Senior Advocates of Nigeria and other senior lawyers yesterday spoke in unison on the controversy that trailed the appointment of Hannatu Musawa as minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, by President Bola Tinubu.
According to them, there is no iota of illegality in her appointment.
There has been controversy over her appointment, with many claiming that Musawa cannot be appointed as minister while still undergoing the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
A senior official of the NYSC had confirmed that the minister is a serving corps member.
Musawa was appointed minister by President Bola Tinubu about two weeks ago.
Shortly after her inauguration, some Nigerians disagreed with her appointment, saying she can’t observe her mandatory one-year youth service programme and still serve as minister of the federal republic at the same time.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Abdul Balogun (SAN), said no law under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria bars her from taking up appointment as a minister while observing youth service.
According to him, there is nothing illegal about her appointment.
He said, “There is absolutely nothing illegal in the appointment of the minister. She can serve as a minister and at the same time observe her youth service. For me, I don’t think any issue should be made out of her appointment. If this controversy is allowed to linger, it will amount to distraction for the minister and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) where she will be serving. I think we have more issues to deal with than this because there is nothing to debate about on this, the 1999 Constitution is clear on this”.
Another learned silk, Kunle Adegoke (SAN), maintained that the controversy over Musawa’s appointment was unnecessary because appointment into a political office is a call to service and should not be seen as employment for personal gains.
Adegoke said the appointment is a continuation of her duties as a youth corps member under the Act and should not attract any remuneration beyond what is payable to an average youth corps member until the expiration of her period for youth service.
The rights activist said, “The NYSC Act, in Section 12 thereof, requires every prospective employer to ask for the certificate of discharge or exemption of any person who is eligible for youth service under the Act before such a person is offered employment.
“It means that no person shall be employed without producing such a certificate as required by the Act. However, the provision in this regard does not mean that no person can be appointed into a political office without having completed the youth service.
“Appointment into a political office is a service that cannot be seen as employment for personal gains. It is this wrong perspective that an average Nigerian harbours that makes us to be thinking that a political appointment should be seen as a career or an opportunity for self-enrichment like an average employment.
“I do not subscribe to the criticism of the appointment of Hannatu Musawa in this regard. Do we see the appointment of a minister as an opportunity to serve the nation? Hannatu should be regarded as carrying out her obligation to serve the land since she had enrolled for youth service before the president appointed her as a minister.
“She was already undergoing the youth service before she was appointed. The appointment in this regard should be seen as re-deployment from wherever she was serving before.
“It is a continuation of her duties as a youth corps member under the Act and should not attract any remuneration beyond what is payable to an average youth corps member until the expiration of her period for youth service.
“The only instance in which she could have committed an offence contrary to the NYSC Act is if she had claimed that she had completed youth service before her appointment as a minister.
“I believe that rather than creating a storm in a tea cup, this matter should be treated as stated herein,” he maintained.
In his view, a retired lecturer, faculty of law, Lagos of University, Prof Gbenga Ojo, said the legality of the appointment is debatable.
Ojo said on whether it is lawful or not, it is a debatable point.
“It is unprecedented but I don’t think that it is unlawful. It is an appointment and not employment. The condition precedent to getting employment in Nigeria is that you must have completed the one-year mandatory youth corps service to the nation. That is the law.
“Though it can be argued that this is appointment at the prerogative of the president and not employment and, therefore, not within the contemplation of the law.
“The draftsman would not have contemplated that a serving member of the programme will be appointed as a minister or given any appointment for that matter.
“It might be difficult for her to get employment in the future unless she goes back to complete the programme by which time, she will not be eligible. It is a youth programme for graduates of 30 years and below.
“Furthermore, she definitely does not have any experience at all. If she must be appointed, it should a special adviser and not even senior special adviser. How she passed through the screening by the Senate is difficult to understand.
“If it is to appeal to the youths, there are other youths with experience. It is not right. To think that nobody or organisation has raised this issue before now is another disturbing issue.
“On whether it is lawful or not, it is a debatable point. It is unprecedented but I don’t think that it is unlawful. It is an appointment and not employment,” he said.
On his part, Ahamed Raji (SAN), said there appears to be some fine distinction between being employed and being appointed.
The learned silk stated: “Discharge certificate may be a condition for employment. I am not sure (and of course barring any misrepresentation), the discharge certificate may be a condition for appointments.
“It is however doubtful if some appointments can be combined with service. Where such may not be combined, the lesser one may be suspended”.
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mahmud S. Abdulahi, said once she meets the pre-conditions in Section 147 of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, Section 147 (5) of the 1999 Constitution says, “No person shall be appointed as a Minister of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives.
“Section 106 of the 1999 constitution says you must be a citizen of Nigeria; you must have attained the age of 25 years, and you have been educated up to at least a school certificate level, or its equivalent. You must be a member of a political party and you must be sponsored by that political party.
“The question to ask at this point is, did she meet all these conditions? If she meets all these conditions, then, no reason to raise any issue about her appointment.”
Another senior lawyer, Barrister Paul Ezemadu, said wondered why Nigerians love to raise unnecessary controversy.
“I dare say that the controversy over the minister’s NYSC status is out of joblessness or idleness. Some persons just want to make issues out of nothing. There is no issue here. The minister is eminently qualified for the appointment”, he said.
Also, a constitutional lawyer, Barrister Audu Belau, called on the minister to ignore those calling for her sack’ saying it is a distraction which she should not allow.
“It is not enough to call for a public officer’s sack. You should look at the law backing the appointment of such public officers before talking.
“My advice for the minister is to ignore those noise about her status as regards NYSC and concentrate on the work she has been appointed to do”, Belau said.
Musawa Debunks Statement On NYSC Status
Meanwhile, the minister of Art, Culture, and Creative Economy, Barrister Musawa, yesterday refuted claims circulating in a piece titled: “My Personal Statement on My NYSC Status as a Serving Minister.”
The minister clarified that the piece inaccurately associated her with the ongoing discussion about her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) status.
The minister, in a statement signed by the deputy director of Press at the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation, Suleiman Haruna, yesterday in Abuja categorically stated that she has not issued any official statement on the matter in question.
She urged the public to exercise caution and refrain from spreading unverified information.
Expressing gratitude for the support and understanding of the Nigerian people during this time, Barrister Musawa reiterated her position, saying, “I deeply value and appreciate the support, solidarity, and understanding of Nigerians in these times. For clarity, I wish to state that I have not issued any statement on the current issue.”
The minister added that she has not released any official statement regarding the aforementioned matter and kindly asks the public to be cautious of unverified information.