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Corps Members – We’d Rather Stay Home Than Risk Our Lives
Corps Members continue to generate tension, john oba, in this piece, reports that the current insecurity in some parts of the North is truly a threat to the objectives of the NYSC.
Since the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps scheme, no problem has posed a severe challenge to its existence as the current security challenge in most parts of the country.
This is so because there is palpable apprehension in the affected areas. The current insecurity is a national problem that is negatively affecting what the scheme and the Corps Members represent.
The current security realities, especially since the killing of 10 Corps Members after the 2011 elections in some parts of the North, have necessitated the need to improve security for Corps Members posted to various parts of the country.
Indeed, the security situation in the country is threatening the objective of the scheme and unity of the country.
In spite of the contributions of Corps Members to several communities, they have been variously targeted during several civic participations. They are increasingly becoming targets of heinous crimes-----killing, kidnapping, rape, robbery.
This explains why since 2011, the posting of Corps Members has been generating a lot of controversies and would continue until the security challenges are settled and this may not be anytime soon.
The recent posting has generated more protests Than the ones before it, understandably because of the terrorist activities of the Islamic sect, popularly known as Boko Haram, with its attendant trademark of bomb blasts, gun battle and unrest.
To make matters worse, the activities of this group are gradually taking a religious dimension. As a result of this, most Corps Members posted to such states would Rather shun the service year Than Risk their lives.
Though the uprising is in selected parts of the North, parents of prospective Corps Members from the South see it as a canker that has eaten the entire northern region, hence the protest trailing the posting.
The posting was met with agitations by parents, guardians and the Corps Members who subsequently asked for redeployment for their wards. Most Christian parents do not see any reason why their children should be posted to areas where Christians are targets of violence and killing.
A parent said, “I will reject it entirely. I won’t allow her to go because northerners don’t want southerners. There is no way any right thinking person will allow his son or daughter to go and be murdered in the North. Let northerners serve in the North and let the southerners serve here. Those of them serving here enjoy themselves, but when Our children go there, they are harassed.”
Another parent, Mr. Mark Agada, who Lives in Kaduna but hails from Benue State, said he would not allow his son to go to Yobe State where he had been posted to for the one-year mandatory service.
Similarly, Mr. Emeka Odogwu, member of the Transition Committee of Awka North Local Government Council, whose wife was among those to be mobilised for the next service year, said he would not allow her go to the North.
Also, Badiru Tajudeen, a graduate of Quantity Surveying from Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU), Ile-Ife, posted to Zamfara State, vowed that nothing would keep him beyond the mandatory three weeks of orientation programme in the camp.
“I was a victim of this crisis in January 2011. I graduated from the University of Maiduguri, I narrowly escape death there. I was shot and hospitalised; that was why I missed going for service when my mates served.
Now they want me to go and serve in Plateau State where there is bombing and killing every day. I can’t Risk my life the second time; I may not be that lucky this time around, so they should redeploy me. I will not go there for any reason,’’ a Corps member who would not want his name in print lamented.
“My parents are even reluctant to release me to participate in the three-week orientation programme. They have instructed me to abort the programme if I won’t be redeployed to the West,’’ he added.
Sequel to this ugly development, minister of Youth Development, Inuwa Abdul-Kadir, pleaded with Nigerians to support President Goodluck Jonathan in his drive to making the country safe for citizens.
But the NYSC authorities have defended their action, saying that the Act establishing the scheme did not permit it to leave any state out during posting. Addressing the press, director-general of the NYSC, Brig-Gen. Nnamdi Okore-Affa, had insisted that there was no going back on posting Corps Members to all the 36 states of the federation.
He said, “Nigeria has 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). By Our mandate, we must post Corps Members to all states. However, because some areas have been described as volatile, what we will do is to reduce the number of Corps Members sent to such states. They will be posted to areas where their security will be guaranteed.
“The truth is that each state deserves Corps members. We will not deliberately send Corps Members to violence-prone areas, but we will send to at least state capitals.”
Okore-Affia’s position may have been further encouraged by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isah Sali Muhammad, who charged the scheme (while receiving the DG in his office) to scrap the provision of concessional posting as this undermines the original vision of the scheme.
But the director of Corps Mobilisation, Mrs. Mary Folusho Kolajo, pleaded with the Corps Members to go to where they are deployed to and fill the form for redeployment, saying they must first resume at the camp for registration and thereafter apply for redeployment as instructions have been given to state coordinators to treat deployment cases with priority.
“We cannot be doing relocation here, what we do at the national headquarters is redeployment. We have told them to resume at their respective camps so as to apply for redeployment, giving legitimate reasons why they should be relocated.
We have given all the state coordinators the redeployment forms and they have been instructed to treat redeployment cases with utmost priority. We are mindful of the security situation and preparations have been made to secure them,” she assured.
But there are concerns that the present NYSC management is not conscious enough, as many thought the DG would have exercised restraint by not posting Corps Members to any state with security concern, using it as a measure to pressurise the governors of the affected states to work on the security situation in their respective domains.
Expectedly, not a few concerned Nigerians have seen the action of the management of NYSC as a mark of insensitivity.
From a legal point of view, though the decree establishing the scheme does not allow Corps Members to reject posting, a former chief judge of Lagos State, Justice Samuel Omotunde Ilori, while speaking to journalists, said that they had the right under the 1999 constitution to reject posting to places where their Lives are in danger.
Another legal guru, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a senior advocate of Nigeria, said the aggrieved Corps Members had the right to reject their postings notwithstanding what the NYSC Act of 1973 or Decree 1993 said.
“They have the right to life and dignity of the human person first, and the right not to be killed. These rights are enshrined in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution. Those rights are higher Than the 1973 Act of the NYSC or the Decree 1993 of the NYSC.
“Self-preservation is the first law of nature. Dead men don’t argue. All those young men who lost their Lives last April are gone forever.
“If there is any Corps member that is posted to a place where he feels his life is not secure and he rejects it on such grounds, I will offer my service pro bono to defend such person in court.
“I will show in court that they have the right to life and not to be killed, and that the right is higher and overrides the statutory provision that they should be taken to places other Than their places of origin,” he said.
Justice Ilori said if his children were posted to volatile states, he would sue the NYSC.
“A lot of Corps Members perished in one state in the North when they were deployed for election duty and nothing happened.
“If I had a child who is to do youth service today, and you send him to Maiduguri, for instance, I will sue. I will ask the court to make an order that you have no right to imperil the life of my child. The full duty of the law is to protect life and property,” he said.
But governors of the affected states have assured of their readiness to provide security for all Corps Members posted to their states.
For instance, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State approached the former minister of Youth Development, Bolaji Abdullahi to re-assure him and the NYSC on his government’s determination to ensure the security of Corps Members in the state, while pleading for the reversal of an earlier stand by the scheme to reduce drastically, the number of Corps Members posted to the state.
Also, the chief servant of Niger State revealed his administration’s readiness to provide adequate security to all Corps Members in his state.
Gombe State coordinator of the scheme, Mr. Manesah Igyuse, also disclosed that the state government was doing everything possible to ensure that those posted to the state for the orientation exercise were secured.
‘‘The military have been moved into the camp with their armoured tank and are combat ready, so nobody will even attempt to come and attack it. More soldiers and policemen have also been drafted to boost security in the camp,’’ he said.
The recent resolution of the House of Representatives in which they instructed authorities of the NYSC not to post unwilling Corps Members to states with security concerns, calls from different angles for the scrapping of the scheme, as well as the director-general’s perceived unwillingness to reverse his decision on the system of posting, it seems that more controversies are brewing for an organisation that was created to foster unity.
Corps Members – We’d Rather Stay Home Than Risk Our Lives
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