National Youth Service Corps
By Christopher Isiguzo,Femi Durojaiye, Gboyega Akinsanmi and Damilola Oyedele
The future and essence of the 39-year-old National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme stands threatened as more and more groups, individuals and organisations continued their protest against posting corps members to areas considered volatile and unsafe, given the degree of insecurity in the northern part of the country.
Churches, state governments and some groups under the aegis of Coalition of Concerned Parents are also among those who have expressed reservations on posting their wards and children to some parts of the country.
The Synod of the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), Enugu Diocese, for instance, yesterday urged the Federal Government to allow youths participating in the scheme to serve in their various geopolitical zones until the problems in some parts of the North fizzle out.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the first session of her 15th Synod, the church said allowing members participating in the scheme to serve in their various zones would help protect them against senseless attacks occasioned by the activities of the Boko Haram.
Aside the religious body, the Lagos State House of Assembly, Tuesday resolved to formally protest, in writing to the Director-General of the NYSC, its objection to the posting of innocent corps members to what seems like slaughter house. The decision to write the NYSC DG came when the member representing Ikorodu 1 Constituency, Sanai Agunbiade, under matters of urgent of public importance, intimated his colleagues of calls and text messages he had received from protesters since the posting commenced.
He said: “Unfortunately, a lot of our indigenes and citizens are being posted to troublesome areas where a lot of serving corps members died last year and their parents are still mourning, yet there is no sincere assurance from the scheme's management on adequate security for these candidates.
“I am against the sacrificing of innocent graduates who are supposed to be the hopes of the country in the name of the service at a time the country is going through naked violence in some parts of the North. We are not saying NYSC should be scrapped but if some people have chosen to be unrepentant in their brazen violence, then something must be done.”
He suggested that corps members from such troubled states could be posted there if it is so important to send corps members to the security-challenged states, recalling that though the scheme was set up for national integration, he was against satisfying the goals and objectives of the programme in a situation where churches and business places are attacked with several people becoming casualties.
Others who supported the motion included Avoseh Hodewu Suru, who was particular about corps members from Lagos State and Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, who said the troubled areas of the North should have been blacklisted by the NYSC rather than making parents go through grief.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Taiwo Kolawole, asked that a resolution of the House be sent to the NYSC and the National Assembly declaring their rejection of corps members posted to such areas. He also submitted that he wanted the NYSC scheme to be revisited, insisting that the troubled states in the country should be blacklisted.
The Speaker, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, while summing it up, said it gives people sleepless nights to know that their brothers and sisters are in troubled areas, adding that states have had cause to evacuate their indigenes. He questioned the capability of the scheme to protect the corps members and held that the protest was genuine. The Assembly suggested that the management of NYSC should “give those posted to crisis-ridden areas exemption on the basis of insecurity in those volatile areas of the country instead of putting their lives at risk.”
The House said in the event that the corps members are not reposted, the NYSC should be held responsible for any negative thing that happens to any of the members.
In the same vein, journalists under the aegis of the Young Journalists Forum (YJF) berated the NYSC, and Ministry of Youths Development for deploying youths in “troubled zones”. The forum, in a statement signed by its President, Ayodele Samuel and Secretary, Zacheus Somorin, said the action showed the thoughtlessness of the authorities overseeing the scheme.
The body urged the NYSC to give attention to the security of lives and property of the corps members as the scheme would be held responsible for any attack on corps members, especially in the Northern part of the country.
The statement said: “We call on all security agencies, state governments and indeed all peace-loving Nigerians to partner the NYSC in ensuring absolute protection and safety of all corps members in their states. The NYSC remains a unifying factor in our nationhood with the aim of achieving national unity and not national disaster in the course of serving their nation and humanity.”
The YJF recalled that 25 corps members lost their lives in the April
bombing at the INEC office, Suleja, last year, another 11 members in Bauchi were killed during the post-election violence that rocked parts of the Northern states in 2011, just as several corps members have been killed in Jos, the Plateau State capital, and other Northern states.
However, despite the growing protests and fears about the continued necessity of the scheme, the management of NYSC has assured the 2012 Batch 'B' prospective corps members of adequate security. Corps members had been protesting their deployment to Bauchi, where 11 corps members died in post-election violence and to other states troubled by the activities of Boko Haram, especially Yobe, Kano and Borno.
In a statement issued yesterday by its Head of Press and Public Relations Unit, Mrs. Abosede Aderibigbe, NYSC said state governments had put adequate measures in place to guarantee the security of lives and property of corps members deployed in camps for the ongoing orientation course. “Prospective corps members should therefore proceed to their respective camps for induction into the noble scheme,” the statement read.
It added that only those who have genuine reasons on health and marital grounds would be relocated out of their states to which they had been posted. They were however directed to register first in their states of deployment and then submit their applications there for consideration.