Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has said that the National Youth Service Corps certificate saga, which led to her resignation as minister made life more difficult for her.
She said this at the 10th anniversary of the Uncommon Woman Conference organised by the Jesus House Church, United Kingdom.
The Minister described the scandal as horrible, adding that it was the most difficult time of her life.
On 7 July 2018, report broke that Adeosun had illegally obtained her NYSC exemption certificate to get into public office.
On 14 September 2018, Adeosun resigned as Minister of Finance in a written letter to the President due to the alleged NYSC Certificate forgery scandal.
She had admitted using a forged exemption certificate of the NYSC, which she presented for her appointment in 2015.
The report revealed how Adeosun skipped the mandatory national youth service scheme and procured a forged certificate purporting to have exempted her from the one-year mandatory exercise.
Adeosun had while tendering her resignation letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on September 14, 2018, admitted that she realised that the NYSC certificate she had presented to be appointed as minister “was not genuine.”
She admitted presenting the same fraudulent certificate for her earlier appointment as Commissioner for Finance of Ogun State in 2011.
But revealing how she was able to deal with the scandal, the former finance minister said she wept every day without working for three months.
According to her, everything about her life was at a standstill while she had to deal with shame, betrayal, disappointment and humiliation.
She said more painful was the fact that she quit her job as a minister at a time when the economy was beginning to feel the positive impact of her economic policies after a long period of stagnation.
Adeosun said “That period of life was tough for me. I went to step into the shoes of someone like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
“So, I was under fire from day one, it looked like things were not working. Then all of a sudden,the economy started to improve. It was like I was beginning to see the desired result.
“Then out of nowhere, the certificate scandal came. And before I knew it, everything turned upside down. And that was how the issue went viral.
Giving more details on what led to the scandal, the former minister said, “I was born and raised in the United Kingdom; indeed, my parental family home remains in London.
“My visits to Nigeria up until the age of 34 were holidays, with visas obtained in my UK passport. When I finished school, there was no opportunity for dual citizenship; I either renounce my British citizenship or hold on to it and work here. I didn’t renounce mine. I finished school at 21 and started working at 22.
“I obtained my first Nigerian passport at the age of 34 and when I relocated, there was debate as to whether the NYSC law applied to me. Upon enquiry as to my status relating to the NYSC, I was informed that due to my residency history and having exceeded the age of 30, I was exempted from the requirement to serve. Until recent events, that remained my understanding.
“On the basis of that advice and with the guidance and assistance of those I thought were trusted associates, the NYSC was approached for documentary proof of status.
“I then received the certificate in question. Having never worked in the NYSC, visited the premises, been privy to or familiar with their operations, I had no reason to suspect that the certificate was anything but genuine.
“Indeed, I presented that certificate at the 2011 Ogun State House of Assembly and in 2015 for the Department of State Services clearance as well as to the National Assembly for screening. I sought legal advice and there was no problem I could get an exemption for the NYSC.
“I was so ashamed at that time because I was into teenagers’ mentoring and all of that. So, the experience negated the lessons I had taught my teenagers. I cried every day for three months; I didn’t do anything for anyone or myself for those months. I just cried, cried, and cried.”
The former Minister of finance said that despite the court judgement which cleared and vindicated her from the scandal, she still wasn’t happy.
Adeosun’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) had filed a case against the Attorney General of the Federation, urged the court to declare that his client cannot be disqualified from serving as either a member of the House of Assembly of a State, a Commissioner in the State Executive Council; Governor of a State; member of the National Assembly; Minister in the Federal Executive Council or the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the ground that she did not participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, established by the National Youth Service Corps Act, CAP N84, LFN 2004.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Taiwo Taiwo had held that participation in NYSC was not a yardstick for being selected as a Federal Minister.
But the former finance minister said that despite being cleared by the Court, she still didn’t feel better as she had to go through another round of counselling to heal.
“I thought I would feel better when I got vindicated by the court but I still wasn’t happy. The court cleared my name three years later but it took another time of counselling and therapy before I felt better.
“It was thereafter I forged ahead with life and started my charity work,” she added.
Minister of finance budget and national planningMrs Kemi AdeosunUncommon Woman Conference