Razaq Atunwa, the governorship candidate of the PDP in Kwara State has found himself in an NYSC certificate forgery scandal.
Atunwa, who emerged as the party’s candidate after defeating Senator Shaba Lafiagi at the governorship primaries in the state is the second politician in a month that will be caught to have skipped the compulsory youth service.
Former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun was also caught in a certificate forgery scandal while Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu was also found to have skipped NYSC despite finishing his university education at the age of 25.
Did Atunwa Intentionally Skip The NYSC?
Mr. Atunwa, born on October 17, 1969, has said he studied law at the University of East London and graduated in 1992 at the age of 23.
Having earned a bachelor’s degree at 23, Atunwa in honour of Section 2 of the NYSC Act, should have participated in the one-year compulsory national service.
There is a provision for service for overseas-trained Nigerians in the NYSC as it is a programme every Nigerian youth, not older than 30 and has gone through a higher institution of learning(university and polytechnic) must go through.
Evidence Showing Atunwa Forged NYSC Certificate
Atunwa, in the NYSC certificate below, had his certificate signed by Walter Oki. Investigations have revealed that Oki never became the DG of the NYSC until 2002, a fact which dwarfs and falsifies Atunwa’s certificate. According to the certificate, Oki signed it in 1996 as the DG of the NYSC, which is a lie, as gathered from findings. He was named the 12th Director-General of NYSC in March 2002 and was the first ex-Corp member to be named DG, further strengthening the forgery allegation against Atunwa.
Also, in the certificate, Atunwa’s call-up number bears ‘KWP’ which falsifies the certificate further because, as a foreign-trained student, his call-up number should begin with “FORN” or “FRN”.
Atunwa’s Political Career
Premium Times revealed that the former Kwara State House of Assembly Speaker did not come to Nigeria until 2005, 13 years after his graduation from the university.
He joined the cabinet of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who was then the governor of Kwara State in 2005 at the age of 36.
Between his arrival in 2005 and 2010, when he joined the political fray and ran for office, Atunwa was Commissioner four times in different ministries namely; Land and Housing, Works and Transport, Information and Home Affairs and Finance.
He is currently the Chairman of the House Committee on Justice after being voted in as a Member of the House of Representatives in 2015.
How Has Atunwa come This Far?
It is not clear if Atunwa, who claimed to have finished from the university in 1992 and had his Masters of Law degree in universities in London presented his NYSC certificate at screenings held for him at the assumption of the political offices he has held. However, he attached an NYSC certificate to his expression of interest form for the PDP’s governorship candidacy in Kwara.
The lawmaker, who is chair of the House Committee on Justice, then accompanied it with a notarised affidavit sworn at the Kwara State High Court in Ilorin on September 10. The document was attached to his PDP expression of interest form.
He signed the document(the form) despite a clause indicating he remained automatically disqualified as candidate if any statement or information he provided is found to be false, inaccurate, or mislead the party or its agents from making proper assessment of his competence to contest the governorship election under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It is left to be seen if the PDP will go against its own regulations in giving a just assessment of the situation and act accordingly.
It Is A Criminal Offence: A Legal Opinion On The Scandal
According to a foremost attorney, Liborous Oshoma who spoke to a media outlet, Premium Times;
“Based on Section 13 (c) of the NYSC Act, even being in possession of a forged NYSC certificate is already a crime,” Mr. Oshoma said. “And then we now have an affidavit that he swore to and walked himself into perjury, another criminal offense.”
“You could say Kemi Adeosun did not know some people gave her fake document, and Mr. Shittu was being exuberant, but this particular case is very troubling,” the lawyer said. “He knew of those recent cases and still went on to do it.
“This is amongst the consequences of the president’s failure to act on time or act at all on the already uncovered cases. Since the former finance minister was able to escape from the country without prosecution and the communications minister remains in office despite being found not to be qualified for the job, this man could easily dismiss any legal ramifications of his action,” he added.
“Since it has now come to the fore that if you graduated before 30, either from a Nigerian university or abroad, you know you do not qualify for exemption and you must serve and if you forge your document you would be exposed, I would have expected that all those who schooled abroad would start investigating whether the NYSC document they were given was genuine or not. There is no hiding place anymore.”
“I strongly advise that you verify each and every assertion you wish to make. You may wish to make formal inquiries/verifications of all institutions concerned,” 7Atunwa said in his response to Premium Times, who broke the forgery scandal.
“You should also be circumspect enough to authenticate the provenance of any document you may be handed if it’s not from a formal and official source.
“An organization such as yours should not fall short of the required legal and ethical standards.”
The revelation of Atunwa’s forgery of his NYSC certificate is coming from individuals within the PDP, who were previously aware of the fake certificate but have chosen to spill the bean when they got displeased with the party’s decision to choose Atunwa ahead of others.
Recall that a fight broke out between supporters of Razaq Atunwa and Bolaji Abdullahi on the day of the first primary election held at the Banquet Hall, opposite Government House, Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. Senate President, Saraki was reported by Political Stew to have left Abuja for Ilorin at 9 p.m as revealed by his spokesperson, Yusuf Olaniyonu. Saraki’s presence in Ilorin, we gathered, was to broker peace between the warring supporters.
In a swift twist to the development, Bolaji Abdullahi, a former Minister of Youth Development and Sports stepped down for Atunwa, while other aspirants also backed out of the contest, leaving lawmaker from Kwara North, Shaba Lafiagi against Atunwa.