Early Sunday morning, as I made my way to early morning holy mass, a call rang in and I picked it without really knowing who was on the other end. It turned out that the caller was actually a distressed caller from the Camp of the National Youths Service Corps, in Lagos.
She sounded very desperate and angry. But I calmed her down and reminded her that it was a Sunday morning and as a Roman Catholic adherent obliged to physically attend Sunday Masses, that I was set for the morning pontifical High Mass. She begged to be heard and stated that she would spend just a few moments.
I obliged her without even asking her how she came about my direct line. She confessed that she has read over a dozen newspaper articles in which she concluded that I was doing propaganda work for the NYSC’S Management because of how she said, I practically supported the official line that the scheme shouldn’t be abolished following security concerns.
The caller said she called to ask me to intervene through our Civil Rights group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA), so the management of NYSC immediately improve the hygienic and nutritious contents of the foods they supply to the camp in Lagos.
The girl said they are served badly cooked watery soup that the officials deliberately want to poison them with bad foods.
She said many other things including the fact that some of the officials of NYSC orientation Camp in Lagos were indirectly running commercial restaurants and other businesses which she said is the reason they are being badly fed.
I promised her I was going to write an article on it since the NYSC headquarters in Abuja has no clearly stated mechanisms for feedback from members of the public.
This is the reason for this piece and I think, it is a matter of national urgency that the NYSC open their procurement processes to the public to be able to ascertain the levels of transparency and Accountability in the awards of contracts for supplies of perishable food items. Also the NYSC should be able to make sure that these youngsters kept in their care for the purpose of the year long service to the fatherland, aren’t fed like criminals but are given adequate and well nourished foods because it is the healthy body that can provide qualitative voluntary services to the motherland. And the camps are vital in creating the first impressions of how Nigeria as a corporate entity appreciates the sacrifices of these millions of graduates who are put to serve the Motherland for twelve calendar months.
Whilst I plead with the Director General of NYSC to look into the complaints of this girl in Lagos which represents the general opinion of most Corpers there because i spoke with about one dozen of those youths campung in the same Lagos camp, I will take the liberty to highlight a few misfortunes that befell NYSC in a year. There is the immediate need to find ways and means to improve security of lives and property of youth corp members within their service year. Ordinarily, the NYSC should be blamed if anything untoward happen to these youths in their lune of lawful service to Nigeria. I understand the NYSC runs insurance policy and I do sincerely support that life insurance policy be maintained going forward. The following are lines about accidents, violent attacks and other misfortunes that befell NYSC corpers within a year. These incidents are just about five percents of the several very violent attacks targeting corpers. Some of those incidents are things that ordinarily happen to everyone. But there are specific violent attacks that do happen to the youngsters because they are corpers. These are the issues that NYSC Management must grapple with and find lasting solution for them to douse the anxieties and apprehensions of citizens already advocating the abolition of the scheme in its entirety.
Around February 2023 a Fatal Crash claimed the lives of two prospective corps members, who were on their way to National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camp in Adamawa state for the week’s mandatory orientation exercise.
The victims have been identified as Nana Aisha Ahmad Kila from Jigawa State and Said Shehu Ibrahim, a graduate of the Bayero University Kano.
The crash occurred on Thursday, February 24.
March 19th 2022 comes the story that a serving member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC Corper), Alamin Saleh Bature has been rescued from Abuja kidnappers by good Samaritans.
PRNigeria gathered that the swift intervention and efforts of an Igbo Christian, identified as Godspower Chinaechrem and two Northern Muslims, helped in the rescue of the victim from the jaws of the kidnappers.
Same March 2022, the Men of the Ondo State Security Network Agency, codenamed Amotekun, rescued six prospective National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who were abducted by gunmen suspected to be kidnappers in Kogi state.
Two leaders of the kidnap gang were also arrested by the personnel of the security outfit after the payment of N1 million out of the N2 million ransom demanded before the release of the corps members.
Corps members’ lodge attack: NYSC opens up on July 7, 2022
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has debunked the claims that some corps members were raped during an attack on one of the corpers’ lodges in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.
Mrs Chinyere Ekwe, Akwa Ibom Coordinator, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), stated this in a statement issued in Uyo and made available to Blueprint on Thursday.
