Musikilu Mojeed, the Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, says the government of Muhammadu Buhari is unwilling to prosecute Kemi Adeosun, the former Minister of Finance, for forgery.
An investigation by Premium Times in 2018 exposed how Adeosun submitted a forged NYSC Exemption Certificate as part of her documents to the National Assembly during ministerial screening. The report and the subsequent follow-ups led to the resignation of the embattled minister, although the allegation of forgery, a criminal offence, was left unaddressed.
Adeosun would later file a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja, with Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, as sole defendant, seeking to know whether or not she needed national youth service to become a minister. Taiwo Taiwo, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, ruled in the favour of the ex-minister.
But Mojeed faulted the court proceeding, insisting that the Nigerian government was unwilling to punish Adeosun for wrongdoing.
“As far as we are concerned, the issues raised in our story remain. We believe that the attorney general, who was the defendant in the case, did not put up a strong defence in the case,” he said in an interview with Daily Trust.
“He basically agreed with all the points raised by the plaintiff, which is Adeosun. He basically concurred with almost all of her points. He is wrong to agree that Adeosun was not eligible for NYSC.
“Anyone familiar with the law knows it was true that at a point under the Nigeria law, when Adeosun was 22 years old, she lost her citizenship of Nigeria but the law was again amended by the Babangida regime with a decree. At the age of 25, she regained her citizenship. She lost her citizenship at 22 and regained it at 25 so she should have served. I am not sure that was put before the court.”
“The impression that was created in court was that she lost her citizenship at 22 and that it was only when she was 34 that she returned to the country to obtain her first passport. Remember that obtaining a passport is not a determinant of citizenship. There are several citizens of Nigeria who have never obtained a passport. So, the fact that she came at 34 to obtain a passport does not mean that she was not a citizen before then.”
On the allegation of certificate forgery, FIJ gathered that the Malami was silent even though the issue was weightier than the suit filed by Adeosun.
Mojeed maintained that his medium raised the questions of why the ex-minister had to skip NYSC even though she is a Nigerian and why she decided to forge the exemption certificate.
He said: “One is that she skipped NYSC. The second part of the story was that she presented a forged NYSC exemption certificate and that has not been controverted by anyone.
“She admitted realising eventually that the certificate was forged but that she didn’t know that until our investigation. Even the government conducted an inquiry and it came to the same conclusion that the NYSC exemption certificate she presented was not genuine. So, we are wondering why the government is yet to charge her for forgery. Basically, we feel strongly that our story is 100 percent correct and we will continue to stand by our story.
“I won’t say there is collusion because I have no strong evidence to say so. But what is curious is why the Attorney General will put up such a weak defense in court? Another thing that is curious is: why would a government that claims to be fighting corruption refuse, for about three years, to charge Kemi Adeosun for forgery?”
“Why are we not all equal before the law? Why is Kemi Adeosun bigger than our law? Why has she not been in the dock to explain? She has even confessed that her certificate was forged and the government has done an inquiry and determined that the document she submitted to the DSS and the Senate for clearance to be confirmed as minister was fake. Why is the government reluctant about prosecuting her? So, what moral right does the government have to put any Nigerian who forged any certificate behind bars?”
According to Section 467 of the Nigerian Constitution, the punishment for forgery in general circumstances is imprisonment for three years while life imprisonment is prescribed for forgery of a public seal.
FIJ’s calls to Umaru Gwandu, the spokesman to Malami, were initially unanswered while the text message to his line was not replied to. Shortly after, he returned the call, promising to reply to FIJ’s text message but had not done so as of press time.
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