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Posting NYSC members to troubled areas

| July 11, 2012 More

WHENEVER there is a posting crisis of the magnitude witnessed last week by the National Youth Service Corps, the question of the continued relevance of the scheme, at least in its present form, is bound to arise. Many are of the view that the scheme, founded by the Yakubu Gowon administration 39 years ago, has outlived its usefulness and should either be proscribed or substantially reviewed to reflect the current realities in Nigeria.

After last year’s post-election violence in the northern parts of the country that saw NYSC members being deliberately targeted by hoodlums and political thugs, no one could have thought that the NYSC authorities would contemplate sending innocent Nigerian youths back to such places when conditions there have further deteriorated. Yet, the NYSC decided to post 14,850 defenceless corps members to places not better than a war zone.

The fear of these young Nigerians and their parents is genuine and understandable. These are the same places where President Goodluck Jonathan revealed during his recent media chat that he could not visit “for obvious reasons.”  States such as Borno, Kano, Yobe, Kaduna and Bauchi, among some others, have come under incessant attacks by Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorists seeking to foist the Islamic system of government, Sharia, on entire Northern Nigeria. Plateau State has also been smouldering in the kiln of ethnic and sectarian violence for years.  Over 1,000 people, by conservative estimates, have been reportedly killed in those places in the last 18 months by members of the group, known to be affiliates of such internationally acknowledged terror groups as al-Qaeda and el-Shabaab. Boko Haram’s operations have grown in both scope and sophistication while its capacity to inflict damage through suicide bombing and sheer fire power has been proved over and over again.

The threat has been such that the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, declared two months ago that the entire northern parts of the country faced the dire prospect if something urgent was not done to check the rampaging terrorists. Many of the politicians and top government officials from these states have relocated to safer places in Abuja and Lagos. Aside from terror threats, these same states have had a history of attacking and killing corps members who, by the nature of their assignments, are on national duty and are supposed to be given maximum protection. A very good example is the killing of Grace Ushang in Maiduguri, Borno State, for allegedly wearing trousers, which is consistent with the approved mode of dressing for youth corps members.

It is against this grim backdrop that the NYSC, under the leadership of its Director-General, Brig.-Gen. Nnamdi Okore-Affia, decided to sentence the corps members to glaring danger through their posting to the troubled states. The Federal Executive Council also displayed a high sense of callousness by supporting the posting.  Following events of last year, where, in Bauchi State alone, 11 corps members were reportedly killed, many of the NYSC scheme participants who could find their way out of the North did so on their own while, in some cases, state governments waded in by hiring buses and aircraft to ferry their indigenes out of the danger zone. Curiously, some states are promising security for the corps members. Is it the same security agents that have failed miserably to defend themselves against Boko Haram that will defend the corps members? Where were they when corps members were killed in large numbers last year?

Contrary to what is happening now, the NYSC was established to, among other things, support “the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.” Fresh graduates were encouraged to marry from other ethnic groups as a way of fostering national unity and breaking down cultural and ethnic barriers.  Unfortunately, instead of promoting national ties, the NYSC has become the graveyard of many young Nigerian graduates.

Apart from those killed during riots, there have also been reports of isolated and unwarranted killings of NYSC members. More than anything else, religious fanaticism in a section of the country has further widened cultural gaps among Nigerians.

Why then deploy young Nigerians to places where their safety cannot be assured or their liberty guaranteed? If at all the NYSC Scheme must continue to exist, then it should be reviewed so that people would be allowed to choose their places of service based on their sense of security and religious/cultural convictions. Any form of unity that is to be attained at the expense of the lives of young Nigerians, who, in real terms, are the future of the nation, is not worth pursuing.

Though the thoughtless NYSC has decided to review some of the postings, what is required is the total overhauling of the scheme. In the meanwhile, parents and guardians must continue to resist any effort to post their children and wards to places where their safety cannot be guaranteed. In the face of palpable danger to their lives, citizens have the moral right to disregard an offending policy that puts their lives at risk. If parents fold their arms and allow these innocent Nigerians to be taken to where they will not return alive, they will also take responsibility for whatever fate befalls them.



Category: Bauchi State News

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