Ekwe said although some thieves burgled the lodge on July 6 and collected some of the corps members’ phones, no corps member was injured nor raped as reported.
According to her, a visit to the lodge at Udo Ekong Ekwere street, off Information drive in Uyo in company of the Commissioner of Police, CP Olatoye Durosinmi, revealed that the corps members were in good condition without any injury.
“The attention of the Management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Akwa lbom State has been drawn to an online publication, with the caption, Akwa Ibom: Gunmen attack NYSC lodge, rob, rape women, published by Punch online and reported by several online media.
“In the said story making the rounds, it was alleged that Gunmen attacked, raped, robbed and dispossessed Corps members of their valuables at Udo Ekong Ekwere Street, off Information Drive, Uyo, Akw Ibom State where they reside.
“To put the unfortunate incident in proper perspective, the State Coordinator, NYSC Akwa Ibom State, Mrs Chinyere Ekwe, in company of the State Police Commissioner, Mr Olatoye Durosinmi, visited the Corps members for an on the spot assessment.
“While there, it was confirmed that 21 Corps members occupy the said property. The interaction with the Corps members further revealed that an attack on them was actually carried out by thieves at about 1am in the morning.
“In the process, the invaders took their valuables including phones, Laptops and some cash. They confirmed that no bodily harm was meted on them, and no corps member was raped.
“While the actions and intentions of those criminal elements remained condemnable, we passionately appeal to the social media operators, particularly, Punch online, to exercise restraint and not trivialize such unfortunate incident as the consequences on the psychology of parents and guardians of Corps members in the state would be dangerously affected,” Ekwe said.
The coordinator said the Commissioner of Police has assured the corps members and members of the public that an investigation on the matter has been launched and that the culprits will soon be apprehended.
She added that CP has equally detailed surveillance around the area with a promise to extend the same to other corps lodges.
The NYSC coordinator in the state reaffirmed that there was no incident of rape and urged corps members in the state to go about their lawful duties and make use of the security phone lines already provided, while in distressed situations.
By August 2022 columnist Luke Onyekakeyah wrote about the reported death of a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Chioma Eunice Igweike, who was allegedly abducted and later found dead with vital parts of her body missing has added to the long list of innocent and promising youths who have lost their lives on account of being called to serve their fatherland under the now lackluster NYSC scheme. There is no doubt that under the alarming and frightening insecurity situation, the NYSC scheme is an aberration, which ought not to be because it exposes youths to danger that pervades the entire country. No place is safe in Nigeria.
Government ought to have reviewed the scheme with a view to scrapping it, given the highly volatile situation in the country. Besides, the conditions that warranted the establishment of the NYSC no longer exist. It is only for selfish reasons that the scheme is allowed to run because some top government officials are reaping huge benefits from it on the grave of those being killed. This is insensitive and unpatriotic, to say the least.
Halimat Shittu then wrote a piece in August 2022 stating that Nigeria’s insecurity is gradually becoming a recurring phenomenon, threatening the well-being of its citizens. The avalanche of bandit attacks, kidnapping, armed robbery and many more anti-human crimes are becoming the order of the day across the country.
When these crimes are going on unabated, the need for national cohesion or unity, as exemplified in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, is relegated to the background because the two are mutually exclusive. Although the NYSC scheme has outdated the insecurity, the continuous deployment of corps members to the troubled states where many of them have lost their lives is greatly becoming needless.
The NYSC is a compulsory one-year program for graduates under the age of 30. The vision of the scheme is to foster national unity and even development. The core objectives of the scheme include discipline, fostering the tradition of work, teaching ideals of national development, developing skills for self-employment, removing prejudices, eliminating ignorance and promoting national integration.
Impressive as these objects may appear, the prevailing insecurity in the country has pushed the scheme to the precipice with many Nigerians calling for the scrapping of the scheme. Just recently, a Nigerian, Okomayin Dennis Ude, had dragged the NYSC director-general Brigadier-General Mohammed Kaku Fadah, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, over the continued existence of the NYSC scheme.
