On June 7, 2018, an online media channel, Premium Times reported that the Nigerian Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, did not participate in the mandatory one-year national service, National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), despite her eligibility for it, but went on to forge an exemption certificate.
The year-long service, organized by the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), is compulsory for all Nigerians who graduate from universities or equivalent institutions at less than 30 years of age. In addition to be a requirement for government and private sector jobs in Nigeria, the enabling law prescribes punishment for anyone who absconds from the scheme or forges its certificates.
Eligible Nigerians who skipped the service are liable to be sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and/or N2, 000 fine, according to Section 13 of the NYSC law. Section 13 (3) of the law also prescribes three-year jail term or option of N5,000 fine for anyone who contravenes provision of the law as Mrs. Adeosun allegedly done. Subsection 4 of the same section also criminalizes giving false information or illegally obtaining the agency’s certificate. It provides for up to three-year jail term for such offenders.
Kemi Adeosun’s official credentials obtained by Premium Times show that the minister parades a purported NYSC exemption certificate, which was issued in September 2009, granting her exemption from the mandatory service because of age.
It is a well-known fact that white society, particularly the British, is a very meticulous one. Their system is almost water-tight. They always insist on propriety. Things must be done in certain prescribed ways. Once there is an infraction, the law must take its course. Their society is not like ours where anything goes; where systems are compromised and where laws are freely broken. The British society is an organized one and those who are nurtured by the system necessarily imbibe those values that place the British society on a higher plane and pedestal than the rest. That is why those who have the privilege of that foreign exposure always recoil in anguish whenever they are confronted with opposite values. They find Nigeria particularly shocking and laughable. They do not understand why Nigeria has no abiding standards, why the abhorrent is ignored or condoned and why the system is systematically beaten and circumvented.
Adeosun, the British-Nigerian born whose speech is full of affectation, ought to be a good ambassador of what the British society represents. But her actions and inactions here do not bear her training and exposure out. If Adeosun were what she ought to be, she would not have relied on a third party to carry out an official business on her behalf. She would have known that the right thing to do is to approach the NYSC herself and find out the right steps to take in obtaining an exemption certificate, if she qualified for one. Would the tongue-twister of a minister have taken such underhand step if she were in Britain? Certainly not. Rather than be a good example of what the British society teaches and preaches, Adeosun preferred self-help.
What minister Adeosun has come up with is an afterthought. She did not have a response to the infraction. Those who were defending her could not lead us by the nose. They ran into a blind alley. Adeosun had to make desperate moves to wriggle out of the mess. That is what has taken her to where she is now. But the minister has continued to prove at every point that her British training did not sink. She learnt nothing and she imbibed nothing.
That is where her British background should come in again. Where Adeosun is coming from, the most immediate response will be for the offender to resign honorably. Once Adeosun’s mistake became public knowledge, the next line of action for her was to quit her job and apologize to Nigerians. That way, we could connect with her story. Rather than do that, she chose to play the ostrich. When she could not find a place to hide, she concocted the lame excuse, which does not, in any way, free her from any wrong-doing. Adeosun, by her action, has not acquitted herself responsibly. She has not given a good account of her British training. And she has not, by British or Nigerian standards, proven that she deserves the high office she is occupying. The honorable thing for her to do in this circumstance is to resign because she got to where she is by false pretense. If she fails to do that, she should then be shown the way out by the President. That is where we are.
The lawmakers at the National Assembly, who were supposed to vet every document belonging to ministerial nominees critically, also failed to deliver their mandate in that regards. It was reported in a public post published by Premium Times that the certificate scandal was turned into a tool for blackmail by a National Assembly cartel that used it to coerce the finance minister to keep releasing funds to the lawmaking arm. Some federal lawmakers revealed to this paper that the discrepancy was detected by the Senate during the minister’s confirmation hearing. But rather than probe the issue, they turned it into a tool against Mrs. Adeosun. The report linked the certificate scandal to the minister’s excessive, even illegal, funding of the lawmakers, including recently funneling an N10billion generosity to that arm of government.
Several current and former officials of the NYSC scheme affirmed that the NYSC would never issue an exemption certificate to anyone who graduated before age 30 and did not fall into the categories of persons exempted by the corps’ enabling Act.
By that law, there are four categories of Nigerians eligible for exemption certificates. The first are those who graduated after turning 30. The second are holders of national honors. The third are persons who served in the armed forces or the police for up to nine months. The last category are staff of intelligence agencies, or the armed forces.
Therefore, having graduated at 22, and with no record of national honors or service in the intelligence or armed forces, Mrs. Adeosun is not qualified for exemption.Yet, the so-called exemption certificate she holds gave age as the reason for her exemption. The Minister has failed to either accept or deny the accusations since inception of the allegation.
In a terse statement signed by NYSC’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Mrs. Adenike Adeyemi, the Scheme said available records indicate that Adeosun did apply for an Exemption Certificate. NYSC, however, did not disclose whether the Minister was issued with an Exemption Certificate in response to her application.
Interestingly, the government of the day says it is keen on fighting corruption. One of its own, Kemi Adeosun, has run afoul of what it stands for. The Presidency, therefore, has a moral obligation to hold her to account. If it fails to do so, it would have succeeded in reinforcing the impression among many Nigerians that the fight against corruption is selective. Acquiescence by government will also lend credence to the feeling that the anti-corruption war is mere pretense and a well-worn political tool to witch-hunt enemies of government, real or imagined.