Graduating from a tertiary institution as a Nigerian is not the end of the road for graduates. After convocation, graduates must compulsorily obey the clarion call of the Nation.
The National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme is not new in the Nigeria system. Those who have not had the opportunity to experience the 1-year mandatory scheme may not be able to understand what it feels like to be a corp member. It is against this background that Information Nigeria reporter, Banji Amokeodo, brings to light, the travails and plight of NYSC corps members.
“Youths obey the clarion call
“Let us lift our nation high
“Under the sun or in the rain
“With dedication and selflessness
“Nigeria is ours, Nigeria we serve.
If you think the above is a poem, ‘you are wrong’. It s the lyrics of the NYSC anthem. Corp members must be able to ‘cram’ and sing this anthem ‘extempore’ and every day during their stay in their respective camps.
The NYSC scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. This history gave birth to the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps by decree No.24 of 22nd May 1973 which stated that the NYSC is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”.
To inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves.
To raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement.
To develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training. which will make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest.
Corp Members Recount Horrible Ordeals
Reaching out to some corp members, many complained about the scheme. The programme comes with a cumbersome level of sacrifice and members are at the mercy of hazardous problems stemming from unjust deployments to rural communities with little or no basic amenities for the survival, rejection at Place of Primary Assignment, language barriers, unfriendly attitude from host community, non-payment of allowance, amongst others.
Benjamine, a graduate of the University of Lagos who lives in Lagos State was deployed to Sokoto state for his one-year mandatory service. Sokoto state which is a far northern state in Nigeria will take him about a day from Lagos, by road. He was bitter and sad about the dangerous road, insurgency, and cost of transportation which he highlighted as his major challenges.
John, who travelled by road from Lagos to Rivers state, recounts the tremor he went through, describing the road a ‘graveyard’.
According to him, the road from Lagos to Rivers state is a suicidal trip as the bad road can lead to one’s untimely death.
A story also trended on twitter about a bus hired by prospective corp members who boarded the bus from Lagos to River states. In the course of their journey, the passengers were abducted by kidnappers. Luckily, the Nigeria police were able to rescue them.
The high risks of insurgency in Nigeria cannot be overlooked as many Nigerian Youths preparing for NYSC are subjected to this social menace.
The beginning of the service year starts in the orientation camp. Most orientation camps are in deplorable condition, no electricity, scarcity of water, unhygienic environment and sometimes, unhealthy food.
While morning drills and painstaking exercise are part of the rigorous training that goes on in the camp, what is more ridiculous is the high cost of living in the camp; Taiwo, a corp member laments.
Banji narrated his camp experience in a short interview we had;
“I got to Asaya camp, Kogi State at around 5.30pm after leaving Lagos as early as 7.00am. On getting to the camp, I was checked in by the soldiers. ‘Hey you, open your back’, the official barked, with his eyes fixed on my language.
“I walked to the second entrance where I was requested to write down my details.
“I got inside the camp and I was as lost as a baby in a deep forest; I saw clusters of PCM in different angles of the camp, my apparent blank face attracted about four lads who ran up to me requesting to help me carry my bag.
“I was reluctant at first, but with their persistence, I was forced to release my bag pack with one of the lads as he leads me through my first registration. He took me to my room for the night, I handed him N100 for his stress.
“The night was cold and I knew it would be the longest three weeks of my life.
“At the end of the 3-week orientation camp, corps members were posted to their Place of Primary Assignment (PPA). While some influenced their redeployment back to their state, others proceeded to their assigned community and PPA
“For me, I was unfortunate. “I was posted to a village in Kogi.
“My employer was supportive. He provided me with accommodation but without basic amenities like light and water. water, There was no way I would live in the deplorable condition, and so, I begged him to reject me, citing reasons beyond the deplorable condition of the place.
“After series of pleads and little ‘bribe’, he rejected me.
“I had to go find a PPA for myself and this took me a while before my state coordinator could help in getting another placement.”
Place of Primary Assignment
Immediately after camp, corps members are yet faced with another round of hassle, locating where they have been posted, to for their primary assignments. Some are ‘thrown’ into remote villages where they have to spend all they have on transport fares. In many cases, some end up searching for their PPA all day. Not to even mention the risks attached.
Uju, a corp member, recounts how she was rejected by two companies which drifted her into a state of depression.
In an interview with Uju, the first place of primary assignment informed her that there was no more space for corp members, while the second employee asked for sexual intercourse as a form of gratification before her posting can be considered.
Another corp member, Jumoke, pointed out that “the PPA issue is tiring
“My employer uses me like a robot and pays me less.
“I work like every other staff but I am paid less because I am a corp member, this is unfair.
“Why should I be paid less because I am a corp member?
“The same input the staff put in is the same I put in, and my employee is a bossy man, I cannot stand him.
“I can’t wait to complete the remaining months so I can leave his company, Uju lamented.
NYSC Official Reacts
Reacting, Mrs Olaide Jamiu, Shomolu Local Government NYSC Inspector, in an interview with Information Nigeria, listed the many challenges faced by corps members in Lagos.
“I will highlight some challenges corp members face, but it is also imperative for corp members to understand that the NYSC year is a service year to the Nation, that is why they first go through the rigorous orientation camp for 3 weeks.
“It is a call to clarion and a selfless act to the country. It is, thus, important for corps members to prepare themselves mentally for the service year to make it easier for them.
“Having said that, some challenges faced by corp members vary from state to state. In Lagos, a major problem is getting PPA placement, because of the voluminous corps members directed to Lagos.
“A lot of corp members are either rejected by the company they are assigned to, or find it difficult getting one.
“Another challenge I have noticed in my local government particularly is the clashing problem with employers and corp members.
“Corp members are directly responsible to the federal government, not to their employer. So, when the corp member is requested to do something for the government, it supercedes what the employers ask you to do.
“Corp members should know how to balance this; like it is said, you cannot serve two masters.
“In Lagos, the cost of living is quite high. That is, getting accommodation, transportation, feeding and basic needs.
“Hence, if a corp member is posted to Lagos, and does not have family in the state or other means of income, it becomes quite frustrating as the corp member will struggle with the allowance he or she gets from the federal government.
“Lagos, like every other state, has its dangers too. However, most casualties recorded are probably due to daily activities of the corps members rather the services rendered to the nation. These are some of the challenges that I am familiar with.
“And, as stated earlier when we started this conversation, I said it was imperative to prepare yourself mentally for the service year.
“Do not be ignorant of the laws guiding the service year.
The service year is a life-changing experience, and contrary to what anyone tells you, its worth it.
It helps you develop your skills and sharpen your craft if you are diligent in your services year.