PREMIUM TIMES on Friday defended its reporting and findings in an investigative fact-check that exposed the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, for lying that he got a First Class degree in Law from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).
Mr. Kachikwu had clearly made the false claim at a COZA church event recorded on video. He also peddled the claim on his official bio posted to the website of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Even on his official CV, which he submitted to the presidency and the Senate, the minister also claimed he got a distinction from UNN.
Mr. Kachikwu also graduated from the Nigerian Law School in 1979, at a time the institution had not begun the process of classifying its certificates. Yet he is claiming, including on his official CV, that the school awarded him a First Class.
But hours after the story was published Thursday, Mr. Kachikwu, despite the video and text evidences, released a statement claiming he “neither misrepresented facts nor made the claims written in the publication.”
On Friday, PREMIUM TMES editor-in-chief, Musikilu Mojeed, defended his medium’s reporting, and urged the minister to sue if he truly believed what was published about him was incorrect.
“It is unbelievable that Mr. Kachikwu will release that kind of statement attempting to further deceive,” Mr. Mojeed said. “In that video, he said it twice, not once, indicating it was not a slip of tongue. He also published the claim on his ministry’s website. Even on page four of his CV, he claimed he got a distinction.
“So we don’t understand what he is denying. We didn’t put the words into his mouth. We didn’t push him to publish false claims about himself. We only reported what he said. In fact as we reported that story, we realised that because Mr. Kachikwu has pushed that false claim around for too long, many Nigerians actually believed he got a First Class from UNN.
“We stand by our story. We are proud of our journalism. And we challenge Mr. Kachikwu to sue us if he is convinced that what we published about him are not factual, or that we maligned him. We are ready to meet him in court.”
The publication by Dubawa, a fact-checking platform, and PREMIUM TIMES showed that the repeated claims by Mr Kachikwu that he graduated with a First Class degree in Law from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was false.
The report showed that while Mr Kachikwu in fact graduated from the university, he finished with a Second Class Honours (Upper Division) degree.
It is not clear why Mr Kachikwu lied about his graduation degree, especially as he has succeeded in several endeavours he ventured into since graduation, including acquiring higher degrees from Harvard University.
However, hours after the report, the petroleum ministry released a statement claiming falsely that Mr Kachikwu never said he had a first class. The minister, himself made a similar claim on his official twitter handle.
In the exclusive report, Mr Kachikwu was shown in a 2016 video telling a church audience how he graduated with a First Class from UNN.
“And, I got in there, got a scholarship and became the best student, I had a first class in that institution (UNN),” he said.
“And then, I left from there to the law school and in the law school, I think just like the pastor said: people encourage you. All my colleagues came and said, we are all here representing our institutions, if you brought a first class from Nsukka you better make it work here where everybody is gathered…”
Mr Kachikwu tried to downplay the video in the statement by his ministry Thursday.
“On the presentation made at the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) cited by Premium Times, the substance of his assertions was to the effect that he had a first class performance in school and was emphasizing on the need for hard work amongst youths to get them to the top of their game,” Idang Alibi, the director of press at the petroleum ministry said.
But the more indicting of the minister’s false claim of a First Class was that put on the petroleum ministry’s website.
“Dr. Ibe Kachikwu is a distinction graduate of Law from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Nigerian Law School,” the official biography of the minister on the petroleum ministry website read. “He bagged First Class degree in Law and was best graduand and multiple awards winner from both Institutions.”
In its statement on Thursday, the petroleum ministry avoided commenting on the false claim that was still in the minister’s profile on the ministry’s website at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Rather, it dwelled on Mr Kachiukwu’s other academic and professional qualifications, which were not the basis of this paper’s report.