NYSC Posting To ViolentAreas: matters arising

Education

National Youth Service Corps
members the dilemma facing of
potential members of the National
Youth Service Corps who have been
posted to states where violence is
rampant.
When the National Youth Service
Corps was established in 1973, it
was with the aim to “reconstruct,
reconcile and rebuild the country
after the Nigerian Civil war” as
well as encourage and develop
common ties among Nigerian
youths.
Unfortunately, some developments
outside and within the NYSC
‘camp’ in recent times have called
to question the continued relevance
of the spirit behind the scheme. At
the national level, some events have
threatened the values that enhance
togetherness, patriotism and
outright sacrifice that many
would want to undertake for their
fatherland. That is why some
people have queried the continued
relevance or necessity of the
NYSC.
In this era when some states in the
Northern Nigeria and even the
Federal capital, Abuja, seem to be
at the mercy of the violent Islamic
sect, Boko Haram, it seems very
obvious that the leadership of the
scheme would hesitate before
posting innocent and harmless
youths to the troubled spots.
Surprise, however, came when the
NYSC, as usual, sent fresh
graduates from different higher
institutions to all states, including
Borno and Yobe, where the
activities of the sect have left
many people dead in recent months.
It is however not surprising that,
early in the week, those posted to
Yobe, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto,
Bornu and Bauchi states besieged
NYSC national secretariat, Abuja
for redeployment.
Most of the corps members, who
belong to the Batch B of the 2012
service year, in interviews with
national dailies, expressed sadness
and fear. On social networking
sites such as Facebook, Twitter and
even Blackberry, corps members
have continued to express their
displeasure at the development.
One noted, “This government is
wicked and heartless. This
government is a devil. Why are
corps members posted to these states
this time around?” Another posted,
“No sane person would willingly
walk into death. You either choose
your life or a certificate that does
not guaranty a job after service.
It’s that simple.”
Although Boko Haram has not
made any pronouncement against
corps members, nor has it
forbidden their going to serve in
the affected states, the fear is
hinged on the fact that the sect
seems to have an issue with the
Federal Government, and, as it is
said, ‘corpers are government’s
children’. Besides, youth corps
members are symbols of western
education that Boko Haram
believes is evil. Even when no one
directly targets the ‘corpers’,
everybody is a potential victim
whenever violence erupts. It is thus
natural that the candidates posted
to the affected states and their
parents would protest.
But the NYSC authorities do not
want to shift grounds. While the
protests have been ongoing, a
statement signed by the Director
of Corps Mobilisation, Mrs Mary
Kolajo, was allegedly pasted at
the NYSC Headquarters in Abuja,
urging whosoever wanted a
reposting to do so while in camp in
whatever state he has been sent to.
The fact is that the corps’
officials have remained adamant
with reports that they are already
collaborating with the affected
states on how to ensure security for
the corps members posted to their
states. The argument is that no
participant can be redeployed until
he or she reports to the orientation
camp for registration.
To an average Nigerian, the fears
of corps members may not be
unfounded. Corps members had in
the past faced one form of attack
or the other in different states
during service. But the morbid
fear to serve in northern states
began in 2011 when several
‘corpers’ were killed and others
injured in the violence which
followed the presidential elections
in Bauchi and some other northern
states.
Similarly, a graduate of the
University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
Eucharia Remmy, was allegedly
attacked and killed in Damaturu,
during a bombing explosion that
shook the state in late 2011. Also
in 2009, a female corps member,
Miss Grace Ushang, was raped to
death in Maiduguri by assailants
who are still at large. In the face
of the seeming logjam, the NYSC
appears to be the alpha and omega.
Do the affected corps members
have any right to say ‘No’?
For human rights lawyer, Fred
Agbaje, they have every right to
reject postings to the said states.
“Why would they not refuse to go
there for their service?” he asked.
“Who wants to go and die? It is a
constitutional responsibility of the
government at all tiers to ensure
the welfare and security of its
citizens. If the government cannot
perform the social contract, that is
security, then the citizens are free
to reject any order given to them
by the governemnt. It takes two to
tango, so NYSC should stop being
authoritarian because those who
died last year are yet to be
compensated.”
On May 31, the Director-General
of the National Youth Service
Corps, Brig.-Gen. Nnamdi Okore-
Afia, said in Abuja that female
corps members prone to molestation
should be trained in self defence.
Rather than celebrate the decision,
many corps members had, again,
taken to networking sites to
express their dissatisfaction at the
development.
“Martial arts my foot! Same D.G
that has exclusively reserved
Lagos and Abuja for VIPs and
oversea graduates, expecting us
with no surnames to go and serve
the fatherland with knowledge
of taekwando, judo and karate,” a
youth corps members had posted on
an interactive site, Nairaland.
Another posted thus, “I just hope
these so-called training programme
includes explosion survival tactics
and that they w’ll issue out AK47
to the northern serving corpers. Or
better still, get everyone injected
with kryptonite or something
that’ll turn us all into superman/
wonder woman as the case may be.”
Of course, not a few Nigerians
would share the fear of the corps
members, especially as whatever
decision taken would affect, in
one way or the other, many
families.
Agbaje’s position is that affected
parents can take a legal action
against any decision to take their
wards to states where their safety
is not guaranteed.
He said, “There might not be an
act under NYSC that provides a
legal standing for parents but
parents can state that the provision
for their wards to face death
penalty without trial or due process
in some parts of the country is an
affront on their human right and
should be rejected. Afterall,
section 17 of the Nigerian
constitution provides for freedom,
equality and justice for all
citizens.”
Civil rights lawyer, Mr. Bamidele
Aturu, reinforces Agbaje’s stance.
He is of the opinion that security
agencies and government have
failed the citizens.
“Section 16 and 17 of the
Nigerian Constitution makes it
clear that security of Nigerians
should be the primary concern of
government. But the government
has failed the citizens. It has
shown that it is not on top of
security issues in the country. So
this can be the reason for parents
to take legal action against NYSC:
that it is jeopardising the lives of
their wards. Whether they succeed
or not is another matter but nobody
wants to lose a child,” he said.
Perhaps succour is on the way for
the ‘corpers’ as the House of
Representatives, on Tuesday,
barred the NYSC from posting
corps members to volatile states in
Northern Nigeria.
The House, which issued the order
in a resolution, however, added a
proviso that those corps members
who wish to serve in such states
should be allowed to do so –
including their indigenes.
The states are Borno, Yobe, Kano,
Bauchi, Kaduna, Plateau and
Adamawa.

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