Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance, has refused to comment on the allegation that she skipped the one-year mandatory national youth service but instead she forged an exemption certificate.
Also, the federal government has kept silent on the matter – one week after the story broke.
The ICIR contacted Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, to find out why the President has chosen to remain silent on such weighty allegation against a high profile cabinet member.
“Go and ask the minister if you have any question, please,” Adesina said on the phone after cautioning the reporter that he should not have mentioned ‘scandal’ because according to him, it is a subjective word.
Adesina’s colleague, Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to Buhari, has not replied a text message by the ICIR and several dials of his phone number did not go through.
Yinka Akintunde, Special Adviser to Adeosun on Media, neither answered the phone calls nor replied the text message.
After the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, refused to comment on the allegation of certificate forgery against Adeosun and passed the buck to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
“The government has spoken. NYSC is part of government and I have nothing to add to what the NYSC has said,” Mohammed said.
Meanwhile, the NYSC said that Adeosun applied for an exemption certificate but refused to say when the application was made and whether it was granted.
“Our attention has been drawn to the issue of the alleged forgery of an NYSC Exemption Certificate by the Honorable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun,” Adeyemi Adenike, NYSC’s Director of Press and Public Relations, said in a statement on Monday.
“Checking our records, Mrs. Adeosun did apply for an Exemption Certificate. We shall investigate the origin of the purported Exemption Certificate in question.”
Since Monday, the NYSC has not released the outcome of the investigation.
Itse Sagay, Professor of law and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC) said Adeosun did not have any question to answer, at least for now, over the allegation of forgery against her.
Sagay insisted that it was only when the NYSC had spoken on the matter that Adeosun could be asked to defend herself if necessary.
“But, I think the onus should be on the NYSC since she applied and got a certificate. If that is not contradicted, they should just leave her alone but if it is contradicted, then there would be an issue to consider,” Sagay said.
“So, as far as I am concerned, there is nothing against her right now. Yes, the NYSC should come clean since they have all the records. Let them come out with what they have so that the lady would be able to defend herself if necessary.”
Premium Times broke the story on July 7, stating that Adeosun graduated at the age of 22 and was not entitled to an exemption from the mandatory one-year national service.
She, however, fraudulently procured an exemption certificate, purportedly signed by Yusuf Bomoi, a former Director General of the NYSC.
While Bomoi left the NYSC in January 2009, Adeosun’s certificate was dated September 2009, and therefore could not have been signed by him.
Maharazu Tsiga, former NYSC DG, who took over from Bomoi, said Adeosun’s certificate could not have been issued by the NYSC.
Forgery is a criminal offence in Nigeria, punishable under section 467 of the Criminal Code Act, which states thus: “Any person who forges any document, writing, or seal, is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a felony, and he is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years.”
Dapo Olorunyomi, the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of the Premium Times, had challenged Adeosun to go to court if she considers the allegation false.
“Adeosun forged her exemption certificate. The story is real. We did a water-tight investigation that took us three months before we came out with the story. We encourage her to go to court if she will like to prove us wrong,” he said.
Olorunyomi reaffirmed the allegation against Adeosun on Thursday when he delivered a speech at the 9th Annual Lecture organised by the Mass Communication Department of the University in memory of Doyin Mahmoud, the Pioneer Head of the department who died in 2009.
The silence by both Adeosun and the federal government over the forgery scandal appear disdainful and contemptuous of Nigerians who have been asking for either denial or admittance of guilt.
Several Nigerians have called for the resignation of Adeosun and also urged the government to prosecute her.
Nigeria’s main opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), called for the immediate sack, arrest, and arraignment of Adeosun for criminal forgery of her NYSC certificate.
“The world can now see how the Buhari Presidency has been concealing sharp practices under it,” Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of PDP said in a statement shortly after the story broke.
“We can now see why there is humongous corruption under President Buhari’s watch and why Mr. President has refused to take any concrete steps to check the sleazes in his administrations,” he said.
Farooq Kperogi, the US-based Nigerian lecturer and public affairs analyst, said the silence over Adeosun’s scandal had exposed the hypocrisy of Buhari administration in the much-talked-about fight against corruption.
“The moral outrage over Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun’s obviously forged National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate, which the Nigerian presidency has chosen to strategically ignore in hopes that it will peter out, dramatizes, in more ways than one, the spuriousness of President Muhammadu Buhari’s self-serving claims to embodying ‘integrity,’” Kperogi wrote.
Olusegun Adeniyi , Chairman of the Editorial Board of ThisDay Newspapers and former Presidential Spokesman for the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, said that what most people find rather disturbing about the Buhari administration is its selective approach to morality.
“Unfortunately, when a government allows its friends and allies to make justifications for their wrongdoings, bend rules to suit predetermined ends and excuse egregious unethical behaviour from those who ordinarily should be held to the highest standards, any claim to fighting corruption is but a big joke,” Adeniyi wrote.
He said, “If the Finance Minister of a country could forge a certificate, as being alleged, what else would she not forge?”
Other Nigerians have also wondered why Adeosun has ignored the allegation while still keeping her job as the finance minister.