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Is completion of NYSC requirement for political appointments?

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The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a scheme established over forty years ago by Decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 to encourage and develop common ties among the Nigerian Youth and promote national unity. It is a year-long service compulsory for all Nigerians who graduate from universities or equivalent institutions at less than 30 years of age.

The relevance of this scheme to political appointments at different levels continues to stir controversy. In 2018, Premium Times reported how the then finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, skipped NYSC and submitted a forged exemption certificate, which led to her resignation. Similarly, in Feb. 2023, another controversy arose around the Enugu state governor, Peter Mbah’s NYSC certificate. While there were genuine concerns, the courts, using section 177 of the 1999 constitution, which does not list the NYSC as a requirement to be governor, made it clear that NYSC participation is not constitutional for holding public office. 

Recently, the Kwara State governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, nominated an ex-corps member, Ms Nafisat Buge, who just finished the mandatory one-year service as a commissioner designate. This appointment, applauded by the State coordinator of the NYSC, Onifade Olaoluwa, was, however, knocked as inconsequential by an X user, Chidi Odinkalu, CGoF (@ChidiOdinkalu). 

Mr Odinkalu expressed his surprise that the appointment of an NYSC member is making the news because, according to him, the NYSC is a legal requirement and standard practice for work in Nigeria. 

The unending controversies around appointments/elections and the NYSC certificate prompted DUBAWA to investigate the assertion. 

What does the Law say? 

This NYSC Decree (Now Act) is part of the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution. Section 315 (5) of the Nigerian Constitution notes that nothing in the Constitution invalidates the National Youth Service Corps Decree 1993. Other Acts like the Public Complaints Commission Act, the National Security Agencies Act and the Land Use Act publish the same.

Section 12 of the NYSC Act states, “For employment anywhere in the Federation and before employment, it shall be the duty of every prospective employer to demand and obtain from any person who claims to have obtained his first degree at the end of the academic year 1973-7. As the case may be, at the end of any subsequent academic year, the following:

“A copy of the Certificate of National Service of such person issued under section 11 of this Decree; a copy of any exemption certificate issued to such person according to section 17 of this Decree or other particulars relevant there to as may be prescribed by or under this Decree.”

The Act also noted that it shall also be the duty of every employer to produce on demand to the police officer, not below the rank of an Assistant Superintendent of Police, any such certificate and particulars or copies thereof.

Is completion of NYSC requirement for political appointments?

Screenshot of the NYSC Act. 

Does this section, which applies to employment, also apply to political appointments?

Unfortunately, the constitution only explicitly states the requirements for appointing the Attorney General in section 86, governors in section 177, and legislators in section 65. 

Section 86 of the constitution reads, “The Auditor-General for the Federation shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Federal Civil Service Commission subject to confirmation by the Senate. (2) The power to appoint persons to act in the office of the Auditor-General shall vest in the President.”

For the office of governor, section 177 reads, “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth, he has attained the age of thirty-five years, he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party and if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”

For members of the legislature, section 65 (1) reads, “Subject to the provisions of section 66 of this Constitution, a person shall be qualified for election as a member of the Senate if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of 35 years and the House of Representatives if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of 30 years. 

Section 65 (2) reads, “A person shall be qualified for election under subsection (1) of this section if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent if he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.

The NYSC is not listed as one in all of the above-listed requirements. It is also worth noting that court rulings at different points dismissed the NYSC certificate as a requirement for public office. 

In 2018, The Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that Ms Adeosun did not breach any law by being appointed ministerial in 2015 without participating in the NYSC scheme. Similarly, in the last general election, the court also ruled in the same line concerning the case of the Enugu state governor’s certificate

Expert Opinion

A legal practitioner, Elizabeth Achimugu, noted that before now, to get a job, go for a master’s degree, or even get a political appointment, you should have finished your NYSC, but things are different. 

Referring to the Kemi Adeosun NYSC certificate controversy, she said, “If I remember, the former minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, did not go for NYSC, and on that ground, she was removed as minister. So, it was very stringent, and people were concerned about it.  Although she had finished university long ago but didn’t serve.”

Although people raised an eyebrow, and the NYSC reacted, stating it is a breach of the NYSC Act and hence illegal, she said President Tinubu made an executive order that you can also do another job as a corp member. So you can both serve at the same time and do another job. 

She added that the main question we should ask is if an executive order has a force of law or is superior to a legislative decree (the NYSC Act).

“NYSC was supposed to be compulsory for anyone who is a  graduate and is interested in a political position, and that is why Kemi Adeosun left, but this current administration, it seems not to be working because even the current governor of Enugu State did not finish his NYSC. He came with a NYSC result, which NYSC acknowledged he didn’t finish, but he is now a governor. Even though that is the law, in reality, President Tinubu’s administration has changed the law.”

Another legal practitioner, John Achile, referring to the same case of appointing a minister still serving, said a lot of impunity is ongoing in the current government. 

He responded, “It is supposed to be a requirement, but in certain situations, like a member of the armed forces, it can waived. But in this case, what they are doing is wrong, but they are doing it. It is an abuse of office.”

We also contacted Inibehe Effiong for his comments on the issue but got no response. 

Conclusion

While the NYSC Act and legal practitioners state that NYSC participation is a requirement for employment and political appointment, the constitution is silent on this, and several court judgments in the past have dismissed it as a requirement. So, whether the NYSC certificate is required for a political appointment has become debatable, depending on which side of the table you are on. 

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