THERE was drama in the Senate on Monday when lawmakers grilled a ministerial nominee from Benue State, Joseph Utsev, citing “discrepancies” in his biodata.
Utsev started his introductory comments at exactly 02:07pm immediately after the Senate screened ex-governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike.
He told the lawmakers that he was born in Gboko, Benue State on December 2, 1980 and he attended the University of Agriculture, Makurdi where he studied Civil Engineering and graduated with a Second Class Upper in 2004.
Utsev said he observed the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Kaduna in 2006.
The Professor of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering said he bagged his Master’s Degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2007 and further bagged a doctorate degree from same university in 2011.
However, Senator Tokunbo Abiru from Lagos East Senatorial District asked Utsev to clarify his biodata.
“You were born on December 2, 1980 but reading further down, you attended St John Primary School, Gboko, in 1989,” Abiru said. “I am wondering whether you finished secondary school in 1989 which suggest that you started primary school at the age of three to finish in 1989.”
“You also claim that you went to secondary school in 1995,” Abiru continued, adding that “what appeared a bit distorted” is that “you graduated in 2004 meaning that you probably would have spent nine years for your first degree”.
Abiru said, “I just need you to clarify those data starting from primary school, while it took you that long to get your first degree despite the academic brilliance you have exhibited.”
The nominee responded that he started primary school in the year 1984 and got his first school leaving certificate in 1989.
“I furthered to secondary school to 1990 to 1995, that was when I got my SSCE (Senior School Certificate Examination),” Utsev explained.
“I was actually supposed to pass out in 2003 but there was a prolonged strike by ASUU, I spent six years in the programme and that was why I graduated in 2004,” the nominee added.
Senate President Godswill Akpabio interjected and said the nominee probably finished nursery school at the age of three to start primary school at the same age.
“The question was you were born in 1980 and you had your first leaving certificate in 1989, that means that the period you should have been in nursery school at the age of four years, you were already in Primary one,” Akpabio said and the lawmakers had a good laugh.
Akpabio said the nominee was “exceptionally brilliant” and was three years when he started his primary education. “It’s possible that the nominee was a classmate of Senator Abba Moro”.
Taking the floor of the Senate, Moro, from Benue South Senatorial District, urged his colleagues to give the nominee the benefit of the doubt.
Akpabio thereafter said the discrepancy in Utsev’s biodata must have been a typo error.
However, a member from Benue North-West Senatorial District, Titus Zam Tartenger, raised Order 42 on personal explanation, saying that there is no discrepancy in the biodata of the professor.
Senator representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, Ishaku Abbo, said there was no discrepancy in Utsev’s biodata.
Abbo shared a “personal story” of how he sat for common entrance examination in Primary 3 and passed because he was “exceptionally brilliant”.
At exactly 02:53pm, Deputy Senate President, Barau Jibrin, in Akpabio’s temporary absence, asked Utsev to “bow and go and if there is anything we will get back to you”.