Folakemi Adeosun, the British-born Nigeria’s finance minister, whose counterfeit youth service scheme certificate was the subject of a relentless news coverage for over two months, left her senior cabinet position on Friday.
The development — although came largely as a result of the PREMIUM TIMES investigation that exposed her in July— followed the conclusion of an internal probe by a senior administration official detailed to supervise the government’s independent findings, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
President Muhammadu Buhari accepted Mrs Adeosun’s resignation on Friday night, in which she admitted the document was forged and she had to step down to avoid being a perpetual liability to the administration.
“I have, today, become privy to the findings of the investigation into the allegation made in an online medium that the Certificate of Exemption from National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) that I had presented was not genuine,” Mrs Adeosun said of the PREMIUM TIMES investigation that precipitated her ouster. “This has come as a shock to me and I believe that in line with this administration’s focus on integrity, I must do the honourable thing and resign.”
The resignation letter was the first time Mrs Adeosun’s position would be made public since the certificate scandal was first exposed on July 7.
She declined multiple requests for comments when first told by PREMIUM TIMES that investigations had revealed the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate she was parading was forged.
The former finance minister, whose parents had long settled in England before she was born, had claimed she obtained a certificate of exemption from the NYSC upon arriving in Nigeria in the early 2000s.
Prior to being appointed minister, she had used the same document to secure jobs at private professional services firms and also served as finance commissioner in her home Ogun State.
After our findings were published, legal experts and experts in NYSC operations, including a former director-general, agreed the document was forged and demanded she either clarify or resign immediately.
Mrs Adeosun, however, remained defiant of the public outrage, setting off a prolonged cat race that pitted top administration officials and some of the president’s top allies against each other.
She ultimately lost the battle on Friday, 69 days later.
Within days after our investigation was published, Mr Buhari enlisted the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to take over internal government findings on the matter and offer recommendations.
Boss Mustapha immediately commenced work on a mission so secretive all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark about its progress, multiple sources with sufficient insight on the investigation told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Mustapha started by first directing Ms Adeosun to issue a press statement on the matter. This was aimed at managing the public anger against the government over her silence, which citizens saw as an upraised middle finger from both the scandal-plagued minister and the administration she served.
But she rejected the advice. This prompted Mr Mustapha to fire her repeated queries and reminders, all of which she neither acknowledged nor addressed, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Consequently, the SGF wrote to the NYSC via its supervising Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, demanding the scheme’s position on the scandal.
A few days later, the NYSC responded to Mr Mustapha, also through the ministry, telling the SGF in no uncertain terms that Mrs Adeosun, indeed, forged her certificate as reported.
Mr Mustapha then prepared a report to the president, in which he confirmed that all elements of PREMIUM TIMES investigation were true and recommended that Mrs Adeosun was no longer fit as a cabinet minister.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Mustapha recommended Mrs Adeosun for prosecution, which is top amongst the demands Nigerians made of the administration.
It was also unclear whether Mr Mustapha investigated the part about how federal lawmakers also deployed the former minister’s forged document as a blackmail tool to get her into illegally disbursing public funds to them.
The SGF did not return PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments about his investigation of Mr Adeosun for more than a week.
Mr Buhari promised to act on Mr Mustapha’s report, but the political pressure his allies exerted on him made it difficult for him to act fast.
Amongst those who plotted intensely to block Mrs Adeosun’s removal was Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.
Mr Amosun, arguably the strongest ally of Mr Buhari in the southwest, recommended Mrs Adeosun for the position in 2015.
Mr Amosun was amongst the first set of politicians who scrambled to save Mrs Adeosun a day after her forgery was exposed, a pressure he and others kept alive for over two months and well into the last minutes.
Itse Sagay, an anti-corruption adviser to Mr Buhari, also alarmed many when he disclosed in August that Mrs Adeosun should be allowed to keep her position.
He said what was more important was the former minister’s stellar management of the Nigerian economy.
As the back end politicking by Mr Amosun was ongoing, senior administration officials, including Mrs Adeosun’s cabinet colleagues, were on the sidelines demanding that that the president must take a decisive action on the scandal.
“All of us were worried that this scandal has, by extension, plagued us for too long and we were finding it difficult to function optimally in our respective capacities as a result,” a senior administration official told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday.
Another official said Mr Buhari was telling everyone that he would act at a specific time, only to dash their hopes.
“He said he will sack her after returning from the July ending joint-Ecowas meeting in Togo,” the source said, “but he did not do so.”
The president also promised to act upon arrival from the meeting at the International Criminal Court in Netherlands, but did not live up to it. Yet another promise was made by the president when he was proceeding on a 10-day vacation in London in August, only to renege.
The president was caught in-between, but every day the scandal went unaddressed cut deeply into his public perception amidst a looming general election in which he hopes to retain his seat and expand the fortunes of his All Progressives Congress, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Dayo Adeneye, Mr Amosun’s information commissioner, did not return requests for comments about whether or not his principal lobbied to keep Mrs Adeosun in office despite strong criminal allegations.
A turbulent week
Mrs Adeosun was appointed in November 2015. Her exploits included noticeable improvement in tax collection and the cutting down of waste in public service, especially the curbing ghost-workers and budget racketeers.
Although the country plunged into recession under her watch in August 2016, the economy later bounced back with fair improvement in GDP growth by mid 2017.
Her tenure also saw Nigeria successfully raise Eurobond to shore up the economy, following reduction in oil prices which crippled government activities and threatened payroll.
When Mrs Adeosun stepped down on Friday, Zainab Ahmed from Kaduna State was announced as her replacement.
That decision has been criticised by some Nigerians. But administration’s said Mr Buhari only picked her because she is female, and already a confirmed minister.
As news of Mrs Adeosun’s departure dominated the headlines Friday night, she quietly edited the biography on her verified Twitter page to remove her affiliation to the Nigerian government.
She did not immediately replace it with any new position, also she tweaked her profile image to what seemed an official portrait of her with a grin.
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