The high rate at which public office holders, politicians, civil servants, applicants and other Nigerian groups indulge in forgery and falsification of official documents for undue advantage has assumed a frightening dimension.
The trend includes altering or outright forgery of academic certificate, age, name, and medical report for gaining undue advantage like employment or benefits from either the public or private service.
Others are falsification of tax records involving corporate organisations or individuals seeking to occupy political offices in the land.
More unfortunate is the fact that from medical facilities to schools, churches, marriage registries, ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs) and even courts, Nigerians continue to cut corners by forging official documents and using them to get what they want without minding the consequences.
It’s even more bizarre that despite the fact that it is well known that the act of forgery is a criminal offence which attracts severe punishment, perpetrators continue to engage in the illicit trade unabated.
However, not a few Nigerians believe that certain societal pressure and stringent official demands is one of the reasons the trend continues in everyday life.
The pressure includes employment, travel document requirement, quest to partake in the National Youth Service Corps scheme despite age restriction, longer stay in the public service, and political demands, among others.
It is interesting to note that the belief by some Nigerians that they can only succeed in life when they travel out of the country makes them to do all manner of things in order to obtain travel documents like passport and visas.
Section 465 of the Criminal Code Act provides the definition of forgery thus: “A person who makes a false document or writing knowing it to be false and with intent that it may in any way be used or acted upon as genuine, whether in the state or elsewhere, to the prejudice of any person or with intent that any person in the belief that it is genuine be induced to do or refrain from doing any act, whether in the state or elsewhere is said to forge the document or writing.”
Also, Section 467 provides the punishment for forgery in general thus “Any person who forges any document, writing, or seal, is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a felony, and he is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years.”
Under the same Section 467, when the thing forged is a public seal, the offender is liable to imprisonment for life. (Section 467(1) (a) and (b).
If the thing forged includes securities, titles, register, etc. the offender is liable to imprisonment for 14 years. Also, if the things forged are documents relating to revenue and acts of states, etc., the offender is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.
Meanwhile, if the thing forged includes courts seals, records, process, evidence, etc., the offender is liable for imprisonment for seven years.
Under the Criminal Code Act, the punishment for forgery ranges between three years imprisonment and life imprisonment depending on the thing forged.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that corruption, to say the least, is a complex phenomenon and a difficult problem. It is complex because of its deep roots in the social, cultural, economic, political, legal, and ethical value systems of individuals, communities, societies and countries. It is a difficult problem because it defies easy answers and resists any single-track solutions.
Meanwhile, from false declaration of cargo to fake insurance documents, and back-dating of year of gaining employment, the government is losing billions of naira to such unwholesome practices.
False declaration of goods is the act of giving false description about the nature, type, quantity of goods imported into the country. This is a battle being fought by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on a daily basis.
A youth corps member who gave his name only as Victor told LEADERSHIP Friday that he joined his friends to commit the act forging a medical report after he was posted to one of the flashpoint states in the northern part of the country for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme.
“I was afraid for my safety. My parents suggested I visit a friend who also introduced me to a medical doctor that wrote a report for me, indicating that I was suffering from chronic hepatitis and diabetes and had to remain close to point of receiving treatment. So, when I went to the orientation camp, I presented the report and the deal was done,” Victor revealed.
Victor is one of the thousands that present fake medical reports yearly to the NYSC authorities in a bid to manipulate their postings to preferred locations for sundry reasons.
While most medical doctors have left the country in search of greener pastures, others use the issuance of medical report as a side hustle: preparing medical report for those who need it.
Sadly, when confronted, one of the doctors from a government facility, who preferred not to be named, denied that they give people fake medical reports.
“All the reports we give can be confirmed by anybody. It is the sickness stated therein that are unconfirmed,” he explained, noting that people need the reports for a variety of reasons and not just for NYSC purpose.
A security expert, Badmus Olagoke, who expressed worry over the trend, said, “what do you expect of a state’s chief executive, who came to power presenting fake academic credentials. Do you think he would have the passion for academic excellence and the desire to build virile academic institutions?”
Also, worrisome is the fact that in most cases, forged documents pass through government agencies, including security agencies, undetected. This, has once again raised questions on the integrity and credibility of the country’s security agencies in curbing the menace of forgery.