Adeosun’s acquittal, a dangerous precedence

Recently the Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, has acquitted former Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun,
who in 2018, resigned her appointment following an allegation of forgery of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate, needed to qualify her for appointment in public office.
For Many Nigerians, the case had been out of legal files when she had chosen the honorable path and resigned, until recently when she
refused to let a sleeping dog lie. Will the dog now bite?

The Adeosun acquittal by the Abuja High Court judge looks, to a
layman, a mockery of the Nigeria’s justice system. If the Adeosun case
is not well handled, it will set in motion legal infractions that will weaken the NYSC as an institution.

In 2015 when she was appointed Minister of Finance, there were many
qualified, patriotic Nigerians with higher certificates and probably
more experience (that could be drawn from university communities or among technocrats), but among the mob of candidates for the office,
she was picked to steer Nigeria to economic development.

Alas her promising contribution to national growth and development was thwarted
by avoidable circumstances.
Many Nigerians will surely view her as a child who refused to do domestic chores in the family, but when the food is ready, she sits
before everybody else on the table. But public opinion is different from opinions in statutory books.

Question, at the time Adeosun took the appointment was she still
British? And what law says a British citizen is above the forgery laws of Nigeria? If the national service was not compulsory for her when she was a British citizen, why was she desperate to forge the revered
certificate of national service?
Was Adeosun begged to come to Nigeria to take up the appointment on
contract basis? Why wouldn’t the Attorney-General of the Federation,
who is the sole defendant in her case, hold her for certificate
forgery? The judge said the law is not Father Christmas to delve into
what was not in the case file. Is forgery no longer criminal in the
eyes of the law?
She had confessed in her resignation letter that she was not aware the
exemption certificate was fake. But ignorance was no excuse before the
The offices of AGF or NYSC have a job at hand. She had sought justice
in a court of law and got it. Nigerians are waiting to see if the
judgment will stand. This case will decide the desirability of NYSC
programme now and in the future.
If the law is blind and Adeosun’s case is allowed to lie low, who
will the law now hold for evading or forging the national service
Before Adeosun’s case, in July 2019, Supreme Court sacked a House of
Representatives member, Abdulra’uf Modibbo, (APC, Yola South/Yola
North/Girei Federal Constituency) of Adamawa state, because of
certificate forgery and national service evasion.
Is Adeosun’s case different? Her own case is more serious because forging a national seal is tantamount to treasonable felony.

Authorities concerned should pursue the case to the Supreme Court for clearer interpretation in order to set precedence and to avoid miscarriage of justice now or in the future. I might be wrong, but methinks those who want NYSC discontinued are the one manifesting in the Adeosun case. It is hard to blame the court for the judgement in Adeosun’s favour.

Mr Taiwo Taiwo ruled that forgery was not part of the suit filed by the former minister, of which the Attorney-General of the Federation was the sole defendant. The judge also noted that the AGF, in his counter-affidavit, did not challenge the prayer of the plaintiff.
“I am of the view that denying the plaintiff of the reliefs sought is not going to be doing justice to the matter,” the judge said.

But in her resignation letter on September 14, 2018, she stated, “I have, today, become privy to the findings of the investigation into the allegation made in an online medium that the Certificate of Exemption from National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) that I had presented
was not genuine. This has come as a shock to me and I believe that in line with this administration’s focus on integrity, I must do the
honourable thing and resign.”

According to reports, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, to investigate Mrs Adeosun’s NYSC exemption certificate scandal.

Mustapha wrote to the NYSC authorities and got a response that Mrs Adeosun indeed presented a forged certificate. A lawyer, Mr Effiong, in his remarks during a TV interview, said, “I do not see the judgement of the Federal High Court as a vindication because what led to her resignation was the allegation of forgery which she has not been tried for,” So what are the authorities concerned waiting for? Is
Adeosun so powerful that the law must bow for her?

“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,” the victorious Adeosun said in a statement posted on social media.
Adeosun’s acquittal, is a dangerous precedence for NYSC. Authorities
should take the case up to the Supreme Court for justice to be served.

If the Supreme court finds she was not a Nigerian during the planting
season, but when the food was ready after harvest, she appeared on the
table, she should be punished, and if acquitted, FG should apologise
to her and reinstate her to her former duty post.

Uji, a commentator on national issues, writes from Abuja

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