The Imo State University, Owerri, and an Abuja-based educational services company are embroiled in a satellite campus and university admission racket through which they tricked thousands of students into paying over N150 million in illegal fees, an investigation by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting has revealed.
The company, Diamond Lecture Centre, has for years operated an illegal satellite campus purportedly belonging to the Imo State University, in the process admitting and running classes for thousands of students in business and management-related courses.
The Diamond Lecture Centre charges each student N80,000 tuition fees and currently has some 2,000 students in 100, 200, 300 and 400 levels, with the final year set currently taking their final examination.
However, the National Universities Commission, NUC, has declared that the campus, which operates out of the Festival Primary School, Area 10, Garki, Abuja, is illegal.
The commission said neither Imo State University nor Diamond Centre has any approval to run either a satellite or any other kind of campus in Abuja.
Not only that, the tertiary education regulatory body also says that any degree awarded to any students through such a bogus and illegal scheme would not only be illegal but would also not be usable to seek employment in Nigeria or anywhere in the world.
That leaves the fate of nearly 2,000 students who are currently on admission at the fake and illegal campus in the balance.
Interestingly and curiously too, authorities of the Imo State University have also disowned Diamond Centre and distanced itself from the satellite campus it claims it runs for it in Abuja. This is in spite of the fact that Diamond Centre uses the university’s course outline, handbooks, letterhead and stationeries in the admission and teaching of students.
Investigations by icirnigeria.org revealed that Diamond Centre has operated the illegal satellite campus in Abuja for many years and would have admitted up to 10,000 students by now.
Our investigations show that most of the students of the campus are professionals such as bankers, civil servants or business people who do not have the time to undertake the rigours of normal university education.
With lectures conducted only on Saturdays and Sundays, such cadre of professionals finds it convenient to run weekend programmes.
But there is nothing about the classes conducted by Diamond Centre that resembles anything close to a university education and even some of the students agree that granting degrees through such a process is an aberration.
First, the lectures are held in the most unsavory environment. When our reporter visited Festival Primary School, Area 10,Abuja, what he saw was shocking. Lectures were being held in decrepit, moldy, smelly classrooms with broken furniture and dilapidating walls.
Apart from this, posing as a student, monitoring the lectures and speaking to some of the students, our reporter found that the quality of teaching was abysmal.
The lecturers operated mainly a “handbook education” policy whereby they sold handbooks to students which they are supposed to read to pass examinations.
But the lecturers do not even bother to prepare their own notes but just download handouts from the websites of other educational establishments on the Internet. For example, the whole handbook on Analysis for Business, a course for 400 Management students, was downloaded entirely from the Internet with no input from the lecturer.
Apart from this, many students also complained about the lecturers with many of them wondering if they had university degrees because of what they called ”their intellectual shallowness”.
For this kind of substandard education, the students actually pay through the nose. Apart from the N80,000 tuition fees, final year students are forced to pay N30,000 for their final year project to be approved.
Besides, every student who is unlucky to fail a course and has to carry it over till the next session is forced to pay N5,000 before he or she can sit and write the examination for the ‘carryover subject”.
The students, who spoke to our reporter also complained that they are forced to pay N5,000 to attend workshops conducted by Diamond Centre for other institutions in Abuja.
Our investigations revealed many curious things about Diamond Centre educational services provider. First, on its website, its office address is given as Block D, Suite D62, EFAB Mall extension. However, for several days, when our reporter went there the place was permanently under lock and key. Nobody ever came there.
It was eventually gathered that the company has two other operational offices in the same complex but we were never able to locate them.
Although the company has a vibrant website which details the services it provides and with whom it had done business, there is no single mention of its running any programme for Imo State University.
Among the projects it claims to have executed is working with “the agency for Mass Literacy and Non-formal education, Abuja, for education of secondary school students.”
The Diamond Centre also claims that it is “currently a consultant with UK, DFID Nigeria in the area of research and development“while also providing consultancy services “for relevant government agencies, tertiary institutions, international organizations, (such as UNESCO, DFID, UNICEF, WHO, etc.)”
It also claims it operates “primary, secondary and tertiary education wholly or in conjunction with other educational institutions.”
The closest thing it says about the Imo State University satellite campus, Abuja which it runs however is that it acts” as representative of both local and foreign educational institutions including universities in the running of their distance learning courses/programmes.”
All payments made by the students are made into the Diamond Centre’s accounts with GTB. These include the school fees and any other monies made for examinations and other things.