Mr Dennis and his counsel, Chief Ademuyiwa Adeniyi, SAN, prayed the court for an order that the continued sustenance of National Youth Service Corps Act, 1993, and the mandatory posting of young Nigerians around the country, including to insurgency and banditry ravaged or prone states or areas is a breach of right of every Nigerian youth as guaranteed by Sections 33 and 34 of the Nigerian Constitution.
Around September 2022, Punch wrote thus: No fewer than 40 serving members of the National Youth Service Corps lost their lives in road traffic crashes from January 2018 till date, according to findings by Sunday PUNCH.
However, 98 corps members survived the crashes with varying degrees of injury during the review period.
A breakdown showed that eight died in 2018, nine in 2019, two in 2020, 14 in 2021 and seven so far in 2022.
Fifty-two corps members were injured in different road traffic crashes in 2018; 30 in 2019; 14 in 2021; and two so far this year.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that many of the victims were on their way to or from the three-week orientation programme in various camps when they were involved in the crashes.
In February this year, a fatal crash claimed the lives of two prospective corps members, who were on their way to the NYSC camp in Adamawa State for the mandatory orientation exercise.
The victims were identified as Nana Kila from Jigawa State and Said Ibrahim, a graduate of Bayero University, Kano.
A female corps member was among the passengers, who reportedly lost their lives in a boat accident between Otuan and Ayama communities of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State in June.
In July, two corps members lost their lives and two others sustained injuries in a motor accident on their way to Kaduna State.
They were said to be returning home after the 2022 Batch “B” Stream One orientation course in Adamawa State.
On July 28, 2021, five students of the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, lost their lives in a car crash on the Abaji-Kwali highway in Abuja, while going to the NYSC camp in Katsina State.
A few days after concluding their orientation course in Taraba State in 2021, four corps members from Yobe State died in a road crash, while others were injured.
Also, 22-year-old Tony Zitta was killed on July 29, 2018 when a vehicle rammed into his car in Abuja.
The NYSC in Katsina State confirmed the death of three corps members in a fatal crash in the Kankara Local Government Area of the state on August 18, 2018.
Similarly, 37 NYSC members were involved in an accident shortly after leaving the orientation camp in Sagamu, Ogun State, in August 2018. Luckily, no one died, but some sustained injuries.
In another tragic development, nine corps members serving in Taraba State drowned in the River Mayo-Selbe in the Gashaka Local Government Area of the state in August 2018.
The immediate past Director-General, NYSC, Maj. Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH said road accidents accounted for most of the deaths recorded during the service year.
“We need to monitor the corps members and because we monitor them effectively, the rate of movement here and there is reduced, thereby reducing accidents, because road accidents account for most of the deaths recorded during the service year and most corps members embark on journeys without authorisation,” he said.
February 2023, Gunmen kidnapped 15 members of the National Youth Service Corps( NYSC) in Anambra State.
The corps members were abducted by the hoodlums at a filling station in Ihiala, in the Ihiala Local Government Area of the Anambra State.
It was gathered that the corps members had just completed their three-week orientation programme in Imo State, and were travelling to Lagos when they were abducted.
“They hijacked their vehicle and diverted it to Isseke, Ihiala-Orlu expressway where the gunmen kept them hostage,” a source said.
February 2023, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, has confirmed the brutalisation of corps members who served as an ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, during Saturday’s election in Abuja.
The Scheme’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Mr Eddy Megwa, in a seven-paragraph statement, noted that upon receipt of the information, security teams were immediately deployed to investigate the attack.
According to him, the corps member was attacked by an angry mob for allegedly thumb-printing ballot papers in favour of one of the presidential aspirants.
He, however, stated that findings indicated that the act of brutalisation was a case of mistaken identity.
The NYSC can only get people’s buy-in if those misfortunes that are uniquely directed at these youngsters are checked effectively and efficiently. Such things as upgrading security 24/7 around the NYSC camps, feeding them qualitatively during camps and getting decent accommodation for them in those camps and posting them only to places of primary assignments that are capable of affording them some basic needs such as good working environment, accommodation and warding off sexual harassment of these corpers. These ate tasks for the NYSC headquarters in Abuja and they really need to be proactive and not wait for things to happen and then they rush to the media doing damage control belatedly.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.