Except something is fundamentally wrong somewhere or somebody somewhere is up to something sinister, no single mature and learned Nigerian lacks the knowledge and understanding that as a fresh University/Polytechnic graduate in the country, the Constitution requires a mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps assignment with a discharge certificate issued after its successful completion. It’s also a general knowledge that if a graduate has attained the age of 30, as at the time of signing out from his/her citadel, such is constitutionally exempted and so, NYSC, after being obliged with enough evidence, is expected to without any rumpus issue a certificate of exemption to the concerned. After a sad story of former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun who in the year 2018 was caught and subsequently consumed by the NYSC exemption certificate racket, Nigeria’s public presently has before it, another saga, a drama – fresh NYSC certification controversy, again, from another serving executive – the Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa.
An insight into Minister Musawa’s biodata: Academic, professional and political background and career.
Musawa was born November 1, 1974. She graduated from the University of Buckingham with a first degree in Law. In addition to her LLB, Musawa graduated from the University of Cardiff in Wales with a Master’s degree in Legal Elements of Marine Affairs. She is equally a Master’s degree holder in Oil and Gas from the University of Aberdeen, all in the United Kingdom.
A daughter of renowned politician, Alhaji Musa Musawa, the Minister hails from Katsina, North West Nigeria. She has previously worked with the Law firm of a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, late Chief Clement Akpamgbo, as a litigation attorney and legal counsel to some private firms. She also floated a private law firm: Hanney Musawa & colleagues. A politician, attorney, writer and author, Musawa once served as the prosecutor’s team’s lead attorney in the 2003 presidential election petition involving former Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Olusegun Obasanjo as a political activist. In 2022, she emerged the Deputy National Spokesperson of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The latest NYSC saga involving a Minister became public knowledge through an exclusive story, titled: “Untold story of Minister Hannatu Musawa’s NYSC saga,” published by Premium Times on August 27, 2023. Her LLB and sojourn at the Nigerian Law School ended before she clocked 30. With the available records, her NYSC primary assignment was supposed to last between 2001 and 2002. Ordinarily, the Minister is expected to have in her custody her discharge certificate, but as we speak, she lacks the credential! On its own, NYSC has come out publicly and confirmed that Musawa is at present undergoing her compulsory national youth service.
Expectedly, the Minister in a second statement credited to her, but which she again denied the authorship, described the publications on her as “attacks” and “misinformation”on her person.
The statement reads in part: “It is true I am currently on the NYSC national service which I began 8 months ago as a matter of duty and devotion to my country, having been unable to complete the scheme since I was first mobilised in 2001. I started the mandatory national service as a Corp member deployed to Akwa-Ibom State (pls confirm state) in 2001 upon the completion of my university education. I could not complete the service the same year after my redeployment to Kaduna State due to family obligations. Despite this, it has been my personal resolve and commitment that I will always fulfil this national duty whenever I am opportune to do so.
“I applied to NYSC to be mobilised again for national service last year. NYSC graciously mobilised and deployed me to serve in Abuja where I have been serving for the last 8 months before my current appointment as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I would like to state clearly that contrary to wrong insinuations and false assumptions in a section of the mainstream media and social media where false accusations have been made, there is no breach of any law or constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended regarding my current position as a Minister and status as serving corps member.
“It must be said that there is no law of Nigeria or any part of our constitution and NYSC Act that states that a serving corps member can not be appointed by the President of Nigeria or any other appointing authority into political positions. Equally, no part of our existing laws and the NYSC Act says that a corp member must finish service before he/she can be appointed into political office. There are no legal or constitutional limitations whatsoever. I have not broken any law in Nigeria.
“In fact, in a decided case before a Federal High Court Abuja in 2021, Justice Taiwo Taiwo ruled that the Constitution of Nigeria, which is the grundnorm, does not require anyone to even present a first-degree certificate or any other certificate, including the NYSC certificate to be appointed a Minister in Nigeria. I decided to participate in the current NYSC programme in fulfilment of my own personal commitment and out of a sense of duty which I am proud of.”
Surely, there are interesting and critical sides of the Minister’s defence. We will come back to this later. Musawa’s purported rebuttal, not surprising, was a sharp contradiction to NYSC’s position which revealed that the Minister lacks its discharge certificate because she allegedly absconded during her service year. The agency argued further that it could not find Musawa’s details in its Kaduna State’s office, where she claimed to have completed her primary assignment.
A critical look at the defence showed that Musawa has done more disservice to herself than making any strong and valid point. But before dwelling into that, it’s equally very key to look into many contradictions in the young Minister’s alleged narratives.
First, she claimed she was deployed to Akwa Ibom State in 2001, but NYSC mentioned Ebonyi State, from where it confirmed that she was redeployed to Kaduna State, after serving for five months in the original State of her primary assignment. Secondly, she said she suffered an inferno incident in 2020 and in the process she lost her NYSC discharge certificate. Whereas the same Minister had stated in her letter to the NYSC that she successfully finished her primary assignment at Manema Universal Limited in Kaduna, got clearance, but couldn’t attend the passing out ceremony, as well as not able to collect the certificate due to illness. So, if the certificate was not collected in the first place, which NYSC document was consumed by fire? In the face of this inconsistency, can Musawa’s accusation against the NYSC of using the wrong call-up number to search for her discharge certificate be trusted?
