Adeosun didn’t need NYSC certificate to become minister - Court
AFederal High Court in Abuja yesterday ruled that former Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun did not need the National Youth Service Corps certificate to become a minister.
The judgement came exactly three after a publication of a story which alleged that the then minister forged an exemption certificate of the NYSC and did not participate in the mandatory national scheme.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo on Wednesday held that by the time Adeosun graduated in 1989 at 22, she was ineligible to participate in the service, being a British citizen, and the service was not a mandatory requirement under the 1979 Constitution.
The judge consequently granted the four reliefs sought by Adeosun’s lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun in suit number: FHC/CS/303/2021 filed in March seeking constitutional interpretation on political appointive and elective offices.
The court held that ordinary level qualification was the constitutional requirement to hold public office.
Neither Adeosun nor the court raised the issue of genuineness of the tendered discharge certificate presented by Adeosun for her ministerial clearance.
In their reply, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation agreed with Adeosun on the constitutional interpretations sought, while maintaining that no findings were made against her as she resigned voluntarily.
Adeosun was forced to resign her appointment in 2018 following controversy over her alleged failure to present a valid NYSC certificate in contravention of Sections 12, 13 and 14 of the NYSC Act which made the service mandatory.
The exemption certificate, which was purportedly issued Adeosun in September, 2009 on account of age, which she presented during her ministerial screening was alleged to have been forged.
The provisions of the NYSC Act prescribes imprisonment of up to three years for falsification of the certificate while skipping the mandatory service attracts 12 months imprisonment and/or fine of N2, 000.
Faking a document and possessing a fake document, attracts up to 14 years jail term, according to sections 364 and 368 of the penal code law, which is applicable in Abuja.
Adeosun’s account, admittance
In her letter of resignation dated September 14, 2018, Adeosun had informed President Muhammadu Buhari that she was shocked to learn that her NYSC certificate of exemption was fake.
“Your Excellency, kindly permit me to outline some of the background to this matter. I was born and raised in the United Kingdom. Indeed my parental family home remains in London. My visits to Nigeria up until the age of 34 were holidays, with visas obtained in my UK passport. I obtained my first Nigerian passport at the age of 34 and when I relocated there was debate as to whether NYSC Law applied to me. Upon enquiry as to my status relating to NYSC, I was informed that due to my residency history and having exceeded the age of 30, I was exempted from the requirement to serve. Until recent events, that remained my understanding,” she said.
“On the basis of that advice and with the guidance and assistance of those, I thought were trusted associates, NYSC were approached for documentary proof of status. I then received the certificate in question. Having never worked in NYSC, visited the premises, been privy to nor familiar with their operations, I had no reason to suspect that the certificate was anything but genuine. Indeed, I presented that certificate at the 2011 Ogun State House of Assembly and in 2015 for Directorate of State Services Clearance as well as to the National Assembly for screening. Be that as it may, as someone totally committed to a culture of probity and accountability, I’ve decided to resign with effect from Friday, 14th September, 2018.
Lawyers react to court verdict
A legal practitioner, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh, said Mrs Adeosun should have been regarded as a Nigerian citizen by birth if either of her parents is a Nigerian, according to the constitution.
On the question of forgery, Jimoh said it is still subject to criminal investigation by the appropriate authorities of government. “The ruling of the court being reviewed did not consider the issue of forgery.”
Also responding, Malachy Nwaekpe, said since Adeosun was not a Nigerian citizen at the time she graduated, she was not bound by the NYSC Act.
“The issue exemption should not even arise. The NYSC Act, like other laws, does not operate in retrospect,” he said.
“The judgment of the court in the suit filed by Adeosun has not, and cannot exonerate her from the alleged forgery.
“It has to be proved before a court of competent jurisdiction before one can say Adeosun forged NYSC certificate. This is because, as at the time she graduated, she was still of service age, though she was not a citizen of Nigeria.” Ex-minister reacts
Adeosun yesterday said she was happy with the clarification that one does not need a degree or NYSC certificate to become a minister in Nigeria.
“The ruling vindicates me after a very traumatic spell. It is, however, not only a personal victory; it’s also a victory for many Nigerians in the Diaspora under similar conditions who are desirous to serve their country,” she said.