NYSC camps of insecurity, poor health facilities, epileptic power supply
Following the sudden and mysterious demise of three youth corps members of 2016 Batch B (Stream 1) Orientation Course namely Chinyerem Nwenenda Elechi, Ifedolapo Oladepo and Monday Asuguo Ukeme, tongues have continued to wag on the sustainability or otherwise of the NYSC scheme.
It was a result of this ugly development, coupled with others before now, that the Senate recently called on the Federal Government to overhaul the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme. The call followed a motion of urgent public importance moved by the Chief Whip of the Senate, Olusola Adeyeye (APC Osun Central).
The Senate also called on the government to improve on medical facilities in all NYSC orientation camps across the country and deploy experienced medical personnel to the centres.
Moving the motion, Mr. Adeyeye drew the attention of the Senate to the death of three corps members, including Ifedolapo Oladepo, from his senatorial district.
He lamented that the death of corps members has become a recurrent development in the NYSC orientation camps across the country. The Senator also expressed deep concern that experienced medical personnel were not deployed at orientation camps.
He added that inexperienced medical doctors undergoing national service were usually engaged to attend to the medical needs of corps members. The lawmaker expressed concern that an orientation camp that housed over 300,000 corps members could not boast of modern facilities to cater for the needs of corps members.
He also decried a situation whereby NYSC officials were not living up to their responsibilities, adding that the development has exposed corps members to all manners of danger.
It would be recalled that before this incident, there has been a clarion call for the review and overhaul of the scheme, but successive governments have not responded to this clamour.
Dilapidated Edifice, Poor Sanitary Condition, Insecurity In Enugu
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
About five minutes walk from the Awgu Local Council Secretariat headquarters takes you into the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp in Enugu State. Although the roads leading into the council are tarred, that leading to the orientation camp is dusty, hilly and not tarred despite its proximity to the council headquarters.
The camp’s entrance gate occupied by soldiers has fallen apart. It has a tent-like arrangement in form of a security house that is exposed to sun and rain. Soldiers who man the entrance gate don’t stay in the tent but under a mango tree.
The orientation camp, which served as a transit camp during the Nigeria civil war, is hilly and dusty. None of the access roads in the camp is tarred. The dusty nature of the Awgu Orientation Camp is compounded by the grading of its internal roads by the management. Thus, the red sand easily settles on the buildings and trees.
The Guardian learnt that the place became orientation camp in 1973 after it was taken over by the federal government. The camp is said to be the oldest in the country. At least two structures that were used during the war, roofed with asbestos, still stand in the premises. They have been converted to parking stores by the management of the place.
There are at least six hostels in the unfenced compound for both Corps members, staff of the Scheme as well as security men. It was also observed that the environment is not secured as it is yet to be separated from the rest of the community.One side of the compound provides access road to some occupants of buildings around the camp, as they enter their residences through the camp’s compound.
A staff of the NYSC, who pointed at cars parked inside the compound said: “These cars belong to occupants of that building. You can see that there are no walls in the whole of this compound. So these occupants easily move through here and park their cars. Although there is a gate at the entrance, it is dilapidated, so you can’t keep anything here. Once the orientation period is over, we move everything back to our office in Enugu and return any other time Corps members are in camp”.
He, however, disclosed that based on the agreement reached between federal government and host states, it was the responsibility of the states where the NYSC Orientation camp is located to maintain and manage its facilities.
Before they passed out last week, the Batch B stream 1 had 2169 members on camp made up of 1201 males and 968 females, security men and officials, all quartered in the camp. Accommodation is a problem for the Awgu Orientation camp. The hostels, which have double- decked iron beds, can hardly solve the accommodation need of the Corps members. The accommodation situation has been compounded by the dilapidation of one of the hostels in the camp. It was gathered that the roof of the building was first blown out before a part of it was gutted. And apparently to solve the problem, immediate past Governor of the State, Sullivan Chime started a 500-capacity storey hostel block.
However, the building has remained uncompleted as it was abandoned soon after it was roofed.“This will solve the accommodation problem we are facing here if it is completed. A year ago, when one of the hostels collapsed, the staffs were evacuated from one of their hostels for Corps members and the situation has remained so since then. We need to get that place working to ease the accommodation problem,” the staff said.
Water is regulated in the camp, even with the availability of a solar-powered borehole said to have been constructed during Chime’s administration. The water was reticulated about five kilometers to the camp and is being shared with the community. There are water reservoirs in the compound, but hardly enough for the needs of users. It is said that the solar-powered borehole works better during sunshine. To augment the water supply, officials of the NYSC deploy three water tankers on a daily basis to the ninth mile, a journey of over three hours, to fetch water for use.
The tankers supply water two to three times a day. As such, water is available only in the morning and night.There is a clinic being manned by Corps member doctors. It was gathered that two professional nurses from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) complement the services rendered at the clinic. There is a standby ambulance bus that conveys persons with serious medical cases to hospitals.
