Nigerians have been expressing outrage after Premium Times reported how finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, shunned mandatory national service but went on to obtain a fraudulent exemption certificate years later.
The certificate scandal continued to dominate discussions over the weekend with many of the commentators asking the minister to resign.
Mrs Adeosun graduated from the Polytechnic of East London, renamed University of East London, in 1989.
She, however, did not return to Nigeria to observe the mandatory year-long service as required for Nigerians who graduate before their 30th birthday. Instead, she secured an exemption certificate which PREMIUM TIMES investigations show to be fake.
Most of the respondents called on President Muhammadu Buhari to launch an investigation into the scandal and sack Mrs Adeosun.
Several online commentators and respondents on this newspaper’s website and social media platforms were scandalised by the action of Mrs Adeosun and failure of various arms of government to detect the discrepancy by way of due diligence.
Some commentators expressed outrage that someone who had not experienced the national service is occupying a high office while a lot of those who went through the process are without jobs.
The story also prompted a sensation with many social media publishing pictures of their certificates or their pictures in NYSC camps.
“Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun skips NYSC, forges certificate SHE SHOULD GO TO JAIL as required by the law,” tweeted columnist and prominent activist, Jibrin Ibrahim.
A Facebook user, Pa Ikhide, wrote: “If it is true that Nigeria’s Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun forged her NYSC certificate, she should resign. That won’t happen. This regime like the ones before has no integrity, and knows no shame. To be fair, she is not alone in this, there is no incentive to be honest in Nigeria, people choose to be. Short cuts are us.”
Dayo Williams, another Facebook user, wrote: “I expect Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, to address a press conference, responding to the allegations of forgery of NYSC exemption certificate by the Premium Times. She has this week to do that.
“The NYSC has a moral burden to also clarify its own part of the allegations via a public statement. That should happen this week without any further delay.
“The allegations are heavy and institutional to the extent that they cannot be swept under the carpet. Any silence from Mrs Adeosun or NYSC quarters will be rightly interpreted as admittance of guilt.
“For what it is, the PT’s investigative story remains a boiling stew of allegations. The concerned must react to them in no distant time.
“What an enlightened public needs to do is to form a coalition of pressure to force the Minister and NYSC to react urgently. Mrs Adeosun and the NYSC represent public institutions serviced through the public funds. Therefore, they owe us their own side of the story.”
Anti-corruption activist, Olanrewaju Suraju, said the issue is too serious for the Buhari government to “treat with levity.” He said Mrs Adeosun must be made to respond to the allegations promptly.
“The fundamental issues are whether the Minister, having completed her 1st degree under the age of 30 years, without a record of service in armed forces or police at the time, is qualified for an exemption.
“Then you will have to get to the nature and genuineness of the certificate. The alleged signatory of the certificate and the date as reported in the story is a major consideration in determining the alleged forgery of the certificate,” he said.
According to the activist, Mr Buhari should “demand a response from the minister within two weeks and make same public. Failure to which she should be sacked.
“The police should commence investigation into the allegations and those connected with the case; State Security Service officials and the senators who exploited her condition to extort allocations from in the National Assembly should be made to account for their complicity.
In his reaction, a lawyer and activist, Inibehe Effiong, said Mrs. Adeosun should be fired immediately “if this strong allegations against her are verifiable. She cannot be managing the finances of the country with a forged credential. Forgery is a felony, a serious crime”.
“While the children of the poor in Nigeria go through the mandatory one year national youth service and still cannot get jobs because the elites and the political class have cornered available jobs for themselves and their children, we now have an elitist Finance Minister who is said to have refused to serve her country but had the audacity to forge an exemption certificate which she used to get high political appointments.”
He said the case of the finance minister “is another test of the sincerity of President Buhari in his much touted fight against corruption”, as he called on the president to “fire her immediately if she refuses to resign. Nigerians are watching once again to see how Buhari will treat this case.”
On Saturday, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked President Buhari to hand over Mrs Adeosun for full scale investigation and prosecution.
PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement called on Mr Buhari not to provide a cover for Mrs Adeosun. He accused the president of covering up close allies or agents found wanting on issues of corruption.
Mr Ologbondiyan said the revelation vindicates its stand that the Buhari presidency as a “haven of fraudsters, common thieves and persons of questionable character”.
He added that the recent revelation has cast a full-length dark shadow on the overall integrity of his administration.
A leader of the president’s party also spoke on the scandal, although he asked to remain anonymous so as not be seen attacking his own government.
“We will advise the president because it is dangerous to let this pass,” the member of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the governing APC said.
He compared it to a car purchase scandal involving a former aviation minister, Stella Oduah, which was brushed off by former president Goodluck Jonathan.
“The Oduah saga haunted Jonathan to the end. This can push the president off the cliff if care is not taken,” he said.