The National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) has confirmed the authenticity of its certificate presented before the Nigerian Senate for screening by one of President Bola Tinubu’s ministerial nominees, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo.
An investigation had picked holes in the NYSC certificate presented by Mr Tunji-Ojo, a second-term member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives nominated to be a minister in Mr Tinubu’s cabinet.
Mr Tunji-Ojo claimed to have undergone the National Youth Service Scheme between November 2019 and November 2020.
But a scrutiny of his NYSC certificate showed that it was issued in February and signed by Yushau Ahmed, a Brigadier General, who only became NYSC Director-General (DG) in January. This raised questions about the authenticity of the nominee’s certificate because NYSC issues certificates immediately after completion of the programme and does not reprint lost or damaged certificates.
But despite these gaps yet to be filled by the nominee, Nigerian lawmakers approved Mr Tunji-Ojo’s nomination to be appointed minister.
This newspaper, therefore, wrote a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the management of the NYSC, requesting the verification of the said certificate.
In the request, this newspaper also asked NYSC to clarify why the certificate was signed in February, more than two years after the lawmaker was said to have completed the scheme.
Also requested information regarding Mr Tunji-Ojo’s mobilisation for NYSC, considering he was, throughout the duration, a member of the House of Representatives.
“If the certificate is genuine, in what organisation did he carry out his primary assignment? What was his community development service project? Through which bank was he paid allowances? Did he participate in the orientation programme signalling the commencement of Service, and the passing-out parade signalling the completion of service?” parts of the letter read.
The organisation said Mr Tunji-Ojo’s certificate is genuine, noting that the nominee was first mobilised in 2006 but “absconded from the service.”
NYSC said Mr Tunji-Ojo only later resurfaced in 2018 and was remobilised in 2019 and deployed to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in Garki, Abuja, as his place of primary assignment.
The organisation, however, said Mr Tunji-Ojo’s certificate was omitted when others were printed in 2020.
“During the passing out, his Certificate of National Service was not available because it was omitted in the Certificate Printing Application,” the NYSC said.
“He (Mr Tunji-Ojo) applied for his Certificate of National Service through the State Coordinator FCT on 18th October 2022, and the State Coordinator forwarded the same to the Headquarters and his Certificate of National Service No. A004523631 was produced on 28th February 2023 for collection.”
More questions for NYSC
While it is commendable that NYSC responded to the newspaper’s inquiry within a record time as mandated by Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act, PREMIUM TIMES has also noted clear omissions in the agency’s response to some of the questions.
NYSC failed to explain why a sitting member of the National Assembly would be mobilised for another full-time engagement as a corps member.
Also, NYSC would be required to explain whether Mr Tunji-Ojo earned an allowance while in service and how he was able to cope by combining the two engagements.
Also, does the law establishing NYSC permit a lawmaker or any other elected official to be mobilised for the service?
These and many more questions are what NYSC has failed to answer in its response to this newspaper’s request.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe