Certificate controversy: Court rejects NYSC’s bid to stop Enugu gov’s N20b suit

THE Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, July 28, rejected a preliminary objection filed by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to stop further hearing on a N20 billion suit filed against it by Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State.

The presiding judge, Inyang Ekwo, while delivering his ruling on the matter, said contrary to NYSC’s argument, it has the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.

The court claimed that NYSC had misinterpreted the law’s terms when it contended that Mbah had not met certain prerequisites before filing a lawsuit.

In the lawsuit he filed at the court, Mbah accused the NYSC of smearing his reputation on purpose by falsely asserting that he had not finished the required national youth service programme.

Based on an affidavit he submitted to the court, Ekwo, on May 15, issued an order of interim injunction prohibiting the NYSC from issuing or publishing a disclaimer to disown the certificate of service the governor of Enugu State submitted in support of his eligibility to run in the state’s March 18 governorhip election.

The court ordered Ibrahim Muhammad, the director of corps certification for NYSC, to get the restraining order.

Mbah had claimed in the application he submitted through his legal team, led by Emeka Ozoani, that, in contrast to the claim made against him, he had received a certificate of service with the number A. 808297 on January 6, 2003, following the end of his NYSC program.

He said in court that after earning his law degree from the University of East London in 2000, he returned to Nigeria and applied for admission to the Bar Part 1 curriculum of the Nigerian Law School as a requirement to practise law.

He testified before the Court that he was selected for the NYSC and sent to Lagos to serve as a corp member.

Mbah said that the NYSC published a disclaimer to disown his certificate in an effort to tarnish his reputation.

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The NYSC and its Director of Corps Certification, Muhammad, are named as the first and second defendants in the lawsuit with the file number FHC/ABJ/CS/611/2023.

Meanwhile, the NYSC filed an objection to contest the court’s authority to hear the case through its legal team, led by Aminu Sadauki.

The defendants contend that Mbah should have petitioned the Presidency instead of going directly to court if he felt wronged by any action or remark made by the NYSC about his certificate.

The defendants testified before the court that Mbah missed his chance to file a lawsuit before it was too late, as Section 20 of the NYSC Act stipulated.

The governor, however, urged the court to reject the preliminary objection, claiming it lacked any substance.

He claimed that because he is neither a serving corps member nor an organisation employee, Section 20 of the NYSC Act does not apply to him.

Ekwo concurred with the governor in his ruling that the abovementioned section would only apply to serving corps members.

“I am minded to agree with the plaintiff on whom the provision of Section 20 of the NYSC Act, 2004, applies. This means that the provision has a category of persons to whom it is applicable.

“A keen perusal of the provision of Section 22 (1) and (2) of the Act would reveal that it sets out the person to whom the provision of Section 20 of the Act applies, which is a member of the service corps’, which is defined to mean a person registered as a member of the service corps.

“It is then stated in Section 21 (2) that for the purpose of the Act, the reference to a member of the service corps’ includes, unless to the context otherwise requires or it is otherwise expressly provided, a prospective member of the service corps or any person who is a registered member.

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“It is rather sad that the objection of the defendant (NYSC) has been used to waste the time of this court,” the judge stated

Ekwo thereby struck out the NYSC objection and adjourned the substantive matter to September 21 and 22, 2023, for a hearing.

The ICIR reported that the Director-General of NYSC, Dogara Ahmed, a brigadier-general, said the NYSC certificate submitted by Mbah to INEC to enable him participate in the 2023 governorship election was not issued by the organisation.

Ahmed stated this on May 19, while featuring on Arise News Television magazine programme ‘The Morning Show’.

In a ThisDay newspaper report on February 7, a group claimed that it found out that Mbah forged his NYSC certificate.




     

     

    The group, Total Support for Rule of Law and Justice Initiative and Enugu Progressive Forum, sought Mbah’s disqualification from the governorship election.

    Mbah headed to court and sued the NYSC for N20 billion after the organisation alleged he forged the certificate.

    During the interview, the NYSC Director-General said, “You can’t go and collect the certificate on the street. You can’t go and collect the certificate in your room. You can’t go and collect the certificate in the hotel. You should know better. Please, I don’t want to talk much about this. The Governor-elect is a lawyer. I am not a lawyer, but I know as the DG NYSC, I’m fully aware of this case.

    “He came to me, I called my Director of Administration, ‘let me see your certificate’. I was so frank and clear to him that the certificate was not from us. I showed him a few examples just to help him. But he chose to go to court and even to sue whoever he was suing,” the NYSC DG said.

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