Reflections with Ubong Usoro: Improving the Welfare of Corps Members

It is wonderful to be here again doing what I so enjoy doing, contributing
my quota to the development of our dear nation, wherein writing is a
means to achieve the aim. I believe you are still keeping to you new year
resolution, I wish you success in all you do. This week we will be looking
at how the welfare of corppers can be improved to a better standard.

HISTORY
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is an organization set up by
the Nigerian government to involve the country’s graduates in the
development of the country. There is no military conscription in Nigeria,
but since 1973 graduates of universities and later polytechnics have
been required to take part in the National Youth Service Corps program
for one year.This is known as national service year. Ahmadu Ali served as
the first Director-General of the NYSC until 1975. The incumbent
Director-General is Brig. Gen. Sule Zakari Kazaure.

OBJECTIVES OF THE SCHEME
The objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme are clearly
spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June 1993 as follows :
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 mobilisation in the national interest.
To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self reliance by
encouraging them to develop skills for self employment.
To contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy.
To develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national
unity and integration.

To remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the
many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups.
To develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of
the people of Nigeria. The equitable distribution of members of the service
corps and the effective utilisation of their skills in area of national needs
That as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in States other than their
States of origin That such group of youths assigned to work together
is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible That the Nigerian youths
are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of
Nigeria That the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious
intolerance by accommodating religious differences That members
of the service corps are encouraged to seek at the end of their one year
national service, career employment all over Nigeria, thus promoting
the free movement of labour That employers are induced partly through
their experience with members of the service corps to employ more
readily and on a permanent basis, qualified Nigerians, irrespective
of their States of origin.

MY CONCERN
Why am writing this article is because of the poor attitude of individuals,
government and society at large towards corp members, the chicken
change they are paid, and the poor vision of our leaders about their
after service life.
It starts from the orientation camp which marks the beginning of the
NYSC scheme. A prospective corp member spends nothing less than
an average amount of N30,000 to N40,000 to prepare for the camp.
On getting to the camp, you would discover that the sockets in the
lodges are disconnected from power supply and it is prohibited to
charge their phones with the use of any of the available sockets and
as such the corps members have to go to the Mami market where
they are extorted. The meal provided for the corp member at the camp
kitchen cannot satisfy a year-old baby coupled with the fact that the
food is always of poor quality while food and other items at the market
within the camp is also sold at exorbitant rates. An average expenditure
in the camp is about N30, 000, aside the N3, 000 plus corps members
pay during registration. You would be given N2, 500 in the camp as
if it was enough to cover your transport expenses regardless of the
distance of your state.

The real game begins when corps members are given their posting
letters. They pay for the vehicles provided by the LGAs to convey them
to the LGA Secretariat. Thanks to the religious associations that
sometimes save them from another lodging expense. On getting to
their Place of Primary Assignments (PPAs), for those who were not
rejected, they would be welcomed with a very interested slogan,
a�?NO PAY, NO ACCOMMODATIONa�?. Not considering that the state does
not pay as well. To the best of my knowledge, only about 20 percent of
the 36 states, including the FCT pay corp members. For those posted to
cities, towns, rural areas and remote villages,they spend between
N100,000 and N200,000, N70,000 and N80,000, N30,000 and N65,000
and N10,000 a�� N20,000 respectively on accommodation,excluding
household items. Yes, some of the employers provide accommodation
but it is only about five percent of them. I observe that no supervision
is carried out when private establishments request for corp members,
because I have seen corp members sent to small firms that cannot even
pay their employees talk more of caring for a corp member. Corp members
are being treated unjustly in their PPAs and when they complain, they are
being threatened with a query by the employer or extension of service
by our coordinators.

In all these, they are expected to survive with N19, 800. They are really
suffering, we cannot continue to be quiet and let them die while serving a
country that does not care for their well-being. All we keep on hearing is
a�?think of what you can do for your country and not what your country can
do for youa�? and as one corps member said,a�?They forget that when you
visit home on three consecutive occasions without biscuits for the
children, then you will need to count yourself as an unwanted visitora�?.
Days have gone when corp members were respected and given most
things free of charge. Nowadays, they do not identify themselves
as corp members in the marketplace or bus stops. Just make a mistake
and go to the market with your fez cap, you will buy a pepper of N50 at
the rate of N200, all in the name of N19, 800 and we are also expected to
save for the future.

In conclusion, all the constituted authorities should work towards the
increment of the monthly allowance which will make the corps members
to be self-reliant and in turn make the objective of the scheme to be
achieved; the government should rehabilitate, renovate as well as
reconstruct,as the case may be,all orientation camps that are ruined.
In order to provide a conducive atmosphere for proper running of the
orientation camping across the country; the government should also
emphasise on the skill acquisition programme which was also
incorporated in the camping activities which will reduce overdependence
on government by the teeming graduates to provide white collar jobs;
and lastly, the government should provide corps members with the needed
welfares for them to be able to serve their fatherland with a greater
determination, dedication and perseverance.

Thank you.
Comrd Ubong Usoro
[email protected]

Ubong writes for The Nigerian Voice, He lives in Uyo.

en

SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)

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