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Tales from NYSC camp

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Tales from NYSC camp

Post  Admin on Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:29 am

The National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) programme has continued to raise hope in national unity despite the strife threatening to tear the country apart. Every year, fresh graduates who are not more than 30 years are mobilized for the mandatory one- year national service. In answer to this clarion call, they loudly profess their zeal to serve the country under the rain or in the sun, with dedication and selflessness.

In spite of the laudable objectives that inspired the introduction of this scheme, the programme has been nicknamed ‘Now Your Suffering Continues’, by those who believe that the service year is a period when corp members become refined in the school of affliction.

But the NYSC has remained undaunted in the face of such criticisms as it continues to drill graduates in various orientation courses, preparing them for future leadership roles. The cream of graduates who passed through the scheme and their generous contributions to national development has remained its foremost achievement.

Thousands of graduates across the states of the federation participated in the closing ceremony of the 2009 Batch B, NYSC orientation course held last Tuesday. However, their youthful vigour for national service does not undermine the fact that the NYSC scheme is faced with innumerable challenges.
In Lagos State, 1,920 corp members participated in the ceremony at the NYSC Orientation Camp in Iyana-Ipaja. During the ceremony, the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who was represented by the Hon. Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Tola Kasali, noted the infrastructural challenges facing the camp.

“I wish to commend the efforts of the State Governing Board, the co-ordinator and staff of the Lagos State NYSC for ensuring a hitch-free orientation course in spite of the infrastructural challenges facing the camp. We shall continue to improve on the camp facilities in readiness for succeeding batches of corp members”, he said.
Some of the corp members, who spoke to Daily Sun, disclosed that there were about 28 people in a room with 14 bunkbeds. Such congestion not only created noise but also generated suffocating heat during occasional power outage.

In an interview with journalists, Dr. Tola Kasali, who is also the Chairman, NYSC Lagos Governing Board, attributed the delay in the completion of the rehabilitation work on the camp to the Batch A orientation course earlier held in March, this year. “In fact, we almost stopped this orientation because of the rehabilitation we are doing here. The contractor was awarded the contract before the last orientation and that disrupted the work. After this second badge, the real rehabilitation of this place will start. Before the next batch comes in November, the rehabilitation would have been completed”, he promised.

In spite of the many years of existence of the programme, most states cannot boast of a befitting permanent NYSC orientation camp. In some states, students of some secondary schools are displaced whenever orientation course commences, sending the affected schools on a compulsory 3-week holiday.
Dr. Kasali further disclosed the on-going effort of the Lagos State government in working out an area that would be exclusively preserved for the programme.
In his words: “A befitting camp is not in the structure, but on the serenity of the environment where there will be no distractions”.

While addressing the issue of insecurity of lives in some states that have become prone to violence, Dr. Kasali assured that the Lagos State government would beef up security to protect lives and property.
“It is unfortunate that we are in a time when we have crisis here and there. And the government is encouraging the security agencies and the host communities to beef up security, especially for these corp members who are strangers in the places where they were posted to serve”.

Responding to the question on the fairness of the posting exercise, amidst claims by some individuals that some graduates lobby to be posted to some particular states, Musa Bola, a Civil Engineering graduate of Abubakar Tafa Balewa University, expressed his disappointment when he discovered that majority of the corp members posted to Lagos were Yorubas.
According to him, he had reasoned that since one cannot be posted to his own tribe, except for certain health or marital considerations, most of the corp members in Lagos would be from the North, South- South, South- East.

“I was surprised that 70 per cent of those posted to Lagos were Yorubas. Igbos were about 20 per cent, while other tribes shared the remaining lesser percentage. It seems to me that some people that came to Lagos seemed to have influenced the posting”.
Further investigation by the Daily Sun revealed that some corp members aided by their influential parents, relatives or friends lobby their postings to some states like Abuja, Lagos, Delta or Rivers State. These places, often seen as gold mines, have the largest numbers of corp members every year.

With lucrative offers from companies and juicy employment opportunities after the service year, most people fall head over heels to be posted to these places.
Vera Ezeodili, a Batch A serving corp member in Lagos State, noted that integration remains one of the core values of the NYSC, adding that corp members should not dictate their choices in states and places to serve.
“It is surprising that some corp members see their postings to the North as punitive, and they either reject the posting or seek re-deployment after the orientation course. There were reported cases of some corp members who abscond from their places of assignment, only to resurface during the passing out ceremony to collect their certificates’, she added.

One of the guests at the ceremony, Mr. Charles Amarairo, who served in Delta state in 2004/2005, pointed out that the over-population in some camps create accommodation problems.
He also stated that NYSC orientation camp is best located in a serene environment, mostly at the outskirt of the city centre in order to provide young graduates a retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. He expressed disaffection with most camps found in the heart of the cities where traffic noise and other unwanted interruptions are common. Apart from frequent visitors sneaking in on corp members, thieves and other miscreants also raid camps and cart away valuable possessions, he said.

