manuscript (singular) to denote two academic papers and wrongly spells the name of the journal’s editor who “signed” the purported letter as Koral instead of Koval.
In one of the documents she submitted to us, Professor Modum insisted that the acceptance letter she submitted was genuine. However, she had no explanation as to why, after 22 years, the two papers that were supposedly unconditionally “accepted” (not subject to further reviews) remain unpublished in the said journal, even though it has consistently remained in publication till date. She has also not produced any evidence to show that she willfully withdrew the papers from the said journal or corresponded with the journal after the dubious claim that the paper was accepted.
Our investigations however revealed that Professor Modum had corresponded with the journal in the early 1980s when Mr. Koval was editor and the journal was still based in New York. It was a New York letter-headed paper of the journal that was used to forge the 1991 acceptance letter. However, the so-called acceptance letter raised several questions. Professor Modum apparently did not know that the editor, location and the name of the publisher of the said journal had all changed.
Investigations by SaharaReporters determined that she submitted a patently false letter for her professorial assessment and promotion, a fraud the authorities of UNN could have easily revealed with thorough scrutiny.
Our sources at the university insisted that UNN usually carries out close investigation of documents submitted for promotions. However, one of the sources said that, in the case of Mrs. Modum, her overbearing nature and political influence within and outside the university helped to get her a professorship and a promotion based on a significantly fraudulent record.
Our investigations also revealed that questions have dogged Professor Modum’s academic career. In 2008, when she was Head of Department of Accountancy, the University published her CV on its website. The CV contained numerous non-existent or questionable publications. A comparison of her 1995 professorial appraisal papers with the said CV shows that many of the papers she claimed had been accepted for publication, including the two in Management Accounting, now appear in the said CV with claims of publication in entirely different journals where the publications do not exist. Professor Modum later denied that she authorized her CV, claiming that she was actually still putting finishing touches on her CV when her secretary submitted it without her consent. To support this claim, she brandished a letter from her departmental secretary, Mr. F. A. Omeje apologizing to her for submitting her CV which the secretary claimed that he extracted from the computer without realizing that “the typist was still updating it”. But the secretary’s note did not answer the question why even a CV that was still being updated would contain many non-existent publications.
SaharaReporters has now obtained a copy of the letter Mr. Omeje used to forward the CV in the first place. A comparison of the two letters by Mr. Omeje shows that Mr. Omeje officially “apologized” to Professor Modum on a Sunday and one day before he even forwarded the said CV he was apologizing about. The same letter also made it clear that the same CV had earlier been officially forwarded to the Director, ICT/ Innovation Center at UNN by the department which was headed by Professor Modum at the time.
SaharaReporters has also obtained evidence that Professor Modum had earlier used the same 2008 forged CV as the basis for the false claim that she had published eight journal articles “in accounting as a subject and /or publications in Accounting journals”. She had made these claims to her departmental postgraduate committee meeting held on February 18, 2008 which she chaired. This was used apparently to convince the Postgraduate School to allow her to supervise PhD students in accounting.
The irony was not lost on many of Mrs. Modum’s academic colleagues. A lecturer who wished to remain anonymous told SaharaReporters, “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eyes of a needle than to get a PhD under Mrs. Modum’s supervision, when her academic record is mostly fraudulent.”
In 1999, when Professor Modum unsuccessfully contested to become a deputy vice chancellor in the University, she submitted another falsified CV which claimed that she had published over 25 journal articles. Interestingly, the 1998 CV she tried to deny contained only 17 journal articles, many of which do not exist.
Mrs. Modum declined our request to list the more than 25 journal articles claimed in her 1999 CV. In both her 2008 and 2009 CVs, she also falsely claimed that she worked for Jones and Jones Inc., a certified public accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio USA. SaharaReporters has confirmed that no such firm existed at the time.
In her 1995 professorial appraisal form, Professor Modum claimed that she was born on December 28, 1946. Her 1998 and 1999 CVs claim, however, that she was born on December 28, 1948. Wilberforce University Ohio has confirmed that December 28, 1948 was not her date of birth when she was a student there. Evidence obtained by SaharaReporters shows that Professor Modum had in writing admitted to having multiple dates of birth during her school years in the USA. She however blamed the Biafran War for this. Without her change of birth date from December 28 1946 to December 28 1948, Professor Modum would have retired on December 28, 2011 as 65 years was the retirement age for all academic staff at the time.
Our correspondent sent a detailed list of questions along the above lines to Professor Modum. Despite the fact that she instigated the reopening of this academic fraud story, she refused to answer the set questions. This was because, according to her, the Governing Council of UNN was currently looking into the matter. She advised that we should be patient and await the outcome of their investigations, contending that the chairman of the investigation panel [Mr. Harrison Onwu] is a seasoned lawyer and the chairman of the university’s Governing Council [Mr. Emmanuel Ukala] is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
A source within the Governing Council, who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity, however disclosed that the council was determined to shield Mrs. Modum at all costs, despite the fact that it is public knowledge that her CV contains many fraudulent claims. The source stated that Mrs. Modum’s husband, Paul Egbuna Modum, a retired Professor of French in the same university, is well connected to some retired generals and top politicians.
A UNN professor who is also familiar with the case, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, told our reporter, “Right from the time these numerous forgeries became public in 2008, there has been extensive external pressure on the University authorities to protect Professor Uche Modum.” He added: “This explains why the then Vice Chancellor, Professor Chinedu Nebo, who is now the Minister of Power, refused to touch the case. This also explains why the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Professor B. N. Okolo, shamelessly tried to defend Professor Modum in writing on December 14, 2012. Mr. Okolo had asserted, “Prof. (Mrs.) Modum might have made a mistake, but does not deserve all the insults. It is already too late to do anything since she has been educating students in the most excellent manner. What she did not have in publications, she now has in experience.”
Our source in the council stated that the current Chairman of Council, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, who is reportedly the nominee of erstwhile Minister of Education Nyesom Wike, “will do all in his power to cover the fraud in this woman’s qualifications.
A source at the Federal Ministry of Education however told our correspondent that, with the emergence of Ibrahim Shekarau as the Minister of Education, this “apparent cover-up of brazen multiple forgeries” in Nigeria’s premier indigenous university, which has now become a national embarrassment, is likely to be revisited and addressed differently.”