The Director-General of NYSC
28th of July, 2019.
Plot 416, Tigris Crescent,
Off Auiyi Ironsi Street, Maitama.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE D.G OF NYSC ON INSECURITY AND WELFARE OF CORPERS
I write this to you, in grief, with a heavy and saddened heart, and I am sure other past and present corps-member feel this way too, regarding the unfortunate incidence, that saw the deaths of 3 young corps-members, in a space of 4 months, which in both cases, were issues of insecurity.
I must first send my deep consolations to the families of Oluwatobiloba Popoola, George Onakpoma, who died on the 21st of March, in Swali, Bayelsa state, and Precious Owolabi Ayo, who died also in line of duty, in Abuja, on the 22nd of July, 2019. I pray that God grant these families the fortitude to bear these loses.
Sir, it was reported by Daily Trust news yesterday 28th of July, that you said that Precious died “a hero”; because he died in active service to his nation.
This statement of yours offends greatly my sensibility as a corps-member, and I regard this as grossly misleading to Nigerians, and the World at large. Let me make it clear that a person is said to have died a hero if s/he voluntarily makes a decision to protect other people, in the face of danger, knowing fully well, s/he could die in the process.
The NYSC Act of 2004 as amended is a document that enforces graduates of higher institutions, below the age of 30, to undergo a compulsory service to the nation in any unfamiliar terrain that the scheme posts them. The NYSC Act compels Corps-member to sign a copy of NYSC pledge, without which they cannot serve. A pledge that suggests that corps-members could die in the act of service, using the phrase: ‘Paying the supreme price’.
I must intimate you on the implication of this inhumane acts imposed on the young graduates of our dear country. It implies that they cannot be gainfully employed by any institution, whether private or public, on the basis of their tertiary qualification, some had to leave their private businesses behind in their states of residence (subject to likely failure due to mismanagement by a third-party), for those fortunate enough to have struggled to set up a business in this business unfriendly environment, and in the midst of very high rate of employment. In the face of these risks and uncertainty, graduates are being made to endure, they have to also endure the high rate of insecurity everywhere in the Country.
This is an act of wickedness on graduates, and is highly unwarranted. This is despite the fact that some graduates are not paid monthly stipends as prescribed in the NYSC Act, neither are some given accommodation, in these unfamiliar terrain by Employers. And the pay of 19,800 naira by the F.G. is a slave wage that really is just an act of torture on corps-members.
I am aware that the families of the slain corps-members were given 1 million naira each by NYSC. I wouldn’t know if there are more compensation promised to these families in the future, but no matter the sum, something better than such sums of money is having those corps-members alive, hale and hearty in the first place, not having to be ‘forced’ to serve in ‘unfamiliar places’ with the ‘unfamiliar’ security architecture.
It seems to me that corps-members are being used as experiments to test the stability of the nation, and then corps-members are made to adhere to a very rigid, gagging, and moribund bye-law which defies the expectation of a sane democracy in the 21st century. This ‘experiment’ retrains their freedom of expression and association, guaranteed by our constitution.
A statement credited to you on the 23rd of May, by Premium Times, reads “I prefer to die than lose a corps-member’. I would like to believe this statement is true, and wasn’t one of those usual lip services from newly promoted or elected public officials in Nigeria. In view of that statement, I implore you to take appropriate actions to allow conversations to the effect of amending the NYSC Act, and Bye-law to deal with the realities of our country today.
The NYSC was meant to bring the country together, and I tell you without pretense that the country is divided today than it has ever been. You might want to take a survey amongst corps members to confirm the uniformity of my position among us all. This survey would go a long way to see whether you truly think about what corps-members feel and whether their opinions matter on how they are treated. It is in best interest and patriotism to our dear Nation, I make the following recommendations:
1.) Until it becomes certain that insecurity is close to non-existent, corps members should be allowed to serve in locations of familiar security architecture and occurrences.
2.) Corps-members who leave home and familiar environment to other unknown locations should be paid more allowances, and be given the option of return to a familiar environment, a few months into the service without bottle-end technicalities or explanations.
3.) The Bye-law should allow corps-members to have private practice, as some of us have a lots of free time during service. Some would like to earn money aside from the slave wage provided.
4.) There should be a national conversation on the longevity of this programme, whether one year is not too much of a period to expend to a scheme that doesn’t guarantee employment, as encouraged in the NYSC Act. A conversation that must center on the affected demography.
5.) These conversations must involve both past and old corps-members.
I write this letter in good faith that the issues raised in this letter would be addressed immediately, and not politicized, or dismissed based on the issue of technicalities as it has been the norm in our recent polity and decisions.
Yours in Grief and Agony.