If only as a lawyer, I find the ongoing uproar around the alleged forgery of a National Youth Service Corp, NYSC, Exemption Certificate by Minister of Finance, Ms Kemi Adeosun to be a rather very boring melodrama of a storm in a teacup.
In the first place, it is the obligation of the NYSC to mobilize qualified youths to serve, to issue such persons, when deserving, with Discharge Certificates, and to issue appropriate persons not qualified to serve with Exemption Certificates. This is not a favour it confers on appropriate Nigerians but a legal duty it must discharge.
Now, if any person is entitled to an Exemption Certificate, then whether or not such person is issued with one, or whether or not such person is in possession of one, in equity such person is deemed to possess one given that equity looks as done, that which ought to be done.
Thus, similarly, if someone had actually served and been entitled to be issued with an NYSC Discharge Certificate and for some reason such person was not so issued, he or she would be deemed in law to be in possession of one given that he or she is entitled to one.
The requirement to have an NYSC Exemption Certificate is not the same as for an NYSC Discharge Certificate. Whereas the purpose of the Discharge Certificate is to show that one has not broken the law by not serving, the sole purpose of the Exemption Certificate is to show why a person who otherwise should have served, has nevertheless not breached the law by not serving.
At the end of the day, what is actually material and essential in law is whether any a person, being one obligated to serve, has actually served or that a person not qualified to serve or lawfully unable to serve or otherwise excusable from service has not served for such lawful reason.
The certificates themselves, be they Discharge or Exemption, are of entirely secondary and accidental importance. As such, for instance, anyone in possession of a Discharge or Exemption Certificate issued to such person by the NYSC where such person is not so entitled is deemed in law to be in possession of an utterly worthless piece of paper and not entitled to applicable employment or appointment, whereas, any person who has not been issued with or is otherwise not in possession of either document as issued by the NYSC but is nevertheless entitled to be issued with one, is correspondingly entitled to applicable employment and appointment in law.
The fundamental question in law is not really whether or not any person is in possession of any particular document; it is whether or not such person is entitled to such document and the law deems a person who is entitled to any document but does not possess such as being in the exact same position as someone who being so entitled, actually possess one.
Now, forgery is undoubtedly a very serious offense but as with all crimes, it cannot exist within a legalistic praxis. Thus, just as no one can commit breaking and entering by breaking into his or her own house, so also is it entirely without basis that someone can run foul of the law by forging a document to which such person is entitled in the first place. Essentially, the law against forgery exists to prevent people from creating documents they are not entitled to, for the purpose of giving themselves out to others as so entitled.
It would thus be unjust, unfair, absurd and otiose to sanction anyone for being in possession of, for presenting, or for holding out his or herself as entitled to possess any document to which such person is entitled in law even if such document were forged.
As such, if Kemi Adeosun was ever entitled to being exempted from National Youth Service, then she was entitled to being issued with an Exemption Certificate, in which case, assuming, without conceding, that Ms Adeosun was not even issued an Exemption Certificate, it goes to absolutely no issue in law if indeed, having graduated, she was entitled to one as the law deems her to have that which she is entitled to have.
Assuming also, and again, without conceding, that she, in fact, is in possession of a forged Exemption Certificate, and or has presented same, it again goes to absolutely no issue in law for it is not possible to commit the crime of forging a document to which one is already entitled.
At any rate, quite apart from a kangaroo court, there is no forum anywhere in the world that would find anyone guilty for being in possession of a forged document, when such person is entitled to its authentic counterpart for even if a court where to hold that we may not create documents we are entitled to possess if we are not entitled to create them, such court would nevertheless hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience to punish anyone for doing so.
I am a lawyer and while I have fundamental differences with the Buhari administration and indeed with Ms Adeosun, herself, I will not play politics with the law and beat my sister to the ground on subterfuges distilled from utterly groundless reasoning, purporting to be legally sound. Ms Adeosun has no case to answer; could we now move on to more substantive issues, like NNPC accounts, Subsidy and the like, please?
JESUTEGA ONOKPASA, a lawyer, wrote from Warri.