The National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) has come under intense pressure since the publication of an exclusive story by PREMIUM TIMES exposing how finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, avoided the obligatory national service and fraudulently obtained an exemption certificate.
Mrs Adeosun, who graduated at 22 in 1989 from the University of East London, ought not to have been issued with a Certificate of Exemption of the service. The minister does not fall in the category of those entitled for exemption.
The story has generated outrage from Nigerians who asked the minister to resign from her post or be fired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Details published showed that the purported certificate was among the set of documents submitted by the minister for her appointment and screening in 2015.
NYSC management on Monday issued a rather vague press statement distancing itself from the certificate paraded by Mrs Adeosun, but at the same time claiming it was investigating its source. It confirmed the minister had applied for the certificate.
Mrs Adeosun is yet to respond to the issues raised, 72 hours after the publication of the story.
Many Nigerians were unsatisfied by the NYSC’s response with some seeing it as a first step in giving the minister a dubious cover.
The press statement was extracted off the NYSC after a high-level lobbying and pressure mounted on the director general of the service, Suleiman Kazaure.
There are also feelers from the NYSC headquarters that some intercessors who want the matter completely covered were suggesting misplacing the relevant NYSC register as the last resort.
Mr Kazaure, a brigadier general, was said to have come under severe pressure since the publication on Saturday with a governor believed to be Mrs Adeosun’s godfather repeatedly reaching out to the NYSC boss.
Also in the league to persuade the NYSC to “help the minister out” is a senior government minister. The minister is said to be working round the clock “to avert a PR disaster for the government”.
The two politicians are said to be playing the cards of national interest and the need to save the government from embarrassment to the director general.
Mr Kazaure is said to have resisted the initial pressure but was later cajoled to give a non-committal statement pending the presidency taking a final position on the matter.
The atmosphere at the NYSC secretariat was charged throughout Monday with senior officials locked in winding meetings to find a solution to the scandal at hand.
Two senior staff of the NYSC lamented their predicaments on Monday but none of them would reveal detail of what transpired in the series of meetings held at the headquarters of the service.
One of them confided that the day was hectic and horrible with clear demands for officials to find a way out for the minister.
“We senior people in NYSC are now caught in the web of intrigues,” one official said. “We don’t know how it will end but we are praying to God to help us. It has not been easy with us at all.”
The register for UK graduates who were given exemptions was brought in the presence of a Premium Times reporter and the officials diligently looked through the 2009 entries. It was confirmed that “Folakemi Adeosun” was not in the register.
The reporter was therefore asked to return the next day to pick up the NYSC’s response. He was given account details for payment of the verification fee of N2,000. The payment was made the same day.
On arriving June 1, our staff was directed to the NYSC’s Account Department on the fifth floor to change the Remita receipt into the NYSC official receipt. A receipt numbered 711133 was then issued.
However, on returning to present the receipt for the letter at the NYSC’s Verification Division, the story changed. The NYSC officials said the verification had been channelled to the organisation’s ICT unit to check its “electronic database”.
Frustrated by the sudden back-tracking by the agency, Premium Times newspaper delivered a Freedom of Information request to the NYSC headquarters on June 8. The FoI request was ignored in spite of the FoI Act’s provision for agencies to respond to requests within one week or write to seek extension if unable to comply within the stipulated time.
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