Back to her appointment, the prerequisite checklist and the Law issue. The most revealing, damaging and challenging aspect of her alleged justification for a lacuna, which she struggled to avert before now, was her argument that there was no part of the law in Nigeria that provides that a serving corps member cannot be appointed by the President and that no part of the extant laws and the NYSC Act that mandates that a corps member must finish service “before he/she can be appointed into political office”, insisting that she has not broken any law in the land. Truly?
Again, Musawa allegedly cited the judgment of Justice Taiwo Taiwo of Federal High Court, Abuja, wherein she quoted the jurist as ruling that the Constitution of Nigeria, which is the “grundnorm, does not require anyone to even present a first-degree certificate or any other certificate, including the NYSC certificate to be appointed a Minister in Nigeria”.
For the record, NYSC was established by Decree number 24 of 2 May 1973 for “proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”. The decree, mandates all Nigerians who graduate from a university in or outside Nigeria to undergo the programme for a period of 12 months.
As amended, section 2 (2) of the NYSC Act (2004) said: “The only excluded Nigerians from the mandatory participation in the scheme are those who attained the age of 30 before their date of graduation, those who served in the Nigerian Armed Forces or the Police for more than nine months, staff of Nigerian security organisations and those conferred with national honours.”
From all indications, there is an infringement on the part of Minister Musawa, given the time (age) she finished from University, her primary assignment, as well as incoherent alleged justifications of her careless lapses.
If at all she authored the denied defence, another reality she must be faced with is that at the point of submitting her credentials for her present appointment, did she submit as a secondary school leaver, an undergraduate or a full fledged graduate of Law? Musawa and the public have a simple and correct answer to this question.
The point here is that given her status (and the time she finished from University), the NYSC discharge or exemption certificate is a must credential for her to make available (for her appointment), otherwise she is not qualified to be screened in the first place, let alone being confirmed. This informed the first assertion in this editorial that deliberate overlook and shadow grand plot were perceived in the current saga.
The truth of the matter is that Musawa’s alleged latest public showing is a mere sophistry, rhetoric, rude and shallow technicalities. Her latest action, it must be established, is to avoid another obstacle that could have impeded her political appointment for another time and disrupted her perceived soaring political career. Once bitten twice shy!
It should be noted that the same Minister, for the same reason, failed in November 2020 to be screened and considered for a National Pension Commission appointment.
Also, in her desperate move to collect the discharge certificate for the service she never completed, Musawa wrote the NYSC, its Board and the immediate past Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Sunday Dare, begging and pleading for interventions. As published by Premium Times, a portion of one of her many letters read in part: “…My reputation, future, career and integrity could be eroded if this matter (release of her NYSC discharge certificate) is not properly handled….” But in a face saving move, Musawa now pretends, as well as creates the impression that having the certificate is immaterial or irrelevant for her screening and confirmation as a Minister.
Musawa, we restate, has infringed upon the law and only time will tell, up until when her “cheat” would last.
Now the moral aspect of the saga. The Minister’s ordeal should be a warning and lesson for all Nigerians. It’s common to see people in this clime to be indifferent, careless and ruthless to anything ascribed to the government. Many behave as if they cannot assume leadership positions at another time, therefore, are indifferent to the actions, policies, moves and initiatives that can add values and contribute to the nation building drive. Whereas, when the opportunity eventually comes, they make frantic efforts to correct the previous wrongs. This is totally wrong. Nigerians should learn how and take pains to do what is right always, not necessarily waiting till when occasions warrant, then the chameleon naturally and conveniently changes colour and preaches new tunes. Many leaders in the past, including the present, have fallen into this trap. And it’s the same challenge that has played out in the Musawa’s NYSC certificate debate.
It was the same NYSC issue (fake certificate of exemption) that cost Adeosun her position in 2018. In spite of her alleged dismissive and offensive defence and justifications, the Minister should heed this warning. She shouldn’t foreclose legal actions from different angles against her conduct.
Already, a group – Incorporated Trustee of Concerned Nigeria, being represented by Patrick Eholor and Thomas Markus, have filed a lawsuit against the President, the Attorney General of the Federation and Musawa. The plaintiffs are seeking a court order to nullify her appointment as a Minister, arguing that Musawa’s current status as a National Youth Service Corps member contravenes the provisions of the NYSC Act and Bye-Laws.
“The appointment of Mrs Musawa is a violation of the provisions of the NYSC Act and the Bye-Laws. It is our belief that her position as a corps member disqualifies her from holding the office of a Federal Minister,” the group argued.
Now the real caveat. If the legal actions filed by groups or individuals do not fly, then the Minister should be wary of the similar action from her political circle, in particular her political godfathers. It’s very important that she persistently aligns with them.
Musawa should know that the same political “lords” who blocked now President Bola Ahmed Tinubu from fielding as a ministerial-nominee his present Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Wale Edun, during the first term of former President Muhammadu Buhari were also the ones who organised for her (Adeosun) fake NYSC certificate of exemption, but later went for her when she parted ways with them. Adeosun’s political masters in a vendetta move, went to the archive, brought the issue up, subjected their victim to empty defence and, pitiably so, no one was there to salvage the poor, brilliant and diligent Minister then. She had no choice, but to resign and immediately relocated to her original base, United Kingdom.
The point is: If Musawa fails the loyalty test with her political superiors, she should expect that at any time they desire, the whole truth will emerge and she would be victimised, as well as frustrated. Surely, her matter, in the end, will most likely climax in the same way Adeosun’s did. It suffices therefore to say and warn that she must tread softly!