May 21, 2024

It is Illegal to Appoint Youth Corpers into Public Office or as Ministers– Kunle Edun

Kunle Edun

Former Publicity Secretary and Welfare Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Kunle Edun has asserted that a youth corper can not be validly appointed into public office or as Minister.

In his comment, Mr. Edun who buttressed his point with judicial pronouncements and statutes, expressed that “In the past few days there have been commentaries on the appointment of Hannatu Musawa as a Minster of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The opinions of legal scholars are sharply divided on this issue. However, some of the opinions have been perceived as partisan and not altruistic.  This piece would objectively look at the issue and be frank with the truth; being that truth now seems to be a scarce commodity in Nigeria. 

“Section 2 of the National Youth Service Act provides that every citizen who has graduated from any institution of higher learning anywhere in the world and is not 30 years old as at the date of graduation shall be mobilized for the one year compulsory national youth service scheme. Those above the age of 30 are exempted but they must obtain exemption certificates before they can work in any institution. Failure to report for the national service or skipping the compulsory national service is a criminal offence and the defaulter is liable to punishment upon conviction. 

“In the case of MODIBO v. USMAN & Ors (2019) LPELR-59096(SC) the Supreme Court seems to have rested this issue when it held per Eko JSC (Rtd) inter alia: “It appears that the lower court had suggested quite obliquely that the appellant, an undoubted NYSC member and indeed any NYSC member, could combine the full time activities as a member of the House of Representatives. That to me appears absurd. The lower court failed to be guided by the overall public policy in the National Youth Service Act. Neither the lower court nor the appellant satisfactorily addressed the point raised by the trial court and the 1st Respondent/cross appellant that public policy “under National Youth Service Corps (NYSC scheme and the Bye-Law (Revised) 2011 made pursuant to the NYSC Act forbids a corps member from going into politics” or holding a partisan political appointment.”

In the same case, my lord Okoro, JSC stated, that “Also, it is not in dispute that the appellant was still a serving corps member at the time he contested and “won” the primary election. This was a clear violation of section2 (1) and (3) of the National Youth Service Corps Act and section 4(9) of the National Youth Service Corps Bye-Laws (Revised 2011). The court below was wrong to suggest that the appellant could combine the fulltime activities as a member of the House of Representatives with his primary assignment as a Corps member. By virtue of section 2 of the NYSC Act, a person called upon to serve in the service Corps is under an obligation to serve for a continuous period of one year from the date specified in the call-up letter. Section 4(9) of the NYSC Bye Laws (Revised 2011) provides as follows:

‘Every member shall “Not take part in partisan politics. Any member who takes part in partisan politics is liable to extension of service for a period not less than three (3) months without pay.’

The NYSC Act prohibits youth corpers from engaging in partisan politics. Can it be said with all sense of sincerity and frankness that Hannatu Musawa is not an active member of any political party in Nigeria? If the argument that the President has the power to deploy any serving youth corper to any government department to serve, is accepted, did Hannatu Musawa state in the documents she presented to the Senate for screening, that she was undergoing her NYSC program? If she did not, was that not a fraudulent act and ab initio intended to conceal from Nigerians the fact that she is a serving youth corper? Moreso, did President Tinubu nominate her as a Minister on the basis of her being a serving Youth Corper on deployment or the argument is an afterthought, just like finding a reason to justify the error in her appointment.

In the absence of any documentation between the Presidency and the NYSC confirming that Hannatu Musawa was originally requested for by the President, nominated and deployed as a serving youth corp member to her current Ministry, then all arguments that the President has the power to deploy her and did deploy her must be disregarded. Encouraged by both the Executive and legislative arms of government, Hannatu Musawa was assisted to violate the law and they are still persevering the illegality inspite of knowing the disaster that the appointment has done to the rule of law, respect for due process and the effect it will have to her NYSC colleagues that her still serving. No one has made a case that Hannatu Musawa has exceptional talent or abilities that will be of great benefit to Nigerians to be granted the “special deployment”. It then becomes obvious that considerations other than nationalistic and patriotic might have been considered in appointing her as a Minister. This is a fast way to destroy national ethos and values. 

 “Furthermore, there is nothing to show that she was granted a leave of absence by the NYSC Management. She cannot therefore, claim to be serving and at the same time be engaged in a heavily paid job.

“I completely agree with Femi Falana, SAN when he stated inter alia that “It is crystal clear from the authoritative pronouncements of the Supreme Court in the case of Modibbo v Usman (supra) that a youth corps member is not competent to contest any election in Nigeria. In the same vein, a person who has not completed the compulsory one year youth service is not competent to be appointed a Minister in Nigeria since the Constitution has prescribed the same qualifications and disqualifications for election into the House of Representatives and appointment into the post of a Minister.” Edun added.

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