The death of seven members of the NYSC is unsettling
The death recently in Taraba State of nine National Youth Service Corps members is a national tragedy. These corps members were among 22 others who went on a picnic when a sudden upsurge in River Mayo –Selbe in the Gashaka local council of the state swept them away while they were swimming. As at today, seven bodies have been recovered while two more are still being searched for in what has become yet another misfortune for the NYSC scheme.
According to the Taraba State Police Commissioner, Mr. David Akinremi, the corps members were on a swimming expedition in River Mayo-Selbe, a major tributary of the Benue River, when a water surge from a nearby mountain collapsed and swept them into the massive river. Akinremi said that 14 corps members were initially washed away by the heavy gush, but five of them were rescued. Of the seven bodies that were recovered, two were female corpers, while the others were male.
While no one is sure if there would be an investigation of any sort into the misfortune, it is however clear, as suggested by the police, that the river area should no longer be considered a safe picnic spot for members of the public, at least for the rest of the rainy season. But at a time when Nigeria still struggles to overcome the twin security problems of Boko Haram in the North East and senseless killings in Zamfara, Plateau, Benue and some other states across the country by armed bandits, we consider the death of the corps members a huge blow and a sad sign of how cheap life has become in Nigeria.
Even though the Taraba tragedy can be considered a natural disaster, the fact remains that today, life no longer matters in Nigeria. The country has descended so low in its valuation of human life such that the death of seven of her young graduates observing their mandatory national service did not seem to attract any outrage or even get citizensto raise pertinent questions. By its set up, the NYSC is mandated to provide and protect corps members enlisted into the scheme at every point in time of their service year. Yet, almost on annual basis, many corps members lose their lives for sundry reasons.
In view of the worrying trend, we would like to point out that it is the responsibility of the NYSC to urgently address the frequent deaths of wards left in their care by parents and guardians, at least for the periods of their service year. We admit that some of the deaths recorded by the scheme over the years may be traceable to youthful exuberance on the part of the corps members, but the NYSC management should be more proactive in dealing with some of the challenges. The NYSC, for instance, has a mandate to rein in and checkmate the excesses of members of the corps in their own interests and that of the scheme.
Established in 1973 as a vehicle for national integration among young citizens, the NYSC is fast losing its appeal, and this is basically traceable to the loose accountability system that has suddenly become its hallmark. But what is now most worrying is the frequency of death by members. From being killed on election duty to being murdered by the police, we cannot continue to operate a scheme that does not guarantee parents of the safety of their wards when they release them to serve their fatherland.
While we commiserate with the families of the deceased corps members, we hope the NYSC management will probe the circumstances surrounding their death while putting in place mechanism to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.