The Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights has finalised plans to institute a class action against the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for its failure to investigate the certificate forgery allegations against the finance minister, Kemi Adeosun.
Frank Tietie, the executive director of the group, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that the class action was aimed at securing a court order to compel the ICPC to begin investigations into the allegations against Ms Adeosun.
“We’ve put our papers together, we’re ready, we are making an application for an order of mandamus upon ICPC to prosecute, we are also joining the Attorney General of the Federation and NYSC,” Mr Tietie, a human rights lawyer, said.
“We needed to make it a class action, let it not be that only me because in this era where people think that anything you do to challenge government is because you want to be settled.”
Last month, the group issued a seven-day notice to the ICPC demanding an investigation into the allegations that Ms Adeosun falsified her National Youth Service Corps exemption certificate.
It also demanded an investigation into what it described as the collusion of silence by NYSC officials.
The notice came more than a month after PREMIUM TIMES exposed how Ms Adeosun skipped the mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps scheme and forged a certificate that showed she had been exempted from participation.
“A period of more than 4 weeks has passed and the Honourable Minister has neither given a plausible response nor has she resigned her position in preparation for possible prosecution,” read the group’s notice to the ICPC dated August 13.
“Also, following the report of forgery by the Honourable Minister, in the last 4 weeks, the officials of the NYSC have maintained an unpatriotic silence that is of a highly worrisome and criminal dimension.
“This is utterly embarrassing to many Nigerians, including my humble self who hold with sacrosanctity the NYSC programme that has caused many Nigerians, including me, to hazard our lives through many dangers, sufferings, pains and death.”
The revelation about how Ms Adeosun allegedly forged her NYSC exemption certificate elicited a public outrage from Nigerians, with the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, a nongovernmental organisation, .petitioning the police inspector general demanding an investigation into the claims against the minister
Last month, another nongovernmental organisation, the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sued the NYSC over its failure to disclose details of the certificate paraded by the minister. The group had earlier made a freedom of information request to the NYSC which the agency refused to honour.
So far, the only response from the government on the scandal is a short statement by the NYSC on July 9 saying it would investigate the claims.
On August 6, Lai Mohammed, the information minister, said the appropriate agency is still investigating the allegations against Ms Adeosun and the president will only act at the end of that.
A call for action
Mr Tietie said the class action suit against the ICPC is an action to save the NYSC certificate from “uselessness.”
“There has been no response, so the presumption is that PREMIUM TIMES is correct and if PREMIUM TIMES is correct, what it means is that the NYSC certificate is now useless,” Mr Tietie said.
“It’s just a journey. Whether they prosecute her or they don’t prosecute her, we will ultimately get an order to say that it (NYSC certificate) is no longer useful, they should either set aside the provision that makes it compulsory or ensure that Kemi Adeosun is investigated.
“And if she is indicted, she should return all her salaries and all the things she received as the honourable minister of finance.”
In July, the ICPC successfully prosecuted a staff in the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation for forging his Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) certificate. James Lebi-Ayodele was convicted by an FCT High Court and sentenced to two years in prison without an option of fine.
Mr Tietie said the law setting up the ICPC and other investigative agencies does not require them to receive a petition before they can act.
“If you look at the law setting up the police, ICPC and the EFCC, they are supposed to be proactive they are supposed to, on their own, go and take up cases that are notorious or public knowledge and prosecute them, they don’t need to wait for anybody to write a petition to them,” he said.
“In the case of ICPC, I told them that they should have done it because based on the provisions of the ICPC Act, I cited the law, that they should have on their own gone to prosecute the woman.”
“The ICPC is not even responding because it believes there is no petition to it yet. We are saying that you don’t need a petition, there are certain facts that are called ‘notorious facts’ which the court takes judicial notice of, which every public institution takes judicial notice of.
“This is a notorious fact, it is in the public domain, they ought to have investigated and concluded their investigation in not less than 48 hours, maximum seven days.”
Despite the public outrage that greeted the certificate forgery scandal, Mr Tietie said the response to his group’s call for action “has been unimpressive.”
On Wednesday, the advocacy group, Enough Is Enough Nigeria joined the call for more citizens to join the class action.
— EiE Nigeria (@EiENigeria) September 12, 2018
“So many people expressed support but without wanting their names to be put on the paper,” said Mr Tietie.
“Those who joined were mainly lawyers from across the country, the northern and the southern part of the country and then south-south and then few individuals, maybe they don’t really understand the concept of class action.”