We should not seek to remove the fold on the eyes of the statue of justice to accommodate the excesses of some persons while retaining same when “ordinary” Nigerians are involved if we hope to build a nation that works for us all.
“I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude. I will lead you by the way that you cannot possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way. Therefore all the things around you will be armed against you, to deny you, to hurt you, to give you pain, and therefore to reduce you to solitude. Because of their enmity, you will soon be left alone. They will cast you out and forsake you and reject you and you will be alone. Everything that touches you shall burn you, and you will draw your hand away in pain, until you have withdrawn yourself from all things. Then you will be all alone. Everything that can be desired will sear you, and brand you with a cautery, and you will fly from it in pain, to be alone. Every created joy will only come to you as pain, and you will die to all joy and be left alone. All the good things that other people love and desire and seek will come to you, but only as murderers to cut you off from the world and its occupations.”—Thomas Merton in The Seven Storey Mountain.
Since a Premium Times investigation that a member of the Buhari cabinet, Kemi Adeosun forged an NYSC exemption certificate, the battle line was drawn between Nigerians whom for many reasons believe the administration was going to cover it up and the presidency whose only way it felt the lingering issue could be addressed was to keep mum. Now that the minister has tendered her resignation and the president accepting and wishing her well in her future endeavours, it is tempting to once again have a brief recap of the crisis. While this exercise may appear to be a rehash of what we already know, the emotion that is being let out by several Nigerians since her resignation—one that extends from conferring honour on her to an outright call for the immediate amendment of the NYSC act to accommodate deep pocket absconders—makes it imperative.
Even as the reality of our existence suggests otherwise, this country is owned by us all. The Nigerian constitution informs us that our country hopes to becoming “a just and egalitarian society.” The closest to the word egalitarian is absolute equality before the law irrespective of political affiliation, economic status, religion or ethnicity. This is why the call by some persons to tinker with the NYSC act to exempt the rich from national service runs afoul of the principles of justice, fairness and equity the country labours on. We should not forget that nation-states are known to have four characteristics namely: population, territory, sovereignty and government. The very fact that no government can exist without laws calls for an objective analysis of the circumstances surrounding the travails of Ms Adeosun.
The allegation was that the ex-minister brandishes an NYSC exemption certificate that was forged. How did the alleged come to this conclusion? Let’s foray into the NYSC act, Section 315 of the 1999 constitution to check whom is entitled to be exempted from national service. Section 2 of the act says:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, with effect from 1st August, 1985, a person shall not be called upon to serve in the service corps if at the date of his graduation or obtaining his diploma or other professional qualification - (a) he is over the age of thirty; or (b) he has served in the armed forces of the Federation or the Nigeria Police Force for a period of more than nine months; or (c) he is member of staff of any of the following, that is (i) the Nigerian Security Organisation, or (ii) the State Security Service, or (iii) the NatiOI1al Intelligence Agency, or (iv) the Defence Intelligence Service; or (d) he has been conferred with any National Honour.”
For the records, this intervention is not intended for persons who believe in a partial dispensation of justice. From the quotation above, the following questions arise, with their answers provided as reflective in Ms Adeosun’s résumé which is available in public:
First, having been born in 1967 and completed her polytechnic/university education 22 years after, was Ms Adeosun eligible to be exempted from service? The answer is an emphatic and unequivocal NO.
Second, is there anywhere wherein she claimed to have served in the armed forces, or employed by the NSO, SSS, NIO or DIS? Again, the answer is a big NO.
Third, does Nigeria have any record of Ms Adeosun being a recipient of national honours? Of course not.
