Nigerians had still not gotten over the revelation that former Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun failed to take part in the National Youth Service Corps [NYSC] and obtained a false exemption certificate when news broke a fortnight ago that another minister in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet also dodged the NYSC.
According to an online newspaper report, Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu did not go for NYSC even though he graduated from the University of Ife, now known as Obafemi Awolowo University [OAU] in 1978 at the age of 25. Unlike Adeosun, Shittu has neither NYSC certificate nor exemption certificate, genuine or false. That two ministers scaled through all stages of ministerial screening without valid NYSC certificates was shocking indeed.
Shittu has not shown any remorse. He openly admitted to skipping NYSC, claiming that he thought his first job after graduation, which was membership of the Oyo State House of Assembly, was itself a “service.” He said, “The constitution provides for the qualification needed for state assembly members; NYSC is not there. I didn’t need it to become a member of the state assembly, and that is already a service.” NYSC headquarters swiftly said in response that Shittu was not excluded from the scheme just because he secured political office. Its spokesperson Adenike Adeyemi said, “Serving in the National (or state) Assembly is not one of the conditions for exemption from national service.”
The spokesperson added, “If you are a graduate, locally trained or foreign trained, as long as you graduate before the age of 30, you are expected to serve. Whether foreign or locally trained, the law is the same. Our youths should be rightly guided that if you were able to complete your studies and as of the date of graduation you are under 30, you are eligible to serve.”
The minister’s claim, that state assembly membership is a form of national service, amounted to playing with the intelligence of Nigerians. It is also very unfortunate that such an excuse could come from a very senior lawyer, a former Attorney General of Oyo State and a serving minister. From Shittu’s statement, it is obvious that he either chooses what law to obey or that he has very little regard for the laws of the country and as such, has no business holding any public office.
It is a known fact that since the inception of the scheme, anyone who graduates from a higher institution before the age of 30 ought to be mobilised to serve, as failure to do so is an offence and the minister cannot claim to be ignorant of that fact. In the first place, he had no business seeking political office at the time he did as the NYSC was supposed to come before any form of work/employment. All those who participated in that illegality should be prosecuted, including the man who screened and cleared him and the Speaker of the Assembly who swore him in. Since then, Adebayo Shittu has held many important offices in the public and private sector. All those who employed him should be sanctioned to serve as a deterrent to others.
The DSS that screened his papers and all those who played roles in the process that led to his appointment as minister have questions to answer. The All Progressives Congress [APC] has done well by stopping his governorship ambition through its refusal to clear him for the governorship primaries, but that cannot be all. The Presidency too must take action. In fact, the silence of the presidency on this matter so far is not good for its image, especially seeing that this is the second appointee found to be without requisite documents.
Apart from speaking up, the Presidency should not wait for him to resign as was witnessed in Kemi Adeosun’s case. The Presidency should relieve the minister of his appointment with immediate effect and order his prosecution if it wants to regain the public’s confidence in its appointees and the government in general.
Culled from Daily Trust