If the recent report on the investigation by the Department of State Security (DSS) into the discharge certificate feud between the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State surprised anyone, it wasn’t me.
Even though I was of the view that both parties should be allowed to prove their respective case, NYSC’s story never looked straight to me, especially knowing the ineptitude, underhand practices, endemic corruption, shoddiness, and the poor and analogue record keeping that have become the hallmarks of most of our public institutions.
As a psychologist, my field of study teaches me that there is always a motive for every crime. And I have been wondering what the motivation could be for Mbah. If his profile is anything to go by, then he was already a multimillionaire before heading to the UK to study Law. So, he was never in the unemployment market, where he needed the NYSC to secure a job.
Two, it is settled by the courts that one doesn’t need an NYSC discharge certificate to hold a public office. Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) spells out the qualifications for the office of the governor, and the NYSC discharge certificate is not one of them. So, I wonder why he would submit a supposedly forged NYSC discharge certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when, in fact, he didn’t need it.
Furthermore, Proverbs 28:1 says the righteous are bold as a lion. The audacity with which Mbah has faced the NYSC and its Director-General, Brig. Gen. Yusha’u Ahmed does not suggest one who has something to hide. Rather than shop for the proverbial soft landing, Mbah has instead slammed a N20bn lawsuit on the NYSC. In the lawsuit marked FHC/ABJ/09/611/2023, he seeks a declaration that he participated in the NYSC scheme for one calendar year and that NYSC and its Director of Corps Certification, Ibrahim Muhammad, “conspired by fraudulent design, suppressed, and misrepresented facts in supposition” that his discharge certificate with serial number A808297 is fake. He also seeks a declaration that the predominant purpose is to inflict damages in his legal profession, politics, and business.
One interesting fact about Mbah’s lawsuit is his meticulousness in record keeping, even far better than the NYSC. Mbah kept and filed everything: his call-up letter and deployment to Lagos State, meal tickets in the camp, posting letter to the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), rejection letter by the NPA, reposting letter to Udeh & Associates, his letter to NYSC DG seeking a suspension of his service to go for his Bar Final programme, DG’s approval letter, his handwritten letter seeking to return to complete his service year after the programme, pictures, and a letter dated 7th May 2003 (with reference number NYSC/DHQ/CM/27/20) directing the Lagos State Director of the agency to “re-instate the corps member to continue his service year from where he stopped, with effect from May 2003”. To “re-instate” instead of “remobilise” means that his service number remains unchanged.
Curiously, rather than seize the opportunity to nail Mbah, the NYSC resorted to a preliminary objection. It told the court that Mbah should have petitioned the presidency first to seek a resolution before approaching the court. However, Section 20 of the NYSC Act doesn’t apply to Mbah since he is neither a serving Corps member nor an employee of the NYSC. Section 20 is a follow-up to Section 19, which refers to members of the service and other persons employed or undertaking any project for the NYSC.
Also, NYSC’s evidence at the Enugu State Governorship Petition Tribunal was an anti-climax because it affirmed virtually everything Mbah had said about his national service and discharge certificate. In his Statement on Oath and evidence before the tribunal, the subpoenaed witness and Director of Corps Certification, Ibrahim Muhammad, averred the following: “That Mr Mbah Peter Ndubuisi was mobilised and deployed to Lagos State by the NYSC for the compulsory national service via a call-up letter dated 7th January 2002, with Serial No. 0134613 and Reference No. NYSC/FRN/2001/890351.
“That in Lagos, Mbah Peter Ndubuisi, upon completing his orientation course, was initially posted to the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) for his primary assignment but was rejected.
“That the NYSC Office in Lagos reposted him to the Law Firm of Udeh & Associates, Lagos.
“That by letter dated 20th June 2002, Mbah Peter Ndubuisi applied to the Director-General of the NYSC for deferment of his service to enable him attend the Nigerian Law School.
“That after completing his Law School Programme, Mbah Peter Ndubuisi applied to the DG of NYSC via a letter dated 03/4/2003 for re-mobilisation for national service to enable him to complete his NYSC programme.
“That by a letter referenced NYSC/DHQ/CM/M/27/20, dated 7th May 2003, the DG NYSC wrote to the Lagos Director of the NYSC to re-instate Mbah Peter Ndubuisi to continue his service year from where he had stopped, with effect from May 2003, to terminate in September 2003.
“That upon return, Mbah Peter Ndubuisi was posted to the Law Firm of Udeh & Associates, Lagos again, for completion of his primary assignment, with probable discharge date on 15th September 2003”.
NYSC’s primary point of departure is in paragraph 14 (i), where it states that “there was no record of the completion of Mbah Peter Ndubuisi’s primary assignment because he stopped attending the compulsory weekly community service in Lagos, which is one of the cardinal programmes of the NYSC”, adding that he “was consequently not cleared as having completed the NYSC programme and therefore no Discharge Certificate was issued to him”.
