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NYSC Service Not A Disqualification For Ministerial Appointment, Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Musawa’s Appointment As Minister

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, has dismissed a suit seeking to reverse the appointment of Hannatu Musawa as Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy by President Bola Tinubu.

Justice James Omotosho, in a judgment, held that the plaintiffs lacked locus standi (legal right) to institute the suit.

Justice Omotosho also held that even where the plaintiffs were vested with the legal right to file the matter, the suit, itself, lacked merit.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had, on July 27, 2023, transmitted Musawa’s name, among names of minister-designates, to the Senate for confirmation.

Musawa, a lawyer and immediate-past Presidential Adviser on Culture and Entertainment Economy, was screened by the Senate on Aug.1, 2023, and was sworn in as minister on Aug. 21, 2023.

At the time, the minister who hails from Katsina State was appointed, she was alleged to be a serving National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member.

Against this backdrop, the Incorporated Trustees of Concerned Nigeria, Chief Dr Patrick Eholor and Thomas Marcus, who were 1st to 3rd plaintiffs respectively, filed the suit before Justice Omotosho.

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1198/23 filed Aug. 30, 2023, the plaintiffs sued President Tinubu, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Musawa as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

They prayed the court to determine whether by provisions of Section 2(1) and (3) of the NYSC Act and Section 4(9) of the NYSC Bye-Laws (Revised 2011), Musawa, who was a corps member at the time, was not prohibited from becoming a federal minister.

They also urged the court to determine “whether by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), whether the same qualification of a member of House of Representatives is not also the same qualification for the appointment of 3rd defendant (Musawa) as a minister and whether the same qualification is not mandatory for her to be a federal minister of Nigeria.”

Upon favourable resolution of the questions, the plaintiffs sought an order nullifying the initial recommendation, resolution to be a minister, appointment and swearing in of Musawa as a minister.

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They sought an order setting aside the swearing-in of the minister.

They equally sought an order of mandatory injunction setting aside all official actions as may be carried out by her acting in any official capacity from the commencement of and swearing in of the minister to the final conclusion of the suit.

They also prayed the court to make an order for payment of general damages in the sum of N100 million against all the defendants.

In their affidavit, they argued that Musawa was mistakenly screened by the Senate and appointed as a minister to supervise the Ministry of Culture.

But the 1st and 2nd defendants in a joint preliminary objection dated and filed Feb 15, sought a dismissal of the suit for want of jurisdiction.

They argued that her appointment was done in line with extant laws as she was duly nominated, screened by the Senate and appointed by the president.

According to them, there is no law that hinders the 1st defendant from appointing a person still serving as an NYSC member as a minister.

They further argued that the only qualification is the same as a person contesting for the post of a member of the House of Representatives.

They submitted that the NYSC certificate or completion of NYSC is not amongst the basic requirements for appointment as a minister, urging the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs are incompetent to institute this suit.

On her part, Musawa, through her lawyer, argued that the 1st plaintiff was a non-existent entity and thus, not a juristic person to institute the action.

Also, she argued that none of the plaintiffs had shown how they had suffered special injury to the exclusion of all Nigerians to qualify them to maintain the suit.

In the judgment delivered on Tuesday by Justice Omotosho and the certified true copy of it sighted on Thursday, the judge agreed that for a person to be qualified for appointment as at minister, he must fulfil the conditions in Section 147 (5) of the 1999 Constitution.

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According to him, Section 147 (5) says no person shall be appointed as a minister of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives.

“It is clear from the above that the qualification for being a member of the House of Representatives will guide the qualification for being a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.

The judge said that based on Section 65, and subject to Section 66, a person shall be qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of 30 years.

He said it equally provided that a person shall be qualified for election under Subsection (1) of this section if he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent; and he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.

“The constitution has made it crystal clear the qualifications and grounds for disqualification as a minister and being a serving corp member is not one of such grounds.

“As a matter of fact, a person to be appointed as a minister only needs to show that he has been educated up to secondary school level.

“Thus the National Youth Service Corps Certificate which can only be attained by graduates who have completed the scheme is a surplusage to the basic requirements to be a minister.

“I therefore hold that there is nothing stopping the 1st defendant (Tinubu) from appointing the 3rd defendant (Musawa) as a minister as she is eminently qualified to be so appointed.

“In final analysis, the plaintiffs lack locus standi to institute this action.

“Even where they are vested with locus standi, the suit lacks merit — same is hereby dismissed,” Justice Omotosho declared.

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