A petitioner, Ngozi Agbo, has accused the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) of frustrating efforts to verify the authenticity of a certificate presented by a presidential aspirant, Chris Isiguzo, to the election clearance committee of the union.
Agbo, an Enugu-based journalist, had earlier filed a petition accusing Chris Isiguzo, a two time Vice-President of the union, of not having the required certificate.
She said Isiguzo owns both an ND and HND certificate from the Federal Polytechnic, both issued in 1998. However, on August 11, the clearance committee replied her, saying “the committee upholds the earlier clearance issued to him”.
In another letter to the committee, Agbo demanded the certificate so as to facilitate the verification process. But in a letter dated September 14, the committee denied her request, stating that “the time frame allotted for submissions of petitions has elapsed”.
Not done yet, Agbo wrote another letter, dated September 15, to the committee accusing its members of “shielding the suspect by refusing to release the certificate he presented before the committee”.
When asked by SaharaReporters if she had the right as a member of the union to request for the certificate in question, Agbo answered: “I have that right as a member of the union to get that certificate. We are not fighting them; it is their job.
"But we still have that right as Freedom of Information (FOI) to access that certificate. I have tried reaching the school and they replied, saying that the authenticity or otherwise will be determined when they see the certificate. Every law in Nigeria is subject to the Nigerian constitution.
“If they don’t give me the certificate, election will never hold. He is going for our Number 1 position. Imagine if the certificate is fake! As a journalist in this new dispensation, how do you place the two together? All the stones that are being thrown at journalists are caused by these kinds of people. I cannot allow someone that did not go to school to be a leader. Let him show us his certificate. Let them do a photocopy and upload on the net and we will take it from there and we will take it to Oko verify.
“I don’t care about NUJ again. It’s like they have thrown their integrity into the mud just to protect an individual who is trying to rope them. If they want, I can show them my certificate. I’m not hiding it, but if it gets out of hand, I will start saving money and we will meet in court. Who is fooling who?”
When SaharaReporters reached out to the man at the centre of the controversy, Isiguzo, he debunked Agbo’s claims and explained that the only certificate he presented to the clearance committee was the National Diploma certificate from Federal Polytechnic, Oko, in 1998.
“The allegation, as far as I am concerned, is totally false. I wonder where they got the certificate they published," he said.
"Those certificates are not mine. The certificate I presented to the certificate committee is National Diploma in Mass Communication, 1998. I have made it clear that anybody that is in doubt should go to the Federal Poly, Oko, to verify.
"I have not even seen a copy of their petition except what I read online. Some people are determined to run people down. I didn’t present any HND certificate. If you go to the clearance committee, there is no place in my document that they wrote HND. Those that feel that we are gaining ground in this election are determined to smear us."
Reacting to another media report on the story, he said: “The published certificate is not mine, because my name is ‘Christopher Isiguzo’ and the name written on the certificate is ‘Christopher Isiguzoro.'”
Isiguzo is currently a journalist with ThisDay newspaper.
SaharaReporters got in touch with Eniola Bello, Managing Director of the newspaper, who directed us to speak with the Managing Editor. When SaharaReporters got in touch with the Managing Editor, Joseph Ushigale, he said: "What I can say is that our attention has been drawn to the allegation and we are working on it. We going through the whole process and once we are done, we will come out with our findings.
"I cannot categorically say or confirm the veracity of the certificate. What we need to do is to write to the school. We are already on it. We got his file and we looked at the school he tendered. Once the school gets back to us, we will come out with our findings.”
SaharaReporters contacted the chairman of NUJ clearance committee, Garba Dahiru, who said the only certificate that was presented by Isiguzo was his ND certificate.
He said: “I’m tired of this Chris issue. How many journalists will call as regards the petition? There were 12 petitions that we received and three of them are against Chris Isiguzo. She filed a petition stating the doubt on whether Chris possesses HND to which we replied that Chris did not tender HND to us as a committee. Rather, he tendered ND. We gave the details. If she wants to go further, it is to go to the school to verify.
"We are not under any obligation to give her anybody's certificate. You can only deal with a candidate with only what is tendered to the committee. When you afre writing a petition, the onus of proof lies with you, not the committee. According to our timetable, all petitions must be submitted, backed by evidence on the midnight of August 22.
“She filed her application within that time and we considered it on the basis of what she submitted. As a petitioner, she is supposed to attach evidence. In our own file, Chris Isiguzo did not file HND. The candidate submitted ND.”