Daily Trust

Adeosun didn’t need NYSC certificat­e to become minister - Court

- By John Chuks Azu

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.

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