Some senior lawyers in Nigeria have said the Minister of Arts and Culture, Hannatu Musawa, cannot be prosecuted for serving in the cabinet of the president while still a corps member.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria had on Thursday accused the minister of being a corps member, calling on the National Youth Service Corps to compel Musawa to focus on either her national youth service or the ministerial appointment.
In reaction, the NYSC accused Musawa of violating the NYSC Act.
The NYSC spokesperson, Eddy Megwa, explained that it was a breach of the NYSC Act for any corps member to pick up a government appointment until the one year of service was over.
Meanwhile, there was an unverified report in a viral statement allegedly credited to the minister claiming that she had not broken any part of the NYSC laws. One of the senior lawyers while speaking in an interview with our correspondent on Sunday, Norrision Quakers, SAN, stressed that she had not violated any provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended on the qualifications expected of a minister.
Quakers described the noise around the matter as unnecessary.
He said, “It is not a criminal offence; I don’t know why the hue and cry on it. What does the NYSC Act say? Section 2 is very clear. It says that service is compulsory for every Nigerian who has graduated from school. What she has done is nothing criminal; she is still in service. There is nothing in the Nigerian law that says someone like her cannot become a minister.
“Section 147(5) of the 1999 Constitution states the qualifications for anyone to be appointed as a minister. It states that no one should do so unless he is qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives. What are the disqualifications or qualifications for a member of the House of Representatives? You will find the disqualification provisions in Section 66, and none of this applies to her.
“The qualification provisions are stated in Section 65. There is nowhere in the constitution that states that a serving corps member cannot be appointed as a minister. All this hue and cry is not necessary.”
Adegoke Rasheed, SAN, said the court might have to determine if her current position as a minister is an employment or appointment.
According to him, her appointment is a form of service to the nation.
He noted she might not be prosecuted for the matter at hand, but rather she could be made to receive a corps member salary.
Adegoke said, “To me, it could be argued that her appointment is a form of service to the nation. She may be required to be subjected to the rule of the NYSC to attract no further remuneration beyond what is payable under the NYSC Act to an average corps member. The issue of prosecution or other things may not arise.”
Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, argued that her appointment as Minister should be regarded as part of her national assignment, adding that she must participate in other activities as a corps member and be made to receive allowances.
The lawyer said, “She has to be paid the same remuneration as they’re paying other corps members, and she must do all the other things that the corps members are doing. I think it should be regarded as part of her national assignment.”
Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN, noted that the provisions of the NYSC were not set in stone, saying that the minister’s service can be either deferred until her term in office or that the NYSC gives her an exemption letter to enable her to continue in office.
He said, “I do not think you are allowed to have an alternative job somewhere, so I think that employment is wrong in that scope. What should happen if the president becomes aware? We will probably ask her to go back to finish her service.