The House of Representatives has adopted the report of its Committee on Public Petitions directing the University of Nigeria Nsukka Governing Council to reverse its wrongful and malicious sack of Professor Ugochukwu Uche “as if it never happened.” The decision of the House has since been officially conveyed to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Benjamin Ozumba who also represented UNN at the Public Hearing. Mr. Uche was sacked in October 2015 by the UNN Governing Council then led by Mr. Emmanuel Ukala SAN solely for exposing the massive academic fraud in the University that was committed by one of the Professors Mrs. Uche Modum.
SaharaReporters in series of investigative articles exposed the scandal. Mr. Uche obtained a doctorate degree in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics in 1997 and joined UNN in the same year. The travails of Mr. Uche started in 2008 when in his capacity as the Dean of the Business Faculty in the University, he exposed the numerous forgeries and falsifications committed by Mrs. Uche Modum, a professor of accounting and a former Commissioner with Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Her husband, Paul Modum, is a retired professor in the University and a former commissioner in the old Anambra State. Specifically, Mr. Uche documented and reported to the UNN authorities that Mrs. Modum was a fraud who among others forged the acceptance letter of a top American journal: Management Accounting (now Strategic Finance) purporting to have accepted two of her papers for publication. Mrs. Modum’s CV published by UNN in 2008 also falsely claimed that she had published two different papers in the said journal. The journal confirmed in writing that it has never published any of Mrs. Modum’s papers and that it never issued the purported acceptance letter. Mr. Uche also exposed that the majority of the papers Mrs. Modum claimed that had been accepted for publication in her 1995 professorial appraisal form and were thus used to obtain her promotion were never published either in the claimed journals or elsewhere till date. Also, the majority of the articles which she claimed to have published in diverse journals, as contained in her 2008 official CV published by UNN were also nonexistent in the claimed journals.
Aside from the above forgeries, Mrs. Modum also fraudulently changed her date of birth from December 28 1946 (as contained in her 1995 Professorial papers) to December 28 1948 (as contained in her official CV published by UNN) without which she would have long retired from the university based on the previous retirement age of 65 years. Furthermore, Mrs. Modum’s 1995 professorial appraisal form and 2008 official CV both falsely claimed that she had worked as an accountant/ auditor in the nonexistent Jones and Jones Inc, which she claimed was a certified public accounting firm based in Dayton Ohio USA.
When the scandal was exposed, the UNN authorities instigated a few hasty moves to cover-up by strong-arming the Dean to recant his findings; Mr. Uche declined all pleas to be involved in the cover-up. Despite the overwhelming evidence provided, a 2011 UNN Council Committee which investigated Mrs. Modum exonerated her. The Committee also directed that Mr. Uche be issued a warning and made to apologize to Mrs. Modum for character assassination without concrete facts. Uche’s Counsel pointed out that it was wrong to sanction his client since he was not on trial before the Committee. He also made it clear that Uche was willing to submit himself for trial where he will first be told the specific false allegations he made and then be given the opportunity to call witnesses and cross-examine his accusers in accordance with the rules of UNN and natural justice. During such trials, he can, for instance, ask Mrs. Modum to prove him wrong by showing the publications.
When UNN Council insisted on convicting him without trial, Mr. Uche approached the National Human Rights Commission to protect his right to fair hearing. The then Vice Chancellor-Professor Bartho Okolo, who was championing the protection of Mrs. Modum, however, ignored the numerous letters from the NHRC. Various attempts by Professor Batho Okolo to get the Council to sack Professor Uche failed mainly because it was widely known in Council that Modum was a fraud.
At the expiry of the tenure of that Council, the case was inherited by a new Council led by the late Dr. Emeka Enejere. The new Council immediately started probing the numerous financial frauds committed by Professor Bartho Okolo. Sahara Reporters have in previous reports documented how Okolo used contract splitting and the award of contracts to nonexistent companies to fleece the university. As the new Council was finalizing its report which indicted Okolo on the grounds of the numerous financial frauds he committed, Enejere was suddenly removed by Governor Wike who was then the Acting Minister of Education. Wike subsequently appointed Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, his private lawyer, and benefactor as the Pro-Chancellor of UNN. Ukala’s first duty as Pro-Chancellor was to quash all the fraud findings against Okolo.
