Saturday, 11 January 2014

Over 200 ‘born -again’ Christians Return Their Certificates Every Year –WAEC

The return of certificates of the West African Examination Council by individuals who have found Jesus, known as ‘born-again’ Christians, is common in the offices of the examination body, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

A report in a national daily last week Saturday had stated that 15 individuals, who cheated when they sat for the examination in different years, recently approached WAEC as restitution to return their certificates.

Saturday PUNCH visited the headquarters of WAEC on Tuesday and learnt that not only is restitution that involves the return of WAEC certificates by born-again Christians common, the body has files for such requests as it is almost a routine exercise.

In a report presented before the 56th meeting of the Nigeria Examination Council in Lagos in November 2013, WAEC reported 256 cases of restitution for certificate cancellation approval by the council.

Deputy Director, Public Affairs, WAEC, Mr. Yusuf Ari, said the 256 cases were just the ones the examination body got between April and November 2013.

He said, “The NEC, which is the highest policy making body of WAEC, which deliberates on everything that has to do with examination, meets twice in a year – April and November.

“We report cases of restitution at every meeting of the NEC. The 256 we reported at the 56th meeting in November is the number of restitution cases we got since the last meeting in April. So you can imagine how many cases we get every year.

“It is a routine matter here. It is very common to get requests from such born-again Christians, who are usually from a particular pentecostal church I won’t like to name. The individuals come to our office or write letters. Some of those who come even start crying. They say they cheated and they have decided to return their certificates because they are now born-again.”

But our correspondent learnt through another source at WAEC that most of such born again Christians come from Deeper Life.

It was also confirmed through some of the letters written by individuals who requested to return their certificates, and shown to our correspondent at the WAEC headquarters, Yaba.

However, it is not only those who have dubiously passed the examination and acquired certificates that approach WAEC for restitution. Born-again Christians who in the past have impersonated the actual candidates and helped others to sit for their exam, also seek restitution.

Our correspondent sighted one of such letters written by a student of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies of the University of Port Harcourt in 2000. In the emotion-laden letter by the individual, whose name WAEC did not want published in order not to violate his privacy, he explained that he had been a bad boy who had impersonated other people in examinations.

The letter reads in part, “I am a Deeper Life member who is now a born-again Christian. I have done terrible things by impersonating other people by helping them to write their examinations.

“The Bible requires us to seek restitution and that is why I am approaching you to seek forgiveness. I am aware now that what I did was wrong and plead that you forgive me. I am on my knees and I hope my request will be granted.”

This correspondent caught a glimpse of a note scribbled on the edge of the letter by an official who treated the strange request.

“He must provide the names and examination numbers of candidates involved and the years of the examination before he can be pardoned,” the note stated.

But that was the last WAEC heard of that UNIPORT student, as Saturday PUNCH would later learn.

An official said he never came back after he was given that directive.

Ari said born-again Christians who seek restitution in WAEC offices assured officials that they were going to return other certificates obtained after the WAEC certification.

He said, “But it is not in our place to probe into whether they have taken further steps after returning their WAEC certificates.

“What we do after such individuals have returned their certificates is that we thank them for doing the right thing. We present their cases before NEC for the cancellation of the certificates.

“We send a report about them to the National Universities Commission and file it on our websites. But after that, our job is done. Whatever NUC does with the information we have given them is not really our concern.”

Ari explained that the 256 cases of restitution registered between April and November also included some individuals whose certificates were withheld by embassies because officials there were convinced they acquired the certificates fraudulently.

If born-again Christians approach WAEC in hundreds to return their certificates as part of their spiritual restitution, one would assume that higher institutions are getting returned certificates as well.

But it seems much of the restitution has been limited to the return of WAEC certificates and not of those obtained in higher institutions.

Saturday PUNCH contacted the Examination and Records office of the University of Lagos, but an official, who is in a position to handle such requests, said there had been no such requests that she could recall.

The Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin, Lagos does not seem to be getting such requests either.

Public Relations Officer of the institution, Mr. Odunayo Adebowale, said in the last 15 years he had worked in both the records and information offices, he had not seen such cases.

It was the same for Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, where the spokesperson of the institution, Mr. Victor Akinpelumi, explained that the university had also not been getting requests from people who decided to return their fraudulently obtained certificates after they became born-again.

