Adeosun’s Alleged Forgery Scandal Mustn’t Die – Lawyers, CSOs Tells Buhari

President Muhammadu Bubari should not allow the certificate scandal surrounding one of his ministers, Kemi Adeosun, to die, senior lawyers and some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have said.

Since July 6 when an online news platform, Premium Times, broke the news of Adeosun’s alleged forgery of her exemption certificate for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the relevant bodies, especially the NYSC, which is saddled with the responsibility of clearing the air on the matter, have been dilly-dallying.

Adeosun herself has maintained silence on the matter ever since, and she has tactically avoided the press for weeks now. The last time she appeared personally in the media was a day before the story broke when she spoke on the Federal Account Allocation Committee’s matter.

Sources told Daily Trust that although Buhari had ordered NYSC to probe the matter, there have been attempts to allow it die down, without the government taking any decisive action.

But some senior lawyers, CSOs and politicians said Buhari must act quickly to redeem his image of a man of integrity as the Adeosun matter appears to be affecting his government negatively.
NYSC itself has not been forthcoming with much information on the matter as the agency issued a terse statement at the initial stage of the story’s publication, saying the minister indeed applied for the exemption certificate but that the matter would be investigated to ascertain who issued the one said to have been forged.

A senior government official told Daily Trust on Sunday that the matter has become a big problem for the government, especially now that the 2019 elections are approaching.

The top government official said the president usually takes long to decide on matters like this as in the case of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) David Babachir Lawal.

But the source said they were also aware that it may be a political calculation that is fuelling the matter as the minister is a nominee of the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who may also have ambitions for 2023.

The senior government source said the minister claimed that it is her lawyer who procured the certificate for her but that many in government believe that somehow the storm may pass if they just kept quiet, even as they fear that it is damaging to the government.

Speaking to Daily Trust yesterday, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ezekhome, said the Adeosun alleged certificate forgery is one of the many scandals rocking the Buhari administration.

He said the allegation against the minister is one that could warrant criminal trial if adequately pursued.

“Under the NYSC Act, for a person to be exempted from participating in the scheme, the person must be above 30 years of age at the time of graduation.

“In the case of Adeosun, she was said to have graduated from the East London Polytechnic at the age of 22. That means clearly she was not qualified from exemption from service.

“It does not matter how old the person was when he or she later want to do the NYSC service. Even if the person is 50, 60 or 70 years.

“It means that when Adeosun graduated at 22 years and she worked for that long in London before coming to Nigeria well above 30 years, there was no way she could apply for the exemption certificate under the NYSC Act because she was clearly not qualified.

“If she applied for it, it was a criminal offence. If she was granted, it was a criminal offence on the part of NYSC. If she had been earning money from any parastatal or government establishment, without due adherence to the legal position, it is also a criminal offence,” Ezekhome said.

He berated the government over its silence on the development, alleging that if such had happened to a member of the opposition or government critic, there would have been deployment of security agencies against such person.

“But when it comes to matters of corruption or ignoble conduct of officials of government, they will remain mute and turn the blind eye. That is not how to make the country great.

“The government is hoping this matter will die like other matters. But the truth is that little drops of water make an ocean. All these things will be in history….the Adeosun gate is one of the several ‘gates’ we have seen in this government.”

Also lending his voice to the call on Buhari to act on the matter, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), said silence in the matter that has generated so much public interest meant consent.

“They have refused to speak to us and nothing has been done by the president. The law should take its full course. As minister of finance, she ought to be above board,” he said.

On his part, Paul Ewekoro (SAN) called for an investigation to unravel all the characters behind the alleged forgery. “There must be an investigation to determine her culpability or otherwise. We have read that she said third parties procured the document for her, and those third parties must be named and the conditions in which it was produced known.

“There is also the question: What is expected of public officers morally and otherwise? Let investigation be conducted and if it turns out to be true, the law must take its course,” he said.

Also, the Executive Director of the Civic Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani an urgent action must be taken by both the Executive and the Legislature to salvage the situation.

“We are concerned about this development, therefore the National Assembly cannot afford to be silent or cover up on this issue, especially as there were allegations that the National Assembly was fully aware that madam minister has NYSC certificate scandal before her confirmation as a minister.

“This is an integrity issue for both the minister and the National Assembly,” he said.

Rafsanjani also took a swipe at the likes of Adeosun, saying they lack patriotism for the country.

“Those who don’t believe in Nigeria and have decided to migrate to Europe, USA, UK etcetera only for them to come back and take political appointments will continue to face this challenge because they abandoned the country and refused to make the necessary sacrifices to make Nigeria great.

“As a matter of fact, they have foreign passports and when visiting Nigeria you see them coming with their foreign international passports because they don’t have faith in Nigeria. At the same time, they shamelessly and fraudulently seek political appointments here when they don’t believe in Nigeria.

“They have no patriotism and commitment to make Nigeria great, but they’re just using the political positions to corner public resources and acquire properties in their European and American countries and aid these countries to further extort Nigeria.

