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Adeosungate:  Minister Gets Desperate, Sets Lobby Team

 
By Danusa Ocholi

As the pressure mounts on Minister of Finance, Mrs.  Kemi Adeosun to come clean over the National Youth Service (NYSC) certificate scandal, the embattled Minister may have constituted a lobby team as part of the desperate moves to douse tension  and possibly consign the alleged scandal to the waste bin, DAILY ASSET has learnt.

A source close to the Minister of Finance disclosed at the weekend that Adeosun set up a three-man lobby team to approach critical agencies and stakeholders with the view to keeping the matter “out of the public glare”.

An online newspaper had published a report in July which alleged that Adesoun forged her NYSC exemption certificate after graduating from the London Polytechnic at an age below 30 years.

The report alleged that Adesoun armed with the forged certificate failed to participate in the mandatory one-year national service, contrary to the law establishing the NYSC which requires all Nigerians who graduate at an age below 30 years to participate in the scheme.

More than one week after the matter was first reported, the NYSC responded, saying Adesoun applied for an exemption certificate, but has remained silent on exactly how the application was treated and if indeed an exemption certificate was issued to the Minister.

DAILY ASSET exclusively reported two weeks ago that the Director General of NYSC, Brigadier General Suleiman Kazaure was considering resigning his appointment in view of the pressure being mounted on him to compromise his faith and principles on the matter, to save the Minister from troubled waters.

The Director General was, however, said to have been prevailed upon by the influential Emir of Kano, His Highness, Muhammad Sanusi ll, to rescind his decision.

Last week, however, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) issued   both Adesoun and NYSC a one-week ultimatum to publicly state in very clear terms, all the facts about the exemption certificate failing which it would approach a Court of competent jurisdiction to seek specific orders against them.

In the Freedom of Information request to  Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Sule Kazaure, SERAP asked him to  “urgently provide information on specific details and documents on the Exemption Certificate granted to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun”.

The organisation also asked Brig. Gen Kazaure “to provide information and documents on whether Mrs Adeosun applied for NYSC Exemption Certificate, and if she did, to clarify whether the NYSC actually granted her the Exemption Certificate, the circumstances and the provisions of the NYSC Act under which the Exemption Certificate was granted”.

The organisation said it “needs the information to determine if the crime of forgery has been committed, and if so, to consider possible action in the circumstances, including but not limited to asking the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami SAN to pursue prosecution or in the absence of that, for us to consider the option of a private prosecution”.

SERAP’s statement, signed by Timothy Adewale, deputy director reads in part: “By providing information and documents on the Exemption Certificate, the NYSC would help put an end to any insinuation of complicity and show that the institution can embrace transparency and accountability in the discharge of its statutory mandates. This would in turn contribute to improved integrity and public image of the NYSC.”

According to the organisation, “Mrs Adeosun remains innocent until the allegations against her are properly tested and proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of competent jurisdiction based on relevant admissible evidence. But the continuing silence by the NYSC management on the matter may create an impression that an offence may have been committed, and lead to accusation that the management has something to hide.

“We urge you and the entire NYSC management and leadership to open-up on the matter and provide information and documents as requested. This will be one step in the right direction. If the information is not provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.”

“SERAP is concerned about the perceived lack of transparency and accountability of the NYSC management and leadership in this matter, which has seriously undermined public trust and confidence in the NYSC as a public institution established to serve the public interests.”

“SERAP notes that following allegations of NYSC Exemption Certificate forgery against Mrs Adeosun, the NYSC management issued a statement confirming that she did apply for an Exemption Certificate and promising to ‘investigate the origin of the purported Exemption Certificate in question.’”

“However, we are concerned that the statement lacks specificity as to whether Mrs Adeosun was issued the Exemption Certificate. Further, although the statement was issued on 9 July 2018, the NYSC management has so far failed and/or neglected to publish the outcome of the investigation it promised. Nigerians are also entitled to the right to truth derived from the obligations of the government and its institutions to carry out an investigation into allegations of issues like forgery that have been levelled against Mrs Adeosun.”

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the circumstances and the provisions of the NYSC Act under which any NYSC Exemption Certificate was granted to Mrs Adeosun.”

“By Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to the granting of any NYSC Exemption Certificate are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means. The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, good governance, transparency and accountability.”

The Buhari-led administration is also yet to address the forgery allegations against Mrs Adeosun, weeks after the story broke.

Besides SERAP, it was learnt that pressure has been mounted on the Minister by some close allies of President Muhammadu Buhari to resign her appointment since the constant reference to the allegation against her has become a source of embarrassment to the Buhari administration.

As a result of the mounting pressure, the Minister, according to our source, assembled a three-man squad to lobby all critical stakeholders with a view to taking the matter out of the public eye.

“Madam’s position is that she is being unjustifiably villified by political opponents on this certificate issue. She wants her position explained to as many people as possible,” the source told DAILY ASSET.

In the lobby team are a former Director who recently retired from the Ministry and two “outsiders” who have been carefully appointed for the assignment.

The three-man committee is expected to reach out to some principal officers and other critical members of the National Assembly, some media executives and the security agencies to explain the Minister’s position, it was further learnt.

Our source explained that the Minister was careful not to use government officials for the assignment since she considers the allegation an unofficial matter since it bothers on her personal integrity and not her performance as Minister of Finance.

 

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