Some long-held myth about the National Youth Service Corp’s (NYSC) exemption has been busted following claims by Premium Times that Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, skipped NYSC programme mandated to be observed by all Nigerian graduates, except for 4 categories of persons.
At age 22, Adeosun graduated as an Applied Economist from the Polytechnic of East London in 1989 but did not return to Nigeria to start the mandatory NYSC programme which is a criterion for being employed in the Country.
Premium Times reported that Adeosun has a fake NYSC Exemption Certificate which she claimed was issued to her by the Director-General of NYSC, Yusuf Bomoi in September 2009. It says some top officials at NYSC said Bomoi retired in January 2009 and could not have signed any certificate eight Months after. Bomoi passed on in September 2017.
When Adeosun’s certificate was shown to an NYSC top official for validation, he said ‘This is not the size of our exemption certificate. The calligraphy is also different’.
16 days after the July 7 report, the Government is a little more silent than expected while the Minister has said nothing. NYSC gave a reply to the story with a simple confirmation that the Minister did apply for the Certificate but is yet to say if the Certificate, which was issued on the basis of “Age”, is genuine or not.
Private or Public Sector, not without it
Before discussions on Adeosun’s case began, there was a general notion that a Nigerian graduate who did not go on NYSC and does not have a valid Exemption Certificate can work with the private sector but cannot be employed by Government. But the NYSC law says in Section 12 that it is a duty on every prospective employer to demand and obtain from any person with a first degree a copy of Certificate of Service or an Exemption Certificate.
The initial notion that a person without both can work for a private firm had an advance yet wrong version being that a person may work a temporal job, which would have included being a Minister, but cannot be a civil servant. Both assumptions are wrong.
Section 12 of the same law also goes ahead to subtly indict an employer who does not obtain this from his employee saying “It shall also be the duty of every employer to produce on demand to police officer, not below the rank of an Assistant Superintendent of Police, any such certificate and particulars or copies thereof”
Boxed by the Law
While many have speculated that the Minister’s silence is due to underground work aimed at producing a new Certificate from NYSC, this would still be problematic because the Certificates are to carry the reason for exemption, and on the face of it, Adeosun appears to have none. Even if the Certificate was real she, or at least the NYSC, would still be in trouble.
Section 2 of the NYSC Decree gives just four reasons why a person may not serve. The first is that the fellow is above 30 as at when he graduated. Interestingly, this rule applied from 1985 but Adeosun graduated in 1989 so it applies to her. The section also specifies “Diploma and other Professional qualifications” so the fact that Adeosun went to a Polytechnic will not matter.
The second reason for exemption is that the fellow must have served in the Army or Police for nothing less than nine months. Again, Adeosun has a tight public record of her work experience which does not leave space for sneaking this in. After the Polytechnic at 22, which would be in 1989 going by her age, Adeosun got a job at British Telecoms and moved to an accounting firm, Goodman Jones, where she worked as an audit officer. In 1994 when she was just 27 and still eligible for the service, she worked as an Internal Audit Manager at London Underground Company and moved to Prism Consulting where she worked from 1996 to 2000.
In 2000, she worked at Pricewaterhouse Coopers for two years and in 2002 she was back in Nigeria after which she accepted a job at a private firm, Chapel Hill Denham. Adeosun rose to the position of a Managing Director at Quo Vadis Partnership, Commissioner for Finance of Ogun State Government before becoming Minister of Finance for the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Adeosun will also find it hard to hang on the third lawful reason for exemption as it only covers Staff of a Nigerian Security Organisation, State Security Service, National Intelligence Agency and Defence Intelligence Service.
The fourth and final reason for exemption from Youth Service is for a person who already had a National Honour. She does not.
Health not a Ground for Exemption
Unlike widely believed, NYSC generally has no power to issue exemption certificate on the basis of health. Yet health grounds is the most common reason people escape from camp and service year.
As reported here, the law only provides for four grounds and health is not one of them.
This is understood within the background that a person who did not enlist for service, say on the basis of age, will still be able to serve should he go over 30 years because at the time of graduation he was less than 30. Applying the same rule to health, the understanding will be that a person who did not serve on the basis of health can still serve when he becomes healthy. A continuously sick person, too sick to serve should reasonably be too sick to take up a job also.
But for those who wish to be exempted on health grounds or other reasons, Section 17 of the NYSC Law may come handy as it says “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, the Directorate may, with the prior approval of the National Defence and Security Council, by an order published in the •Gazette exempt any person from all or any of the provisions of this Decree, and may subject thereto and with such approval impose, in relation to any exemption, such conditions as it may think fit.”, far-fetched for almost everyone.
2,000, 12 Months or Both
In the event that the claims are true, skipping the NYSC may not be the worse crime for Mrs. Adeosun as the NYSC Law says any person who fails to report for service in the service corps in the manner directed by the Directorate or refuses to make himself available for NYSC is guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to a fine of N2000 or to imprisonment for a term of 12 Months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Any person who fails to comply with any provision of the Act is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N5000 or to imprisonment for a term of three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
A small fine?
It is in the Judge’s discretion to demand the offender either pay N5000 or be imprisoned for three years as stated by the law. He may also go for both.
The NYSC Act was established in 1973, the same year the Nigerian Naira and Kobo was introduced. Prior to this time, Nigerians traded on British pounds shillings.
In the same year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced 50 Kobo, 1, 5, 10 and 20 Naira. In 1991, 50 naira notes were issued, 100 naira notes in 1999, 200 naira notes in 2000, 500 naira notes in 2001 and 1000 naira notes in 2005.
As at 1973 when the Act was established, Naira had more value than the Dollar, as a Dollar was only N0.658. This would make N5000 amount to about 7,598 Dollars which amounts to about 2.8 million Naira today. The wordings of the law are however usually kept to and present values are not calculated except in some civil cases.
The Forgery part
According to Section 463 of the Criminal Code, any person who forges a document, writing, or seal, is guilty of an offence and he is liable to imprisonment for three years.
On August 21, 2016, Nnaemeka Dennis and Ora Ifeanyi were arraigned at the Enugu North Magistrate on a three-count charge of forging the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, and National Youth Service Corps NYSC Exemption certificates.
The prosecution counsel, Prof. B. C Nwobodo, told the court that the accused had used the forged certificates to secure a job at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital, Park-Lane, Enugu in 2014 and 2015.
Nwobodo said Nnaemeka Dennis forged the Health Records Officers Registration Board of Nigeria certificate as well as the NYSC Exemption Certificate, Ifeanyi forged the High National Diploma (HND) from the IMT with which he fraudulently used to secure employment in the same hospital.
The case was adjourned to August 30 of the same year and has since been as silent as the Minister.