NYSC Forgery: Prosecute Kwara PDP governorship candidate, KMC tell police, as it accuses KWSG of culpability
A Pro-Democracy group in Kwara State, popular known as Kwara Must Change has said it received with utmost surprise, a report alleging that the Kwara State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Hon. Razaq Atunwa forged his National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) certificate to deceive the nation.
‘’We find this allegation very strong and weighty and rather than allow the issue remain a mere allegation, we call for proper investigation into the matter by the police to ascertain the credibility of the story and if true, as eventual prosecution of the culprit’ the group said through a statement signed by its president, Abdulrazaq Hamzat.
In an exclusive report by Premium Times newspaper, it was discovered that the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State in the forthcoming general elections, Hon. Razak Atunwa did not participate in Nigeria’s compulsory national youth service scheme. Instead, he procured a forged discharge certificate of NYSC which he submitted to the PDP to prove his eligibility for public office.
The NYSC law requires every Nigerian who attended university or polytechnic to participate in the national youth scheme for one year after graduation, provided the person finished before age 30. Failure to serve would prohibit such individual from gainful employment in Nigeria, and making false claims about serving could attract up to 14 years in jail. Also, anyone who graduated before 30 but deliberately declined to serve has committed a crime that could attract 12-month imprisonment, even if the person did not forge NYSC documents.
Mr Atunwa, born on October 17, 1969 and according to his public profile, he studied law at the University of East London, graduating in 1992 at age 23. Having earned a bachelor’s degree at 23, Mr Atunwa, going by Section 2 of the NYSC Act, should have participated in the year-long national service.
However, rather than present himself for national service, Mr. Atunwa was said to have stayed back in the United Kingdom, returning only in 2005 to join the cabinet of then Governor Bukola Saraki in Kwara State at the age of 36.
Kwara Must Change queried that, should the Atunwa’s NYSC forgery scandal be confirmed to be true, this would be an indictment on the Kwara State government and the Kwara State House of Assembly in whose custody; Atunwa has been working for about 15 years.
According to the group, since it is not allowed for anyone without NYSC certificate to work in Nigeria and contrary to this law, Atunwa has been working in the country since 2005, serving under the Kwara State government in various capacities, including commissioner for Land, Work and Transport, Information and Home Affairs, Finance as well as serving as speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly and now a member of federal house of representative, the culpability of the Kwara State government cannot be under emphasized.
To secure the PDP governorship ticket on October 1, Atunwa was said to have submitted a counterfeit NYSC discharge certificate and accompanied it with an affidavit, indicating he lied on oath, an offence that attracts up to 14 years in jail.
Mr Atunwa — who claimed he qualified for law practice in the United Kingdom after obtaining undergraduate and master’s degrees at separate universities in London — indicated in the nomination document he submitted at the PDP national secretariat in Abuja that he partook in the youth service scheme between 1995 and 1996.
The lawmaker 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 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).
According to the newspaper, one could see at first glance that Mr. Atunwa’s so-called discharge certificate is fake. For one, Mr Atunwa’s ‘certificate’ purportedly obtained in 1996 carried the signature of Walter Oki (brigadier general at the time). But Mr Oki was only made NYSC director-general in 2002. In 1996, Soyemi Sofoluwe (brigadier general) was director-general of the corps and signed all discharge and exemption certificates during the period. He was succeeded by S.M. Dule (brigadier general), who served as director-general between 1996 and 2000.
To further crosscheck the authenticity of Mr Atunwa’s ‘certificate’, PREMIUM TIMES compared his with original ones that bore the basics of the document, especially those from foreign university graduates.
At least three ministers who returned to Nigeria to serve after finishing from schools in the UK and the United States had similar call-up mark in their certificates, which usually carries the acronym of the institution, the state where the participant served, where the person was called up, the year of service and the serial number for the certificate.
For instance, Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of state for petroleum, has his NYSC certificate marked as NYSC/OY/FORN/82/7101. Mr Kachikwu was deployed for service in Oyo State (OY) on August 16, 1982, passing out a year later on August 15, 1983. He came back to Nigeria to serve after completing his doctorate in law at Harvard University (FORN) in December 1981.
Aisha Abubakar, the minister of state trade and industry, returned to Nigeria after concluding her masters in development studies at the University of Leeds. Her certificate is marked NYSC/LA/FRN/91/18170, indicating that she served in Lagos, after graduating from a foreign university.
Khadija Bukar Ibrahim, the minister of state foreign affairs, also schooled abroad. She attended Roehampton Institute for Higher Education, affiliated with the University of Surrey and finished in 1989. She enlisted in the NYSC on October 2, 1990 and passed out on October 1, 1991. Her certificate is marked NYSC/LA/FRN/90/28750, indicating that she served in Lagos (LA) after graduating from a foreign university (FRN) in 1990.
However, Mr. Atunwa’s certificate, rather than bear FRN or FORN (code for foreign graduates) has KWP (a code reserved for graduates of Kwara State Polytechnic) as identification mark. But the politician did not graduate from Kwara Polytechnic. He claimed he attended the University of East London for the first degree and the University of London for his master’s.
According to the newspaper, “This is the most audacious forgery since PREMIUM TIMES began investigation into NYSC claims of senior government officials and politicians generally,”
Hon. Atunwa was said to have broken Nigerian law twice. According to the report, “Based on Section 13 (c) of the NYSC Act, even being in possession of a forged NYSC certificate is already a crime,” “And then we now have an affidavit that he swore to and walked himself into perjury, another criminal offence.”
Kwara Must Change is therefore calling on the police to promptly launch an investigation into the matter to ascertain the truth.
Should the Police investigation proved the allegation correct, Atunwa must be made to return all the salaries he had received from the Kwara State government, Kwara State House of Assembly and the National Assembly.
He must also be prosecuted for forging the NYSC certificate and then lying on oath.
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