When Saturday PUNCH contacted the University of Ibadan as well, it became clear that the return of certificates is alien to many institutions of higher learning in the country.

Spokesperson of UI, Mr. Demola Oladejo, said the university had not had such cases as far as he knew but promised to make more findings at the university’s record office.

“The university has the right to withdraw any certificate found out to be unmerited though. Remember that university certificates are awarded based on academics and character.

“UI has the responsibility to produce worthy graduates for the development of the country, which is why it will be a welcome action if any individual who believed he cheated during his exams returns the certificate he had been given.”

He was corroborated by the university’s legal officer, Mr. Ismail Musa, who said nothing of such had happened in the institution.

“We will have a legal basis to cancel the university certificate of anybody whose certificate has been withdrawn by WAEC, if it is the certificate such person used to gain admission to our university,” he said.

Education and religious experts gave their opinion on this subject.

Prof. Supo Jegede of the Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, said even though he would not want to dabble into the interpretation of restitution as contained in the Bible, his opinion was that the restitution of such individuals would not be complete until they returned other certificates they got after they obtained the WAEC certificate.

He said, “If the WAEC certificates they have returned are the basis for their getting admission into institutions of higher learning, then their restitution is incomplete.

“If someone returns a certificate obtained fraudulently, then other ones that the certificate helped him to obtain are also fraudulent. The certificates of the other studies need to be returned as well. That is my opinion.”

It could not be confirmed from some of these born again Christians if they indeed went a step further than just returning their WAEC certificates.

Saturday PUNCH could not obtain the names and contacts of such individuals because WAEC officials would not reveal their identities for ethical reasons.

A Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Tony Thompson, told our correspondent that if a born-again Christian returned his WAEC certificate because he cheated when he sat for the examination, the restitution would still not be enough unless he had not used the certificate for any other endeavour.

“If there are other certificates that the WAEC result has aided, then those should also be returned for the restitution to be complete. Restitution is an important part of Christianity. The Catholic Church has the Sacrament of Penance.

“But as a priest, there are some forms of restitution I would not recommend because what we seek is the greater good. For instance, when a man who has committed adultery decides on restitution, I would not advise such individual to go and confess to the husband of the woman he committed the adultery with because that will destroy the other marriage.

“I have the duty of protecting that marriage. Restitution should be for the greater good. There are other ways that restitution can be undertaken that will be adequate. A lot of things may be affected negatively if one just decides that returning certificates is the best form of restitution for someone who cheated in an exam.”

According to a pastor of a pentecostal church in Surulere, Lagos, Mr. Obinna Chioma, said restitution had to be done according to spiritual guardiance.

“Restitution requires wisdom and must be done according divine instruction. It does not matter what steps are required in the restitution so far as it is done according to divine instruction,” he said.

Individuals Saturday PUNCH spoke with had diverse interpretation of the restitution referred to in the Bible in Numbers 5: 5-6.

Sola Ilokun, who sees himself as a genuine born-again Christian, said people misinterpret the part of the Bible that refers to restitution.

“I believe it is the same Bible that says that when you are a new creature, all things become new. If I genuinely go to God and repent of my sin, and I go before the church and publicly confess that I cheated in my examination, then I think that is proper restitution,” he said.

He however did not see any wisdom in returning certificates obtained in time past.

Ilokun said, “If I return the certificate, who does it benefit? If it is money I stole from someone and decided to return the money, that will be appropriate but this is a different case.

“Restitution is righting the wrong one has done another person. If I cheated and decided to return my WAEC result, I have to return other certificates I got later too. But will that not amount to doing more damage to the heart of my parents who paid to ensure I got those other certificates? I will become jobless and my family will suffer. Will that not be bad?”

But not all individuals who see themselves as born-again Christian think along this line. Victory Udofia, told Saturday PUNCH that restitution was not supposed to be “convenient.”

“If I cheated in my examination, then to genuinely repent and become a real born-again Christian, I should be able to take the difficult step of returning that certificate. I would do it if I cheated,” she said.

Udofia is also a member of the Deeper Life Church.

Eniola Ibidiran, another born-again Christian, believes that not every wrong can be corrected through restitution.

“I don’t think there is need for restitution in this kind of case. It is like a tout who forcefully robbed people before he became born-again. How does he make restitution for that?” she said.


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