Going by these, it is thus not rocket science to conclude that the exemption certificate she holds is a product of forgery whether or not she admits it. We should not seek to remove the fold on the eyes of the statue of justice to accommodate the excesses of some persons while retaining same when “ordinary” Nigerians are involved if we hope to build a nation that works for us all. The very fact that the sons and daughters of “ordinary” Nigerians enrol in the scheme makes it compulsory for the seeds of the privileged few. The claim on her resignation letter denying her culpability is dead on arrival. With her level of education and exposure, she cannot in all honesty claim not to be aware of the impropriety of what she holds. Ms Adeosun should not take Nigerians for fools. Upon her return to Nigeria ostensibly to eat her own portion of the national cake, her allies who drafted her into politics would have schooled her on ways to procure the document. Her denial not only exposes her indiscipline and mendacity, it further ridicules the entire country who had to bear the brunt of having such an “exposed” person man a delicate and important position as the coin ministry.
Having conceded that she forged the document in question, what penalties does the law prescribe? Let’s go back to the NYSC act. Section 13 reads:
“(1) Any person (a) who fails to report for service in the service corps in the manner directed by the Directorate of as the case may be, prescribed pursuant to the provisions of this Decree; or (b) who refuses to make himself available for service in the service corps continuously for the period specified in subsection (2) of this section, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N2,OOO or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months or to both such fine and imprisonment (3) Any person who fails to comply with or who contravenes or causes or aids or abets another to contravene any provision of this decree (not being a provision relating to the calling and liable on conviction to a fine of N5,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or to both such fine and imprisonment. (4) Any person who – (a) in giving any information for the purpose of this Decree, knowingly or recklessly makes a statement which is false; or (b) forges or uses or lends to or allows to be used other than in the manner provided by this Decree by any other person and certificate issued pursuant to the provision of this Decree, or (c) makes, or has in his possession any document so closely resembling any certificate so issued pursuant as to be calculated to deceive, Is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
The law is clear so the appropriate law enforcement agency have their work cut out for them. They should invite her for questioning ranging from her culpability to that of her accomplices. However much we’ve come to see the Buhari administration as an extension of the gloomy ones that precede it, how it handles this development will again reinforce or dampen such an opinion.
Ms Adeosun, while trying to absolve herself from the conundrum not only exposed herself but the entire country. Her resignation letter exposed the weakness of our institutions and rendered the Ogun State House of Assembly, Nigerian Senate, House of Representatives and the Department of State Services ineffective and criminally complicit. Should this disgrace happen in a sane country, the heads of these organisations will roll for failing in their primary responsibilities if Section 13(5) of the NYSC act is anything to go by. It reads:
“Where an offence under subsection (3) of this section has been committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other official of the body corporate, or any person purporting to act in such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be deemed to be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be prosecuted against and punished accordingly.”
The culpability of the Nigerian senate and House of Representatives is perhaps worthy of mentioning. According to Premium Times, the leadership of the two chambers knew from day one that the minister parades a forged document but kept it to themselves, using it as a weapon against her for their own selfish purposes. In one fell swoop, Ms Adeosun approved the sum of N10 billion to both Saraki and Dogara without appropriation and another N485 million to the former. With both men having her balls in their greedy hands, she had no choice than to do their bidding. Contrary to what many sympathisers believe, the Nigerian state is the greatest loser in this case. Once the thieving lawmakers found the dirt on the coin mistress, they used her to rape the national vault. Only God knows how long and to what extent Ms Adeosun had been used as pawn by those privy to her forgery. It is perhaps probable that the lawmakers aren’t the only ones who had used the finance minister to perpetuate fraud as others who are also privy to her forgery could have done the same.
This is why the country must not take this allegation with a pinch of salt. The ex-minister should be questioned and made to name her accomplices. She probably have had to suffer in silence in their hands. If the two shamelessly corrupt heads of the senate and house could in one fell swoop force her to give them N10bn from our money, how sure are we that there are no precedents right from her days as a cabinet member of the Ogun State government? Ms Adeosun, having schooled in a country that unarguably has the most Nigerians outside of this shores cannot claim not to know that she falls within the category of persons that must serve her country. She chose to do otherwise because she felt she could get away with it. She would have had she remained a private bourgeoisie and not adored power.
Nigeria offered Ms Adeosun the right way but she chose to take what Father Louis Merton called “the quickest way”. Whether her suffering has ended or not is subject to how credible this administration is. Until then, she is on her own.
Modiu can be reached on [email protected]