Source: The Guardian (Abuja)
By Feyi Fawehinmi
I was never a fan of the now former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun. I’m also not a fan of the NYSC programme – as I wrote here in December 2016, the programme is an immoral and unfair use of resources. It is also important to remember that Mrs Adeosun’s crime was using a forged certificate. Against that, there is no defence.
But in her resignation letter to the president, something interesting was revealed. As is known, she was born in the UK but the first time she ever got a Nigerian passport, according to her, was when she was 34 years old. If you graduate after you turn 30, you are exempted from the NYSC. But what if you become a Nigerian citizen after 30? Why did Mrs Adeosun need an exemption certificate anyway?
The Nigerian constitution takes an expansive view of citizenship. This is not surprising once you understand it was written by Marxists and unreconstructed communists. Apparently you are a ‘citizen’ if your parents are Nigerians. But here we see the problem with not testing laws with the purpose of perfecting them. Something like the Land Use Act – an incredibly important law – has never been once amended in the 40 years since it came into being. The same thing with the NYSC – can a law be so perfect that it never needs to be updated or amended? This scandal created the perfect opportunity for Nigeria to address issues around NYSC and how the constitution is worded concerning citizenship. Given that so many Nigerians continue to have their kids in America and many more are sure to emerge from Canada in the near future with the current wave of migration, issues like that of Mrs Adeosun are bound to reoccur.
The reason why the NYSC applied to her was because she was a ‘citizen’ of Nigeria. But at the time she graduated from university in the UK, the only passport she had was a British one even though she qualified for Nigerian citizenship through her parents. So the question to ask is this – does NYSC apply to you whenever you become a citizen? If you were born abroad and were a citizen of another country until you were, say, in your 40s and then took up Nigerian citizenship, what is your obligation as regards NYSC? We can test this with a hypothetical scenario.