Matters Arising Over Nysc Posting To Violent Areas
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 syms 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.
Matters Arising Over Nysc Posting To Violent Areas
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