Ukala and Okolo subsequently expanded their collaboration towards shielding Modum. They both insisted that Mr. Uche apologize to the fraudster professor or be sanctioned. It was at this stage that Professor Uche petitioned the 7th House of Representatives. The House Committee on Public Petitions promptly directed both parties to maintain status quo and resolve the matter within one month failing which there will be a public hearing. The Ukala led Council soft-pedaled and asked for more time to look into the matter. The House accepted. In reality, however, Mr. Ukala was only playing for time. Immediately after the expiry of the 7th National Assembly, Mr. Ukala ensured that Professor Uche was sacked. NHRC promptly suspended the sack and gave UNN two weeks to submit all its documents that would enable it determine if Professor Uche’s right to fair hearing was respected.
Before even bringing the NHRC directive to the attention of Council, Ukala in his desperation to shield an academic fraudster single-handedly hired three Senior Advocates of Nigeria- Godwin Obla, J. B. Doudu and D. C. Denwigwe to sue NHRC. The case, with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/955/2015 was filed on 24 November 2015 while the NHRC letter was only brought to the attention of the Governing Council in its December 2015 meeting. This suit is still pending in Court.
According to a senior lawyer and an alumnus of UNN who is familiar with the case, it is an irony that a government-owned university (UNN) will hire a lawyer who is currently being prosecuted by the Federal Government for allegedly corrupting judges and the judicial system (Godwin Obla) to sue the National Human Rights Commission. Also, the practice of two government-funded agencies suing each other clearly negates the long-standingg directive from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation that government-funded establishments should not spend tax payers money fighting each other in court without the permission of the Attorney General. Ukala is a senior lawyer and therefore should have known better.
A source in the Federal Ministry of Education who is aware of this case however told Sahara Reporters that the conspiracy to shield Mrs. Modum go way beyond UNN. According to her, after Adamu Adamu was appointed Minister of Education Uche petitioned the Minister. When the Minister appointed Committees to visit universities, he had included Uche’s petition in the file for UNN. Uche’s petition however mysteriously disappeared during photocopying. This made the Minister very angry.
Before he could act however, he was prevailed on by a serving Minister who was a former governor of one of the south east states and whose tenure was cut short on grounds of electoral fraud, to shield Mrs. Modum. It was at this point that the education minister, Mr. Adamu Adamu made a U turn and directed that the UNN report which had already been officially submitted be rewritten to include Professor Uche’s petition. The rewritten report then claimed that the committee invited Professor Uche severally but he refused to appear. It then concluded that Professor Uche’s allegations were unsubstantiated.
According to our source, the Minister was at the verge of releasing a White Paper to adopt this report when he received a strongly worded letter from the Chambers of Mr. Femi Falana, legal counsel to Professor Uche, which made it clear that at no time was Professor Uche invited to appear before any such Committee and asked the Minister to ensure that their client is invited and his petition considered in a transparent manner. Minister Adamu Adamu subsequently suspended the release of the White Paper.
Within UNN, however, many believe that the new Governing Council, under the chairmanship of Chief Mike Olorunfemi will be unwilling to continue on the Ukala/ Okolo road of shame especially now that the House of Representatives has conducted a public hearing on the matter and issued a directive. Many also doubt that the new Council will be able to muster the courage to salvage whatever is left of the badly damaged reputation of UNN by bringing the fraudster professor Uche Modum- to book. According to the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Professor Cladius Daramola, education in Nigeria is already dead.
At the peak of the scandal, Mr. Uche in January 2014 left UNN on leave of absence and relocated to the Netherlands where he currently occupies the Stephen Ellis Professorial Chair for the Governance of Finance and Integrity in Africa at Leiden University. At the public hearing in the House of Representatives, Mr. Uche made it absolutely clear, that he has no desire in returning to UNN but was rather only interested in clearing his name. It was on this basis that the House of Representatives also directed UNN to allow him to resign from the University with effect from the purported date of his wrongful dismissal.