But guess what, NYSC didn’t tender any register where other Corps members signed, and Mbah failed to sign. Besides, what other record is more reliable than the monthly clearances issued by Mbah’s place of primary assignment, Udeh & Associates, that qualified him for his monthly allowances, which, ironically, were paid by the NYSC?
Some people in Mbah’s shoes would have simply proceeded to the Law School and still come back to pick up their discharge certificate without any hassles. But Mbah, in this case, diligently applied to be excused and applied to be re-instated. It doesn’t make sense to say that he ended up forging a discharge certificate after the whole trouble.
It has also emerged at the tribunal that even though he was appointed Chief of Staff to Enugu State Governor in July 2003, he only accepted the offer at the end of his national service in September of the same year– just like Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who was appointed Chief of Staff to the President while still in office, but only resumed at the end of his tenure.
Meanwhile, any doubts about the rot in the NYSC were all laid to rest by the Statement on Oath and evidence by the Department of State Services (DSS) at the Enugu Tribunal. According to its Deputy Director, Operations and Strategy Department, Mr Yahaya Isa Mohammed, consequent upon Mbah’s petition dated 8th February 2023, the agency diligently investigated the matter, taking statements and documents from both parties.
He said it was found that “there were exchanges of correspondence between Mbah and the NYSC at every stage of their interactions. Mbah did not take any action without the NYSC’s approval; Mbah’s file with the NYSC got missing at some point, and NYSC started using a temporary file for him.
For instance, in NYSC response to his application for deferment, the file number was LA/10/1532, while in their response to his re-mobilisation application, the file number was LA/01/1532/T; that there was a mix up in his record as a result the of missing file; that the difference in Mbah’s certificate number compared to others that were mobilised at the same time, is due to inability of NYSC to trace the initial file where the first certificate A678 was; that from the documents presented by NYSC regarding certificate numbers, about twelve (12) certificate numbers (A808297-A808308), which includes that of Mbah, remained unaccounted for in the eight (8) series by the NYSC; that the law firm, Udeh &Associates where Mbah served, cleared him for his monthly clearance for eleven (11) months covering January-June, 2002 and May to August, 2003 as well as his final clearance in September, 2003 covering the period of his first mobilisation and re-instatement indicated that he served, hence no need for him to forge certificate; that NYSC did not do a thorough job before concluding that the certificate Mbah presented is fake; that the Director Corps Certification (Ibrahim Muhammad) failed to exploit all available avenue to ensure that due diligence was done before issuing statement on the matter; and that against NYSC claim that ‘8 Series’ Certificates were not issued in Lagos State, upon insistence by the Service (DSS) for them to check their records properly, certificates in that series were discovered to be issued to some Corps members who served in Lagos State”.
The DSS said it further discovered “that NYSC did not have a proper record. This resulted in the misplacement of Mbah’s initial file by NYSC and the use of temporary file for him as well as its inability to trace whom or which State(s) 12 of its certificates (A808297 to A808308) were issued; that all through Mbah’s service year, from the first mobilisation to his service re-instatement after his Bar Final examination, Udeh & Associates where he did his primary assignment, issued him clearance letter on monthly bases; that all certificate series including the ‘8-Series’ were issued in all the States of the federation as against NYSC’s claim that its certificates series are State-based; that the claim by Muhammad (NYSC Director of Corps Certification) that Mbah’s supposed ‘6-Series’ certificate was part of the certificates shredded/destroyed by the NYSC negates the claim that he did not serve, as it is impossible to produce the said shredded certificate for Mbah, if he did not serve; That the failure of the NYSC to maintain a proper record keeping system was the cause of its inability to trace Peter Ndubuisi Mbah’s initial certificate; and that it would be wrong for the NYSC to blame Peter Ndubuisi Mbah for its own failure in record keeping”.
Consequently, the DSS recommended that “the NYSC should retract its initial letter that Peter Ndubuisi Mbah’s certificate was not issued by it, as it has failed to trace its records for twelve (12) certificates (A808297-A808308), inclusive of Peter Ndubuisi Mbah’s”. It also wants the NYSC to be made to explain how twelve (12) certificates with serial numbers (A808297 to A808308) are still unaccounted for and also be made to trace the said certificates. One cannot agree more.
But in addition, all taken, the NYSC represents the shame that most of our public institutions have become. Brig. Gen. Yusha’u Ahmed should not have remained in office a day after the DSS testimony. He should immediately resign or be booted out.
Law Mefor, Ph.D., is a senior fellow of the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought – TAS, Abuja; email: [email protected]; Twitter; @drlawson