Some graduates of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, on Tuesday, peacefully protested their deployment to Nigeria’s troubled northern region by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Numbering about 20, and with placards in hand, the protesters took their grudge to the State House of Assembly, Ikeja and some media houses within Lagos.
With some of the placards reading, ‘Congratulate our parents, don’t condole them’, ‘We reject to be killed’, ‘Many corps members were killed last year, have we forgotten so soon?’, the protesters vowed not to report to their states of deployment. In a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House and delivered on behalf of LASU Students’ Union, the school’s branch of the Senior Staff Union of Universities (SSANU), the State branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and mobilised graduates of the NYSC, the protesters appealed to the state lawmakers to “intervene by ensuring the redeployment” of corps members affected by the latest posting.
To foster unity
The Youth Service is a year mandatory programme for university and polytechnic graduates, aimed at fostering integration among people of different regions and tribes in the country. But in recent times, the muslim-dominated northern region has been volatile, largely due to the activities of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram. Last year, in April, 11 youth corps members were confirmed dead in the violence that followed the presidential election in Bauchi state alone. There have reportedly been other targeted killings of corps members posted from the Christian dominated Southern part of the country.
“It is pertinent to note that hundreds of last year corpers mobilised to all these areas lost their lives and it was pronounced by government then that henceforth, postings to all these states will be stopped,” the protesters’ letter read. Receiving the letter, the House Chairman on Education, Alawiye King, said the lawmakers had already deliberated on the issue and would take “pragmatic” steps, following the protest.
‘We would rather wait’
The protesters said they were prepared to wait till November, hoping the next batch of deployment would put them within the southern region. “I believe that they would have adjusted by then,” said one of the protesters, Olayiwola Adebayo.
Following a similar protest in Abuja on Monday, NYSC pleaded with the graduates to report at their three weeks’ training camp and seek redeployment afterwards. However, Bidemi Kosoko, who vowed not to report at the Bauchi state orientation camp, described the idea as “ridiculous”.
She said a brief internet research she had carried out on her state of deployment had further dampened her spirits “with the past killing of corps members and the bombings everyday.” “I won’t go and kill myself; Boko Haram is not so stupid not to know when three weeks will end. Everyone should serve in their own region,” she added. Meanwhile, some graduates with similar cases in Lagos have started reporting to their states of deployment, however, with some trepidation.
In a telephone conversation, Shina Fowowe, who left Lagos for the NYSC Bukuru camp in Jos, Plateau State, admitted to being “scared out of his wits” when he received his posting. But I came because I felt that camp should be safe, but I don’t think I would stay beyond the three weeks that I would be in camp. All hands are already on deck at home to make sure I get redeployed after camp,” he said.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Tuesday, called on the authorities of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to cancel the posting of corps members to states with security challenges. Following a motion moved by Rep. Peter Edeh, the House further requested the NYSC to re-post affected corps members to relatively safe places until the security challenges were resolved.