My views on Kemi Adeosun resignation-Kenneth Ikonne

There is a recent picture of Kemi Adeosun seated, along with
Theresa May, British Prime Minister, behind a standing Vice
President Yomi Osinbajo, as the Vice President read a speech on a
lectern. In that picture, the erstwhile Nigerian Finance Minister
looked devastated and lost. It was easy to imagine the rapacity of
the demons haunting her tender soul.
Since she burst onto the national stage in 2015 as the custodian of
the finances of Africa’s largest economy, she had projected an
image of awesome probity. At times cocky and adversarial, she
became the very face of the much vaunted financial reforms and
fiscal discipline of an administration that implacably questioned
the patriotism and integrity of not just its immediate predecessors,
but of all that had come before. But now, before her very eyes, her
sinecured and privileged world was about to fall apart: a dark
secret had burst open, and tragically, it was all her making.
Accused by an online tabloid of presenting a forged NYSC
Exemption Certificate to secure her job as the Finance Minister of
the Federal Republic, Mrs Adeosun remained at her desk, and kept
mute for more than two months, hoping to ride out the storm while
desperate administration officials engaged in frantic doublespeak,
in an effort to exonerate her and save her job. Unfortunately for
her, the public had grown increasingly obstuse to the subtleness
and instinctive inclination of the administration to bend the truth to
suit political expediency.
That momentous picture of hers spoke volumes and portrayed a
woman utterly broken, and poised between two eras. There was
fear, if not trepidation, in those bulbous eyes. And finally, on
Friday, Mrs Adeosun buckled under the pressure of moral
compunction and resigned her position of Minister of Finance.
She admitted that the NYSC exemption certificate which she
procured and had tendered to secure her appointment was forged,
but claimed that she had procured it through middlemen and never
knew that it was phoney. She explained that she was born in
England, and had graduated from the East London University at the
age of 22, and only acquired the Nigerian passport at the age of 34
when she visited Nigeria for the first time in her life. At the age of
34, according to her, she had thought she was no longer eligible
for the mandatory national service, having passed the cut – off age
of 30.
Some of her online supporters have added a curious dimension to
her defence. They argue that since Mrs Adeosun was born in
England, had schooled in England, and had lived in England
throughout, and only obtained the Nigerian passport when she was
34 years of age, she was thus, until the point of the acquisition of
her Nigerian passport, not a Nigerian citizen, and could not
therefore have been eligible for call up to the NYSC scheme before
then. And that since at the point of her acquisition of the Nigerian
passport, she was four years past the terminal age for call – up,
she was thus eligible for exemption from the scheme. This line of
defence however fails to explain why Mrs Adeosun had to resort to
procuring a forged exemption certificate.
It’s a very bizarre defence. Kemi Adeosun became a Nigerian
citizen from the moment she was born – though born on distant
shores. It was thus not the acquisition of the Nigerian passport
that vested her with citizenship; she acquired the Nigerian
passport because it was her constitutional entitlement so to
acquire, as a Nigerian citizen. May I with respect refer us to
section 25(1)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria, 1999, as amended, which defines Nigerian citizenship
thus:
“The following persons are citizens of Nigeria by birth, namely
(C)every person born outside Nigeria either of whose parents is a
citizen of Nigeria.”
And it has never been contended that Kemi’s parents were not
citizens of Nigeria at the time of Kemi’s birth. It is obvious
therefore that read side by side with the relevant provisions of the
NYSC Act, Kemi does not qualify for exemption from the NYSC
scheme. Her decision to obtain the Nigerian passport at the age of
34, whereas she was entitled to it from birth, can certainly not be a
factor telling in her favour. Most of us served without knowing
what the Nigerian passport looked like!
Section 25(1)(C) does not confer a right in futuro, to be enjoyed
only on the procurement of the Nigerian passport. The section
defines who a Nigerian citizen is, clearly and expressly, and once
you fall into any of those categories, the fact of your citizenship
ensues, and enures, not as a matter of choice, but by OPERATION
of law. It was for these reasons, and as a vindication of an already
existing citizenship, that Kemi was issued the passport, upon
application, and as a matter of right. It is a hideous thing to read
into a statute, not to talk of the Constitution, what is not there.
If we take a look at the sidenotes to sections 25, 26 and 27 of the
Constitution, we will find as follows:
S.25 – “Citizenship by birth.”
S26. – “Citizenship by registration”
S.27. – “Citizenship by naturalization.”