And Diamond Centre is said to be strict and unsparing with the students when it comes to paying tuition and sundry fees. It was learnt that any student who does not pay school fees is not allowed to take examinations. Even a default in paying the imposed N5,000 to re-sit failed examinations earns students exclusion from the examination.
The NUC claims that it was not aware of the existence of the satellite campus. The commission’s head of public relations, Yakassai Ibrahim, who spoke to our reporter in Abuja last week, said that the campus was illegal because neither the Imo State University nor Diamond Centre has an approval to run courses there.
“We are not aware of that campus. I can tell you that nobody has any approval to run any such satellite campus,” Mr. Ibrahim said, adding that “we will close down any such campus if we discover it.”
The NUC spokesman also warned students who patronize such institutions that “any degree awarded by such an institution is illegal and of no use. It cannot be used to seek employment in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world.”
Asked if there is no way for the commission to know about the activities of illegal universities and satellite campuses, Mr. Ibrahim said that the NUC, indeed, had a standing committee on illegal tertiary institutions, including satellite campuses.
In an interview with the secretary of the standing committee who gave his name simply as Awe, he disclosed that the committee regularly discovers and closes down fake and illegal universities and satellite campuses “on a regular basis”, observing that criminally minded Nigerians have made it a “business goldmine.”
According to him, some 147 such illegal institutions have so far been discovered and shut by the committee with several persons charged to court for running them.
Contrary to Mr. Ibrahim’s assertion, however, Awe disclosed that theNUC was aware of the Imo State University satellite campus run by Diamond Centre. He said that when his committee got wind of the operation of the centre, it visited the school where the campus is run but did not find it there.
“We investigated and actually went to the primary school but we did not find anybody. If you are telling me that they were there last weekend, then it means that they must have been on break when we went. We will go and close the place down now,” Awe stated.
Speaking more about the committee’s work, Awe said that it had been illegal since 2001 for any tertiary institution to run a satellite campus. According to him, that year, a directive was given by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, banning the operation of satellite campuses after it examined the reports presented to it on tertiary education in Nigeria.
Some of the reasons that informed the ban, Awe said, were inadequate manpower and the use of unqualified lecturers, inadequate educational infrastructure and the poor quality of education given in such campuses.
The authorities of the Imo State University denied knowledge of the existence of its purported satellite campus in Abuja. Although the emails sent to the office of the vice chancellor of the university were not replied, the Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the institution who spoke to our reporter on the phone said he was not aware of any satellite campus of the Imo State University in Abuja.
“Imo State University does not have any satellite campus inAbuja. I am not aware. What I know is that we have wound down all our long distance learning programmes,” the PRO who did not give his name stated.
Attempts to speak with N.A. Odunze, the managing director of Diamond Centre failed as he declined commenting on the activities of his company concerning the satellite campus. Mr. Odunze repeatedly ignored calls and text messages to his phone.
After days of trying to reach him, he eventually sent a text explaining that he was attending a course, adding that his centre“no longer admits students”. He subsequently refused further communication with us.
There are allegations that some officials of the Imo State University might have colluded with Diamond Centre to run theAbuja satellite campus illegally. In fact, some students also believe that the NUC might be part of the conspiracy to keep the illegal satellite campus going secretly.
Many students who spoke to us argued that there is no way the satellite campus would have existed for years illegally without being closed down without collaboration of staff of the NUC and the university.
“I believe that some people in NUC and the Imo State University are in league with the director (Odunze) to scam students. Certainly they are in this together. They cannot claim ignorance. While driving some students away from the exam hall recently, Odunze told us that he just paid over N7 million to the Imo State University as examination fees,” an angry student said to our reporter.
Another student disclosed that Diamond Centre’s plan is to wind down the operation of the campus with the last intake of students who are now in 100 level. If this is true, even if it does not take in new students, as Mr. Odunze said, the centre would still have to run the illegal campus for another three years.
The greatest worry of the students and their sponsors is not the time they have spent pursuing what they thought was university education or even the money they have had to pay but the fact that they might come out empty handed.
With the declaration by the NUC that any degree awarded the students would be illegal and useless, it means that they cannot seek employment or promotion in their work places with their certificates.
There is even a controversy over whether Diamond has ever issued any certificate to any student who graduated from the satellite campus. All the students who spoke to us said that they had also been troubled that they had never come across any graduate of the school who got any degree or certificate.
One student said that when a group of them confronted Mr. Odunze with the fact, he only assured them that they would get their degrees after completing their course of studies.
From all these Odunze appears to have been the only beneficiary of this bogus scheme. With a current student population of nearly 2,000 this session, Diamond Centre this year alone must have raked in some N160 million from unsuspecting students.