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Promoting Good Governance.

Finance Minister Adeosun stops tweeting after certificate scandal goes viral on Twitter

FINANCE Minister Kemi Adeosun has visibly fled Twitter, a prominent social media platform, since evidence emerged that she skipped compulsory national youth service and forged an exemption certificate to maintain her position in government.

In the four weeks of July and the first week of August, she has neither made any new tweets nor retweeted posts made by other users of the platform. Her last series of tweets were, in fact, made on June 19 to announce and celebrate the federal government’s record release for capital projects in 2017.

This was roughly three weeks before the report of her exemption certificate forgery and a month after she was alleged to have illegally shared N10 billion with lawmakers, in collusion with Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation.

It has, however, not always been like this. Since Adeosun joined Twitter in March, 2017, she has posted a total of 645 tweets and retweets in fifteen months, averaging 43 in each month.

Her tweets consist mostly of reports of progress made in the ministry, policy decisions, meetings attended, and so on. She also retweets from a number of accounts, including Ministry of Finance (@FinMinNigeria), Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident), Government of Nigeria (@AsoRock), Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (@VAIDSNG), among others.

Until July, there was no month when the minister did not make a single post on the online platform. The lowest count of tweets per month was in September 2017, when she tweeted only five times. The second lowest count was the preceding August, while the third lowest was June 2018 after which she’s stopped tweeting.

ALL FORGERIES ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

In January, Adeosun made a couple of tweets condemning tax certificate forgery and under-declaration of assets and encouraged defaulters to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) to regularise the illegality.

“Forged tax certificates, under-declaration of income and assets, procurement of backdated tax certificates—we are analyzing and flagging all of these underhand practices and many more. is your opportunity to come clean,” she tweeted on January 28.

On the same day, she also stated that the Finance Ministry has reports from whistle blowers indicting tax officers who demanded bribes to provide backdated tax clearance certificates and reduce taxes payable.

“All are being investigated and analysed, and we will take decisive action,” she added.

In a twist of fate, facts emerged five months after these tweets that the minister had herself been directly involved in certificate forgery, an offence, which according to the NYSC Act, attracts a fine of N5,000, imprisonment for a term of three years or to both.

FINANCE MINISTRY CONTINUES TO TWEET

Though her personal account has been inactive for up to seven weeks, the official account of the Finance Ministry has been occasionally put to use. On July 26, 2018, to the consternation of Nigerian Twitter users, the Ministry tweeted: “PHOTOS: at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja, on Wednesday, 25th July 2018.”

Replying to the tweet, Jeremy Frankson (@jerryfrankson) said: “She was an active user on all media most especially Twitter. All of a sudden Boom. She is not on Twitter again. All of a sudden I am seeing her in a picture.”

“I see this tweet as an attempt to taunt and dare Nigerians,” commented k9ine (@k9ine75). “It’s absolutely irresponsible for the minister who I rated quite highly for her work so far to treat Nigerians with disdain. Can she honourably respond to the NYSC issue or resign? It’s that serious and urgent.”

On Wednesday, August 1, 2018, the ministry again tweeted pictures from the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, which featured the Finance Minister. This time, however, the caption was simpler and without mention of the minister: “PHOTOS: Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meeting today.”

SIMILAR SILENCE ON FACEBOOK

The Finance Minister’s verified page on Facebook has been similarly inactive. Dated July 12, 2018, the last post was a press statement of the ministry announcing that “the Federal Government has reconstituted the Tax Appeal Tribunals”.

“The audacity of these people in government,” replied Aj Odunowo to the post. “No response to forged NYSC certificate allegation but continues as if everyone is a fool to demand clarification. God, what have we done to deserve this kind of leadership in 2018?”

“Hold the tax press release, for now, the major issue at hand now is about your olodo cert. Everything about you na government is a forgery,” said Blessed Isaac Ugwu.

A Premium Times analysis of Adeosun’s Facebook posts revealed that she made an average of seven posts each month from January to June until she suddenly stopped updating the page.

BUSINESS AS USUAL AT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

30 days have passed since the indicting report was published and, despite the public outrage triggered, the Federal Government has neither released a statement to establish its position nor taken any action towards sanctioning the erring minister.

“Mrs Adeosun had seen President Buhari not fewer than three times earlier in the week,” announced Presidential Spokesman Femi Adesina, a week following the publication, suggesting the relationship between the parties was in no way strained by the revelation.

The NYSC had in July said it needed “a little extra time” to get its record straights and get back to the press. But a month after this assurance was made, it appears a little more time is likely to morph into eternity.

The question, however, remains: for how long? For how long shall the Buhari administration live in denial and pretend the investigative report was never published? For how long does the honourable minister intend to take a leave from the social media, which had in the past served her devotedly. As it stands, the perfect answer might just be, ‘as long as it takes.’

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