The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Special Duties, Mr Adekunle Odubela, who represented the Hon. Commissioner for Special Duties at the occasion, rightly indicated that the NYSC was set up as a direct response to eradicate ethnic prejudices. He encouraged corp members to de-emphasize ethnicity and sectionalism by engaging themselves meaningfully in the orientation programme.
Some corp members, who spoke with Daily Sun at the passing out ceremony, expressed delight on their camp life.

Tochi Udeozor, a graduate of marketing from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, commended the NYSC officials for the interesting events on camp, mostly the camp fire night, inter-platoon competition and leadership seminars. She called for an upward review of the allowance paid to corp members by the federal government in view of the economic hardship in the country.

Also speaking, Kanabe Shaka from Edo State, expressed satisfaction with the security on the camp, the constant water and electricity in the area. Kanabe, who studied Banking and Finance at Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, argued strongly that the NYSC is not responsible for the increasing unemployment situation in the country and urged those calling for the phasing out of the scheme to have a re-think.
Kenneth Nwankwo, a graduate of Production Technology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, described camp life as remarkable.

“I have not been opportuned to live in a room with so many people from diverse ethnic background. But this orientation course made it possible. It is amazing to see how we related cordially and lived together as if we had known over the years. The tie that binds us together is stronger than the factors that divide us”, he added.

Kenneth, who was posted to Wema Bank, however called on the authority to improve on the accommodation facilities on camp in order to meet up with the increasing population of graduates posted to the state.
Another female corp member, who pleaded anonymity, lamented the congestion in the female hostel where 28 people lived in a room for three weeks. She called on the Lagos State government to speed up the rehabilitation work in the camp.

Amidst complaints by some corp members of poor feeding, Uchechukwu Ezenwa, who studied History and Politics, Ahmed Bello University, explained that a corp member is entitled to N300 meal daily. He added that the quality of food served on camp could be accepted, judging by that standard.
He commended the administrative structure of the NYSC for their educative programmes and training, while expressing his worry on the small sized kits they were given despite an earlier information of their correct sizes filled on line.

“Before we reported to camp, we were requested to fill a form on line indicating the size of our trousers, shoes and so on, which we did. But on getting here, we were given either smaller or extra- large sizes. And when we complained, the officials told us to find an exchange partner which was not easy. Some people had to mend theirs or make a new one entirely”, he explained.

Contrary to the claim that used condom littered the parade ground as corp members broke the rules of garrisoned life for midnight pleasure, Kenneth Nwankwo denied any sex scandal on camp. He confessed that he had no such errotic relationship, noting that healthy relationships were established among corp members from different cultural and religious background.

In her response, Tochi Udeozor said that most female corp members had serious relationships before coming to camp, and ruled out the chances of wild fling on camp ground.
“The essence of the camping is just to prepare us for the real task ahead. The camp is not a love nest for intending couples”, she sharply retorted.

Some of the corp members who have no place to stay in Lagos bemoaned their plight when they were leaving the camp. Daily Sun gathered that most companies, ministries and banks where they were posted to serve, have no accommodation facilities. Faced with this problem, some female corp members, who served in Lagos in the past, found their way into men’s homes where they spent their whole service year as live-in-lovers. Others sought refuge in houses provided by religious organisations, a situation that compelled them to accept the new faith or lose their shelter. More worrisome is the fact that some of them, in their desperation for accommodation, throttled their parents’ neck for money to rent an apartment in the state.

Watching the corp members leave the camp in droves with their luggage and posting letter was a scene to behold. But one of them, a female, counted herself unlucky to be posted to one of the new generation banks. With worry written over her face, she lamented to our reporter, “These banks would request for the services of many corp members but they only select beautiful ladies with hips and sexy looks. They want female marketers whose smiles would attract rich male customers. Many of us are called but few would be chosen”.

Daily Sun reliably gathered that many of these corp members that stampede to banks and oil companies often meet with disappointment, as only a few would be selected at the end. Apart from the internally conducted tests by those organisations, most of them are seen as unemployable.
Reacting to this in an interview with journalists, the Lagos State Co-ordinator of NYSC, Mr Anthony Ani, denied the claim that corp members are rejected after posting.

Hear him: “We don’t have problems with corp members being posted. In Lagos, the problem is that the corp members are rejecting themselves. All of them want to serve in oil companies and they are being aided by their parents. Everybody wants to go to Chevron. Everybody wants to go to Mobil. Everybody wants to serve in Shell, aided by their parents and big uncles”.

The State Co-ordinator also praised the high level of fraternity among the corp members, and called on Nigerians to treasure the bond of national unity. “In spite of the fact that most of them never knew each other, until their arrival at the camp, the level of co-operation was quite amazing. As members of a platoon, they all worked together to achieve a common goal. This is a lesson to us as Nigerians that our tribes may differ but together we will jointly lift this nation high if we co-operate with one another”, he stressed.

Mr Ani also stated that the NYSC would partner with the Lagos State government in the provision of social services for the people. “I want a situation where Lagosians will feel the impact of corp members, on the road, in the area of environmental sanitation. We want to work with the state governor that is performing wonders so that Lagos becomes the real centre of excellence”.


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