From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday said that former Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun was ineligible for the mandatory one-year National Youth Service (NYSC).
In his judgment on the subject matter, Justice Taiwo Taiwo said Mrs Adeosun was not supposed to present herself for the National Youth Service because under the 1979 Constitution, which was in force at the time of her graduation, she was not a Nigerian citizen either at the time of her graduation or when she turned 30.
Justice Taiwo held the constitution does not require the former Minister of Finance to have presented her first-degree certificate or any other certificate, including the NYSC certificate, to be appointed a minister.
The court agreed with Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, that the ministerial appointment of Adeosun was not illegal, neither was it unconstitutional, even without presenting the NYSC certificate.
In the judgment in a suit for constitutional interpretation filed at the court in March 2021 by the firm of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, on behalf of Adeosun, the court said since the 1979 constitution, which was in force at the time did not recognise dual citizenship, Adeosun could not have served because she was a British citizen.
Adeosun graduated from the University of East London in 1989 at the age of 22.
The court held that Nigeria citizenship only reverted under the extant constitution by which time Adeosun was well above 30, and, by the court decision, ineligible to participate in the NYSC scheme as the scheme is exclusively reserved for Nigeria.
The court said that it would have been a grave crime if Adeosun had taken part in the NYSC and subsequently granted all reliefs sought by Adeosun’s counsel;
The declared that the plaintiff is under no constitutional disability, disadvantage, prohibition, inhibition or disqualification to hold any of the following offices established by the Constitution, to wit: offices of member of the House of Assembly of a State, a Commissioner in the State Executive Council; Governor of a State; member of the National Assembly; Minister in the Federal Executive Council or the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the ground that she did not participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, established by the National Youth Service Corps Act, CAP N84, LFN 2004.
The judge also declared that the plaintiff is not under any constitutional disability, disadvantage, prohibition, inhibition or disqualification to hold any office as member or Chairman of any of the State Executive or Federal Executive bodies established by the Constitution or otherwise, on the ground that she did not participate in the National Youth Service Corps scheme, established by the National Youth Service Corps Act, CAP N84, LFN 2004.
Another declaration by the court is that the plaintiff cannot be subjected to any penalty, forfeiture or put under any encumbrance in relation to her occupation or assumption of any of the following public offices, created by the Constitution, to wit: membership of the House of Assembly of a State, a Commissioner in the State Executive Council; Governor of a State, member of the National Assembly; Minister in the Federal Executive Council, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, membership of any of the States or Federal Executive bodies, established by the Constitution or otherwise, on the ground that she did not participate in the National Youth Service Corps scheme, established by the National Youth Service Corps Act, CAP N84, LFN 2004.
Justice Taiwo further declared that the plaintiff, being a United Kingdom Citizen as of 1989 when she graduated from the University of East London, London, United Kingdom, at the age of 22 years, was ineligible to participate in the National Youth Service Corps Scheme, established by the National Youth Service Corps Act, CAP N84, LFN 2004.
Responding to the judgment, Adeosun’s lawyers said: ‘Today’s judgment vindicates my client. The court has made it clear that at the time she presented for public service starting from 2011 up till 2015, she was not required to perform the NYSC under the 1979 Constitution, since client graduated in 1989.
‘Throughout client’s travail which lasted 69 days, client was never in doubt about her innocence.
‘Client chose to resign on September 14, 2018, because client did not want the case to become a distraction to the government and the public. Client also believed it would give her the opportunity to vigorously pursue a constitutional remedy to the end, to clear her name.
‘Client wishes to state, without equivocation, that in light of all that happened, she is exploring other remedies within the law and will take the appropriate steps at the right time.
‘The 69 days of her travail and the years following that have taken a great toll on client’s reputation and caused client’s family deep grief and misery.
‘It is, however, not only a personal victory; it’s also a victory for many Nigerians in the diaspora under similar conditions who are desirous to serve their country.
‘Finally, client wishes to thank her family, friends, the legal team and numerous well-wishers for their love, care and concern throughout this difficult period. Client is pleased that, at last, the cause of justice has been served.’
It would be recalled that Adeosun resigned as Finance Minister in 2018 on allegations that her NYSC discharge certificate was forged.