Corps members express safety concerns ahead of guber poll

...You are on your own, NYSC tells conniving, patronising members

Ahead of the 2023 Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections shifted to March 18, some serving members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have expressed concerns over their safety, especially following reported attacks and intimidation of corps members during the presidential election.

A corps member, who served as an adhoc staff for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Bwari Local government area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the reported attacks heightened his fears and among his colleagues some of which are hesitant about continuing the exercise.

“I saw so much reports on how corps members were attacked, beaten and threatened. I heard some were even killed in the city centre here; it is an unfortunate incident and I don’t wish that for anybody. I spoke to a colleague of mine who is in the far north and she told me that she may not continue because of fear of attacks by thugs or terrorists; another colleague said the same thing.

“So, those corps members who were attacked, nobody was there to protect them, it can happen to anybody. So, government has to do more to secure us,” he said.

The corps member also expressed concerns that in addition to their safety, their welfare was not catered for as expected and that many of them were yet to receive their allowance.

“The major reason why we are doing this is for the extra money, but till this moment I have not received payment, and I know some others who haven’t,” he said.

Also, another corps member, Palang Yinusa, said she had wanted to serve as an adhoc staff but opted out due to security concerns.

“I was really worried about political thugs and violence that may break out which eventually happened. This presidential race was so competitive and you could perceive the desperation of politicians. My parents also discouraged me from the idea,” she said.

Some public affairs analysts and education experts are also concerned about the saftey of corps members.

While condemning the attacks, Ronald Timipre, a legal practitioner, also condemned the use of corps members in elections.

“Election in Nigeria is characterised with violence and I totally condemn the use of Corps members as electoral officers. These are graduates with high hopes and dreams,” he said via his twitter handle @Ronald-Timipre.

Read also: Overcoming post-election blues

Princewill Anyalaewechi, a former director in the Ministry of Education, stressed that security of corps members must be taken seriously. He expressed dissatisfaction over the conduct of the presidential poll.

“I understand hundreds of thousands of corps members have been deployed as adhoc staff; hundred thousand lives are at risk and their future threatened. We must not play with the issue of security. INEC and security officials must improve on the presidential election and do better. The brutalisation of young Nigerians is totally condemned,” he said.

During the presidential poll, a corps member deployed to LEA primary school, Lugbe as INEC ad-hoc staff was brutalised by angry mob on the suspicion that he was involved in the act of thumb-printing ballot papers in favour of one of the presidential aspirants.

The NYSC officials however, clarified that the brutalisation was a case of mistaken identity, saying investigations found that the corps member was not part of the criminal gang involved in the said act.

Also, three corps members deployed to Warri were held hostage by the electorate during the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections in Warri, Delta State. They were detained over malfunctioning of the BVAS assigned to them for accreditation of voters in the Itsekiri community.

Another observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “A gory video circulating on social media captured the brutality of Corps members in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. One of the corps members (a male) was even shot and you could even hear the cocking of gun at the background by those that were threatening them to do their bidding. When I was watching it my heart sank. The shot boy was falling on other equally traumatised colleagues of his. Who knows the fate of those young people now?”

Prior to the elections, over 100 corps members deployed in three Local Government Areas of Imo State withdrew their participation. INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sylvia Agu said the corps members cited insecurity as their reason for withdrawal.

In response to the security concerns, Eddy Megwa, director Press and Public Relations Officer on Friday assured that the safety of corps members is guaranteed. He said the director general of the scheme, Yusha’u Ahmed, has met with security agencies and INEC to ensure that security will not be compromised.

He added that the DG recently held a meeting with state coordinator to return the security situation and provide guidance.

Megwa, also assured that corps members will not be deployed to identified flashpoints across the country , as other adhoc officials will take up their duty.

The director warned that the management of the scheme will not shield any corps member that runs foul of the electoral act if found guilty.

“The Management wishes to once again admonish Corps Members participating in the conduct of the general elections to ensure the highest degree of neutrality and discipline in their approach to the national assignment, as membership of the Corps cannot prevent them from prosecution if there is infraction to the Electoral Act,” he stated.

On the welfare and payment of corps members allowance, he informed that INEC commenced payment on Tuesday and corps members yet to be credited are probably delayed by poor bank network.

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