GRADUATES who did not complete the compulsory one year National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme are still eligible to stand for election as state governor following a recent Abuja high court ruling in an election petition.
In the suit, which was brought against the newly-elected Ogun State governor Dapo Abiodun, by a former senator, Iyabo Anisulowo, the court ruled that a candidate cannot be disqualified for not serving. In a pre-election suit, Senator Anisulowo had challenged the eligibility of Mr Abiodun over his failure to participate in the NYSC scheme.
Former military head of state General Yakubu Gowon established the NYSC in 1973 and participation is mandatory for all Nigerians who graduate from a tertiary institution in or outside the country before they attain the age of 30. Theoretically, the presentation of an NYSC discharge certificate awarded at the end of the one-year scheme is a requirement for employment into the formal sector in Nigeria.
Last year, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) disqualified the then minister of communications, Adebayo Shittu, from running in its Oyo State governorship primaries for skipping the NYSC scheme after graduating in the late 1970s. Mr Shittu challenged his disqualification from the APC primaries but the court dismissed his suit against the party.
Mr Shittu accused the APC of double standards for allowing some aspirants such as Governor Abiodun to run for its tickets even though he had also been accused of skipping the NYSC scheme. In addition, the former minister has also sued the NYSC, arguing that participation in the scheme is not a requirement for holding public office.
Last year, Kemi Adeosun was forced to step down as finance minister after it was revealed that she forged an NYSC certificate which enabled her to be cleared for an appointment first as a commissioner in Ogun State and then as a minister in 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari. Mrs Adeosun had graduated in the UK before the age of 30, which made her eligible for participation in the NYSC scheme.
An exemption certificate is awarded to those older than 30 years when they graduated, individuals serving in the security forces or those exempted on health grounds. Governor Abiodun’s counsel, Wale Ajayi, successfully argued, however, that participation in the NYSC scheme is not a requirement for participation in elections.
In its ruling, the court held that the NYSC Act does not stipulate that a candidate who failed to participate in the scheme be disqualified from elections. The implication of the judgment is that candidates seeking election to contest governorship elections in Nigeria no longer need to present NYSC certificates.