Obviously, the category into which all of us fall, including Kemi, is
category “A”, ie, citizenship by birth. To argue, as Kemi’s
apologists have done, that Kemi needed to do another overt act,
apart from the fact of her birth, to become a Nigerian citizen, is to
also say that even you and I can insist that we are not yet Nigerian
citizens until we do our own overt act. And it’s even risible that the
overt act which Kemi’s apologists prescribe is the acquisition of
the Nigerian passport – an administrative acquisition which is
completely extraneous to the Constitutional issue under
consideration. One has to be a citizen first, whether by birth,
naturalization or registration before he can competently apply for
the passport. And once a citizen, he automatically becomes
subject to all the rights, obligations and incidents of citizenship,
free from discrimination, notwithstanding your location. Section
42(1) ensures that much. There can be little doubt therefore that
Kemi Adeosun has always been a Nigerian citizen by birth. And
since she graduated at the age of 22, ie, before age 30, she was
liable to compulsorily serve, and participate in the one year NYSC
scheme before taking up paid employment in Nigeria.See section 2
of the NYSC Act.
For a fuller understanding of the intendment of the Act, it might be
necessary now to make a further excursus into the Act itself. By a
combined reading of sections 2, 12, and 13 of the Act, the general
intendment is the creation of an obligation on eligible Nigerians to
compulsorily serve in the scheme, once the person graduates
before age 30, unless exempted. By Section 12, every prospective
employer in the federation of Nigeria is under an obligation to
demand and obtain from every graduate applicant, as a
prerequisite for employment, a copy of his NYSC Certificate, or of
exemption thereof.
Section 2(3) of the Act only creates a liability to serve in graduates
not exempted by section 2(2), without making it a compulsion that
the graduate must proceed to service IMMEDIATELY upon
graduation, the only stricture being that until he presents himself
for service, he will necessarily be caught by section 12 which has
made the production of the discharge certificate, or evidence of
exemption, a condition precedent for employment. The reason why
graduates who do not report immediately for deployment after
graduation cannot be said to have committed an offence is
provided by section 2(3) of the Act: the non existence of a general
or special notice given in a prescribed manner, stipulating when
each graduate is to be deployed to serve. The Act authorizes the
NYSC directorate to issue such notices, but the logistics of it are
so mind boggling that they have never been issued.
In effect therefore, there cannot be an offence strictly against “call
– up” until a person has actually been called up, and, according to
section 13(1), he “fails to report for service in the service corps in
the manner directed by the Directorate or as the case may be,
prescribed pursuant to the provisions of this Act.” And as we have
already seen, no such standing prescription has been made in the
Act, or by the NYSC directorate.
However, once a call up letter is actually served on a person, and
he fails to report for service, an offence is thereby committed by
virtue of section 13(1). It is this lacuna that permits law graduates
to go to law school before serving. The same lacuna avails
diasporan Nigerians like Kemi Adeosun, who after graduation stay
back for higher qualifications, or take up employment in their
countries of abode.
But Mrs Kemi Adeosun returned to Nigeria, and rather than present
herself to the NYSC Directorate for deployment for the compulsory
one year national service scheme, she, as a child of privilege,
proceeded straight to take up high profile paid employment, first as
Commissioner For Finance in Ogun State, and beginning from
2015, as Minister for Finance of the Federal Republic. And to
facilitate those employments, she tendered a forged exemption
certificate, notwithstanding, as we have seen, that she was not
eligible for exemption.
Mrs Adeosun has claimed that the forged CERTIFICATE was
procured for her by middlemen, and that she did not know that it
was forged. However, in the context of our criminal jurisprudence,
that line of defence is tenuous and flimsy. Guilt attaches equally to
the doer, the enabler, as well as the PROCURER of the commission
of the crime. The requisite intent to commit forgery is furnished by
the very fact of the engagement of middlemen to do for her what
she could have directly approached the NYSC to do for herself.
Crucially, and powerfully counting against her is the fact that the
law will assume that she knew that she was not entitled to
exemption at all, as ignorance is not a defence in law.
Even if Mrs Adeosun successfully defends herself on the offence
of forgery, it is difficult to see how she can escape being caught
by section 13(4)(C) of the NYSC Act which provides that –
“Any person who….has in his possession any document so closely
resembling any certificate so issued as to be calculated to deceive,
is guilty of an offence.
The passion Mrs Adeosun brought to bear on her job does not
alleviate the gravity of her offence, even though it might be a
factor telling in mitigation of punishment. Her offence is another
debilitating blow to the community of values which the
administration has struggled in vain to inculcate, and would
inevitably occasion not only a decisive shift in momentum, but a
definite loss of face in the international community, for the
Exchequer of a nation is the last place you would expect a forger
to lead!
As I write, word has crept in that Mrs Adeosun has slipped back to
distant shores, away from a nation from which she had
deliberately withheld the youthful labours millions of other youths
have so willingly given this nation since 1973 – sometimes, as we
saw in the post election violence of 2011, at the cost of their very
lives. Her only enduring cartharsis would be to return and give to
her nation that which she had dubiously withheld from her – or she
will forever retain the fears of youth.

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