by Oge Okonkwo
Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation , Stella Oduah whose office has been trailed with huge scandals is having her integrity questioned some more as reports cast doubt over the authenticity of the Master’s Degree which she purportedly obtained in the United States of America.
The Minister had brandished a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from St. Paul’s College Lawrenceville, Virginia, United States as part of her resume while being presented as a ministerial nominee before the Nigerian Senate.
But according to the online media platform, SaharaReporters, an investigation carried out proved otherwise as they reportedly learnt from the College President that it has never in its 125-year history had a graduate school or graduate program.
SaharaReporters gathered that:
The Provost Vice President of Academic Affairs, and the Vice President of Institutional Development said in response to our inquiries, “We don’t offer any graduate programs here.”
Similarly, the school’s website states: “Saint Paul’s College is accredited by the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate [bachelor’s] degrees.” There is no mention of graduate degrees.
The Minister’s documentation shows she received an undergraduate degree in accounting from the college in 1982, but Dr. Claud Flythe, St. Paul’s current president, could neither confirm nor deny this during a phone conversation with SaharaReporters. Further verification with the Office of Alumni Affairs is also currently impossible, the school said, because the college has been closed since June 2013 to loss of its accreditation.
“[Oduah] realized very early in life the indispensability of a sound education in her growth plans in life and therefore pursued her education with all diligence and sense of purpose,” her documents claimed, adding that a determination “to have the best education at the highest level” prompted her stay at the Virginia college in 1983 for the MBA programme.
As her public relations machinery marched on, in December 2012 The Sun newspaper published an article headlined “Stella Oduah: An Amazon of transformation,” which lauded her “MBA from St Paul’s College, Lawrenceville Virginia USA.” The story also praised her for being an official who brought her “rich educational background to bear on the aviation sector by automating revenue centers in all the agencies and parastatals to boost their revenue profile and enhance transparency and accountability in the system.”
In October, SaharaReporters broke the story that Mrs. Oduah, a former campaign manager for President Goodluck Jonathan, purchased two bulletproof BMW cars worth $ 1.6 Million (N255m) through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, for her own use.
Following an investigation, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation dismissed the Minister’s pleas of innocence and all her rebuttals during her testimony. The committee’s report, which was subsequently adopted by the House, declared that no budgetary appropriation had been made for the purchase of the cars, and that the NCAA proposal for their purchase was rejected.
President Jonathan also set up a three-member administrative panel to investigate the matter, but he immediately travelled out of the country with Mrs. Oduah and Colonel Dasuki, the National Security Adviser who was to serve as a member of the panel. Not only did the panel submit its report much later than the two weeks it was given for the assignment, Mr. Jonathan has refused to release its report.
Mrs. Oduah’s new certificate questions are certain to feed into national concern about her credibility as an elected official, but also about Mr. Jonathan’s credibility, and about the nation’s security apparatus which verifies official documents offered to the Senate for official nominations.
If Mrs. Oduah deliberately deceived the Senate, it remains to be seen if the Upper House will be sufficiently motivated to take up the matter with the Executive.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s aviation industry continues to face a massive challenge, with struggling airports and airlines, as well as financial and administrative pitfalls that hinder expansion and development.