Adeosun: Vindication of a public servant?

In what is being referred to as historic, a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday vindicated former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, ruling that she was ineligible for national service.

Adeosun, through her lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had in March 2021 filed a suit for constitutional interpretation of her eligibility for NYSC.

The court, presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, ruled that the ministerial appointment of Adeosun was not illegal, neither was it unconstitutional, even without presenting the NYSC certificate.

The court said since the 1979 Constitution, which was in force at the time, did not recognise dual citizenship, Adeosun could not have served because she was a British citizen as at the time she graduated.

Adeosun graduated from the University of East London in 1989 at the age of 22 and as such, the court ruled that she was not a Nigerian citizen either at the time of her graduation or when she turned 30.

Accordingly, the court granted all reliefs sought by Adeosun’s counsel, including the plaintiff being under no constitutional disability, disadvantage, prohibition, inhibition or disqualification to hold any public office.

Adeosun’s lawyers described the ruling as a victory for not just their client, but others in similar conditions.

“The court has made it clear that at the time she presented for public service starting from 2011 up till 2015, she was not required to perform the NYSC.

“It is, however, not only a personal victory; it’s also a victory for many Nigerians in diaspora under similar conditions who are desirous to serve their country,” they said.

Adeosun had succumbed to pressure and resigned her position as minister of finance on Sept. 14, 2018 on allegations that her NYSC exemption certificate was forged.

However, her vindication has been questioned in some quarters, thereby fuelling strong suspicions that, in the first instance, her ordeal was premeditated by powerful forces.

Those said antagonists wondered why the court did not rule on the allegation of forgery.

However, legal experts have countered this position, stating that the attorney-general, who was the defendant in the suit, had not investigated and prosecuted Adeosun for any offence.

“There are legal processes and procedures that the public should be aware of. In this case, it was the former minister who went to court to seek interpretation.

“The issue of forgery was not brought before the court and can only be taken to court by the attorney-general of the federation following thorough investigation.

“There has neither been investigation nor any charge brought against her,” an Abuja-based legal expert, Tayo Awoyefa, said.

The court documents of the suit also indicated that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation did not challenge the averments of Adeosun’s counsel.

This has also been questioned by critics of the ruling, saying the decision was in favour of the plaintiff.

However, the AGF’s counter-affidavit did not challenge the averment of the plaintiff because the Federal Government simply did not withdraw the appointment of Adeosun or ask her to resign.

She resigned on her own volition and, according to the presiding judge, “denying the plaintiff of the reliefs sought is not going to be doing justice to the matter.

Adeosun, a former Ogun State finance commissioner, has always maintained her innocence on the issues surrounding her travail.

In her resignation letter, Adeosun said she wrote to NYSC requesting “documentary evidence of my status” and that she had no reason to doubt the validity of the certificate released by NYSC, through the Ogun State government.

“Upon my enquiry as to my status relating to NYSC, I was informed that due to my residency history and having exceeded the age (30), I was exempted from the requirement to serve.

“On the basis of that advice and with guidance and assistance of those I thought were trusted associates, NYSC were approached for documentary proof of status,” she said.

If indeed Adeosun sought documentary evidence of her status from NYSC, what was the corps’ response? Wasn’t it the responsibility of NYSC to state what exactly Adeosun required?

Who were the supposed “trusted associates” who handled her situation and what was their role in the 69 days leading to her resignation?

With this ruling, has the matter been put to rest? Not certain, because Adeosun’s counsel said she was exploring other remedies.

“Our client wishes to state, without equivocation, that in light of all that happened, she is exploring other remedies within the law and will take the appropriate steps at the right time.

“The 69 days of her travail and the years following that have taken a great toll on our client’s reputation and caused client’s family deep grief and misery.”

Public affairs analysts have pointed out this case as a classic example of what could go wrong when government failed to conduct thorough investigation and take prompt action when allegations were made against public officers.

“Shortly after the allegation was made public, a committee led by SGF Boss Mustapha was set up to investigate the matter and make recommendations.
“What was the outcome of that investigation? What did the committee recommend, in the light that Adeosun resigned voluntarily?” an analyst asked.

During Adeosun’s time as minister, she was credited for her vigorous efforts at cutting waste in government spending, advocating financial responsibility and using technology to enhance fiscal accountability.

Her protagonists believe that she may have been targeted for clipping the wings of powerful forces while trying to implement fiscal responsibility.

For instance, she was said to have prevented any withdrawal from the Excess Crude Account in spite of pressure from governors, insisting that a rainy day fund was critical.

The judgment in favour of Adeosun has functionally solved the issue of whether or not diaspora Nigerians of certain age with dual citizenship require NYSC to work in Nigeria.

Adebiyi, staff of News Agency of Nigeria wrote in from Abuja