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#CorpersNotSlaves: The Plight, Unjust and Unfair Treatment of NYSC Members in Elections

The youth, in any nation, represent the future because they play a very vital role in its development and are the key actors in any of its activities.

A few days ago, members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) were left stranded in various polling units across the country. The lamentation and complaints by corps members in various RACs over their very poor welfare underscore the inhumane treatment, poor preparations and overall pathetic welfare conditions for corps members in Nigeria, especially during elections.

Sadly, various RACs appeared as displaced settlements with no adequate shelter, poor security, no water and other basic amenities. Many embarked upon several risky journeys to get to their wards, travelling through the cold night, sleeping in classrooms on the bare floors, fighting mosquitoes and other insects. Corps members displayed patriotism on their own part to carry out the assignment with a sense of diligence, while INEC reciprocated by treating corps members like slaves.

A few weeks ago, the management of INEC, in collaboration with the NYSC, went on record to assure the public that the welfare of corps members had been adequately factored into the welfare and security arrangements for the 2019 elections. However, the ridiculous situation the corps members found themselves in over the weekend did not reflect this. The widespread heart-wrenching images seen a few days ago depicted the commission’s severe lack of preparation and documented the unfair treatment meted out to corps members who were present to serve as ad hoc staff of the commission.

Just like the corps members, a lot has been said about the appalling state of Nigerian workers’ welfare in general. Rather than improve, the situation only appears to be deteriorating. The dignity, for which corps members are known in various communities, has been eroded and the Nigerian authorities do not seem interested in fixing this.

Using the employer-employee analogy as an example to illustrate this scenario, it should be of note that treating employees fairly in the workplace is not just a moral responsibility, it is highly necessary to ensure maximum company growth. Therefore, when an employee is treated ‘unfairly,’ it leads to decreased employee morale and low morale leads to low productivity.

While the N19,800 monthly allowance for corps members is still a topic of debate, the invaluable services that corps members provide to the country mean that the government cannot truly afford to pay for it. Nigerians are left to wonder if the government has any iota of care left for the plight of the corps members scattered across the country, serving the nation under the sun and in the rain as mandated.

There should be dignity in labour and dignity of labour. Corps members should not have to suffer while serving their country. Sadly, the silence of some candidates and stakeholders on how corps members were treated only shows that they have been more concerned about their chances of winning the election.

Apart from working in inclement environs, one can argue that corps members deserve a raise in the election stipends given to them to meet their basic needs and complement their various efforts. As a kind piece of advice, the NYSC should stop allowing corps members to be used as ad-hoc staff if there is no provision for their welfare and accommodation during the process.

Meanwhile, the Director General of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Corps Welfare and Inspectorate Department in charge of INEC should, as a matter of urgency, consider a review of the Memorandum of Understanding the scheme signed with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the participation of corps members in the electoral process.

Despite the over N140 billion budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission for the 2019 elections, INEC had 4 years to plan for this election. Yet as the reality has dawned on them, it is crystal clear that the commission has displayed incompetence on its own part to ensure proper logistics and welfare are put in place.

Corps members have shown determination to serve their fatherland, they have collectively resolved to conduct free, fair and credible polls, hence, INEC and other concerned agencies must commensurate their efforts with proper welfare. This can help in boosting the morale of corps members in the discharge of their duties.

It is important to stress that corps members are not slaves and the concerned agencies must create and instal a reasonable welfare package ahead of the new election dates to restore confidence in and erase the grimaces on the faces of corps members.

We need to learn from yesterday and live with hope for a better tomorrow. The current situation shows that INEC has tactically wasted another opportunity to showcase its readiness for a system which guarantees hitch-free elections in Nigeria, especially with respect to inadequate preparation, delay in deployment of equipment, poor staff welfare and poor mobilisation of logistics.

Alao Abiodun is a Journalist, He can be reached via email – Tweets – @Kingbiodun_

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