Sources close to the Presidency say Mrs Kemi Adeosun, who resigned as minister of finance this morning, may face prosecution over alleged forgery.
Adeosun, THE WHISTLER reliably learnt, was asked by the Presidency to turn in her resignation letter on Thursday.
The former finance minister has been enmeshed in a scandal after Premium Times, an online newspaper, reported that the minister forged an exemption certificate of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The NYSC law stipulates that, “with effect from 1 August 1985, a person shall not be called upon to serve in the service corps if, at the date of his graduation he is over the age of thirty (30), or he has served in the armed forces of the Federation or the Nigeria Police Force for a period of more than nine months, or he is member of staff of any of the Nigerian Security Organisations, the State Security Service, the National Intelligence Agency, the Defence Intelligence Agency or has been conferred with any National Honour.”
It states further that any person who “forges or uses or lends to or allows to be used other than in the manner provided by this Act by any other person any certificate issued pursuant to the provisions of this Act; or makes, or has in his possession any document so closely resembling any certificate so issued as to be calculated to deceive, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
Since the scandal broke in July, there have been pressure on Adeosun to resign and for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to prove that there are no sacred cows in the fight against corruption.
Sources say the Presidency may have bowed to pressure to relieve the minister of her appointment and prosecute her for the crime she allegedly committed.
It is not clear yet why the minister resigned, because neither her nor the Presidency has issued any official statement as at press time, but there are speculations that she could have been asked to resign due to the embarrassment her continued stay in the government was causing the Buhari administration.
Details of the grimy story indicate that the person purported to have signed the exemption certificate in September 2009 had already retired from service by January of the same year.
Curiously, the former minister remained silent over the allegation since the scandal broke.
Prominent Nigerians and members of the opposition, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have called for her resignation over the allegation.
Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) added its voice to the strident calls for Adeosun’s resignation and prosecution.
The statement issued by SERAP’s deputy director, Timothy Adewale, read: “Suspicions of certificate forgery involving a senior member of the government if not urgently and satisfactorily addressed would weaken public trust in the government’s oft-expressed commitment to transparency and accountability.
“Several days after being accused of forging her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate, Mrs Adeosun is yet to make any official statement in reaction to the alleged scandal.
“Clarifying the allegations of certificate forgery would show a commitment to doing the right thing, and a natural disposition toward openness. The continuing failure and/or refusal to speak to Nigerians on these allegations amounts to a betrayal of public trust. If she can show the courage to clear the air on the allegations, Mrs Adeosun can be a strong promoter of the values of transparency and accountability, something which the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has regularly expressed commitment to embrace and achieve.”
Meanwhile, President Buhari’s adviser on anti-corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, had said it doesn’t matter whether or not the minister possesses a genuine NYSC certificate to remain in office.
“Who cares about youth service? I don’t bloody care whether she did youth service or not. It’s irrelevant as far as I am concerned,” said Sagay, adding that, “Let me tell you my reaction. This woman is a brilliant and extremely valuable member of this government.
“A lot of the good things happening now – the welfare that Nigerians are enjoying and are going to enjoy, because it takes time, and the way our economy is booming, how we got out of recession – are due to her expertise, her commitment, her sacrifice,” said the Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC).
Also, the President’s Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, had during a recent appearance on Channels Television submitted that Adeosun’s matter was not a corruption matter.
Adesina had said of Professor Sagay’s account: ‘It was a personal comment, that is not the position of the Government and Professor Sagay has a right to his opinion.
“It will not be down the aisle of Professor Sagay to advise on that matter because it is not a corruption matter so to speak,” he added.
It is still unclear what President Buhari would do, as his body language suggests he may not want Adeosun to face prosecution. This was also the case with the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who was asked to leave the administration following allegations of corruption leveled against him, but Buhari has turned deaf ears to calls for his prosecution.
However, reports suggest that any move by the President to shield Adeosun from prosecution, may be seen as contradicting his anti-graft stance, which could in turn harm his reelection bid as the 2019 elections draw closer.