“This is why there is need to ensure that before such people are given political appointments, they must proof their loyalty and patriotism, part of which is evidence that they have done NYSC and not been involved in undermining Nigeria,” he said.

Earlier in the week, another civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), warned that maintaining sealed lips over the scandal could affect the government’s claim to transparency and accountability.

SERAP, in a statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, noted that the continuing failure to speak to Nigerians on the matter amounted to a betrayal of public trust.

“If she can show the courage to clear the air on the allegations, Mrs Adeosun can be a strong promoter of the values of transparency and accountability, something which the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has regularly expressed commitment to embrace and achieve,” it said.

The feeling among Adeosun’s staff

Some senior staff who spoke to one of our correspondents under the condition of anonymity said when the story broke, there was apprehension among the staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance as most feared the scandal might cost the minister her job.

A staff said at the time the story broke, the discussions amongst members of staff, though in hush tones and secret conversations, centred around the minister’s ordeal.

“Some staff describe her certificate scandal as a big shame” the staff said, adding that “some had wished she was sacked for it.”

“Some staff, like me, somewhat pitied her. Then she wasn’t as cheerful as she used to be. She would quietly step into her office, returning greetings casually and not as excited as she would normally be” another staff said.

“I think the scandal shook her. I think she felt she might lose her job at the time,” the staff noted.

But in terms of official functions, our source said, the discharges her duties normally and receives visitors as she would normally do.

“Visitors still come in and out. Her visitors traffic didn’t quite change from my own observations. Although, I think she now spends more time out of the office than within the office. Maybe it is to consult with the powers that be so she could save her head. I may be wrong,” the source said.

On the situation now that the is gradually cooling off, the staff said the minister is returning to her old self.

“She’s more excited now. She smiles and laughs more. Perhaps she’s assured the presidency has got her back.

“Even the tension among the staff has eased off now. Everyone seems to go about their normal business now,” the staff said.

Another staff said: “the minister is feeling much more secured now than she was when the story first broke. Even her personal aides are more confident now compared to the initial stage.”

On how the staff feel, the source said: “for me, I just feel very normal even when the story broke. I told some of my colleagues who feared she might be sacked to relax because that won’t happen,” adding that the “minister was too close to the presidency to be sacked over the issue.”

N/Assembly maintains unusual silence

In its over three years of existence, the National Assembly, the 8th Senate has probed some top officials of the Executive arm and even went ahead to call for their sack.

One of such persons was the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, whom a Senate panel headed by Sen Shehu Sani (APC), indicted for being involved in a grass-cutting contract scandal worth over N170 million.

Although Babachir denied the allegations, President Muhammadu Buhari later constituted a panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to probe him. In the end, Babachir was suspended and was later replaced by the current SGF, Boss Mustapha.

Also, the Senate had a running battle with the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali for failing to put on his official customs uniform to appear before them at plenary to explain.

The matter had dragged for long last year to the extent that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami wrote the Senate, advising that it was not necessary for the CG to be on uniform. Senators were angry with his advice and called for his head.

Also, only recently, the Senate got enmeshed in a battle with the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris mainly due to the arrest of Sen Dino Melaye, although the lawmakers hid under the spate of killings in the country.

They summoned the IGP over the matter on several occasions, but he delegated a deputy inspector-general to represent him on each occasion, a development that angered the senators. They also called for the sack of the IGP.

Again, both the Senate and House of Representatives had late last year instituted separate probes into the reinstatement of a former pension chief, Abdulrasheed Maina into the civil service several years after he was sack from the federal civil service.

Although both chambers had concluded the probes and the reports laid, they are yet to consider and adopt same.

In the case of the House of Representatives, the adhoc panel that probed the matter indicted Malami, saying he was the brain behind Maina’s recall.

The House of Representatives only recently opened a probe into an alleged fake secondary school certificate by the special assistant to the president on prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla.

Nigerians are therefore appalled that the National Assembly that went out of its way to do all the above has maintained an unusual silence since the Kemi Adeosun’s forgery scandal broke out.

There were allegations that both chambers of the National Assembly, especially Senate President Bukola Saraki And Speaker Yakubu Dogara, have been using the Adeosun’s exemption certificate matter to blackmail and compel her to approve money for their various projects, but leaders of the two chambers have denied the allegations.

Senate spokesman Abdullahi Sabi (APC, Niger) could not be reached for reaction.

However, House spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) told Daily Trust that they did not want to rush on the matter until all the relevant government agencies come out with concrete information on the matter.

“On allegations of this nature, we have to be cautious to wait until we hear from the relevant authorities have made their official statements that will guide us to taking a decision.

“Even NYSC has not come out with a conclusive statement on the matter. The minister herself hasn’t come out with a conclusive statement on the matter. So, we can’t cry more than the bereaved. We have to wait for them.

“If what we hear deserves our attention, we will come into it. But for now, we cannot come into this matter because it’s premature,” Namdas said.

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