There is a camp market being patronised by the Corps members, security personnel, officials and visitors. Inside the market are food sellers of all kinds, beverages and alcohol drinks among others. The food is not cheap as it goes between N350 to N400 per plate with meat. It was gathered that Corps members who may not want to eat the food served from the NYSC kitchen patronise the place.
The NYSC kitchen is, however, busy all through the day as it prepares three square meals for occupants of the camp. The figure was put at over 3000 persons. A visit to the kitchen indicated that it is run on shift basis by people engaged by officials of the Scheme and Corps members are assigned from time to time to supervise the cooking.
One of the Corps members, Ujunwa Nwoha told The Guardian: “ I think the feeding is fairly okay. The hilly nature of this place, the water supply and accommodation are the challenges here. All of us are parked in the hostels. The only exemptions are pregnant and nursing mothers who are permitted to come from outside, others must camp. But I think there is need to build some hostels to ease accommodation challenge here.
“The power supply situation is fair, but I hear that it goes off the moment the camp is over. That is why you see generators around. I think they need to improve this place. The officials graded the road and I think it would worsen the erosion situation here. What we need really is for them to tar this place to reduce the dust we inhale daily”.
She said the Scheme was a good one as it affords them opportunity to interact with others, learn some trade as well as get exposed in other spheres of life.
“So I don’t think it will be nice for anybody to suggest that it should be scrapped. Rather I will suggest that government needs to inject more funds into the system to make it work better.”
Efforts to speak with the Camp Director, Mr Ella Williams, on the challenges in the Camp proved abortive. He told The Guardian that he would only speak if permitted to do so by the State Director.
However, the State Director, who was later contacted, asked the reporter to wait as she was on her way to the camp. She, however, did not show up for the over five hours that the wait lasted.
Lack of Toilets, Clean Water, Major Challenges At Kano NYSC Camp
From Murtala Mohammed, Kano
Once ranked best camp among its peers across the country, the Kano NYSC permanent orientation camp is presently in a shape of structural dilapidation, which has emanated from years of neglect.
Officially opened in February 2008, the Karaye Orientation Camp, about 70 kilometers away from Kano metropolis, is confronted with dysfunctional facilities already stretched beyond capacity.
Sited adjacent Kusala Dam, the orientation camp is naturally endowed with abundant water supply unlike many camps that suffer untold hardship of water sources. But supply many a times comes in hard texture coupled with colour content typical of untreated source, The Guardian gathered.
Originally structured to accommodate little above 1,000 corps members, the Karaye camp accommodates more than 2,000 people on each orientation exercise, thereby mounting pressure on all the facilities that lack basic maintenance. For instance, corps members sometimes resort to open defecation, due to insufficient toilets at the male hostel. It was learnt that the few ones serving the multitude were shut since the water closets damaged and have not been repaired.
A male corps member who spoke with The Guardian at the orientation camp during the visit lamented the poor condition of the toilets and calls for urgent intervention to avert an epidemic on the camp.
“Honestly, if care is not taken, somebody can develop sickness from this orientation camp. For instance the water they supply sometimes come in different colours, which may be dangerous to health. Although I have seen many corps members taking it, but I don’t think I can drink it. Only God knows whether that water was treated or not.
“Even the toilets are worse. The water system is bad. Many delay their defecation till night when they can easily go near the bush. Some of us even take our bath outside early in the morning and late in the night, because the bathroom is marred with mess. If you go there now you will see stinking water coming out from the bathrooms and toilets. The whole thing is stagnant and smelling, but nobody cares to do anything about it.”
Apparently triggered by the tragic death of Ifedolapo Oladapo who passed on during the orientation exercise, some of the corps members who revealed the state of the camp clinic posited that the late Oladapo could not have suffered the strange illness if the health centre was well equipped and manned by experienced personnel.
Although access was not allowed into the makeshift camp clinic, it was gathered the clinic is being run by few corps member doctors assisted by others who they believe might have studied health related courses. Apart from being manned by less experienced persons, the clinic lack basic medications and facilities required for treating sick people.
“ You will never pray to have anything that will take you to that clinic because the place is empty in terms of drugs and apart from bed and first aid box, I have not seen anything in that place they call clinic. There was a time my friend was there for treatment, they only wrote the drugs for him to buy. Sometimes they run out of paracetamol or any pain relieve medications, since that’s the only thing they give.”
Another corps member, who craved for the deployment of experienced medical personnel to the camp clinic, insisted that NYSC doctors lack the requisite skills and sufficiency to manage the multitude of youths on camp. He also blamed the NYSC authorities for failure to equip the clinic with necessary medication.
“As for me, I don’t know if those people inside that clinic are all doctors. Secondly, let’s even assume there are trained doctors among them the question is, are they experienced enough to manage every sickness? I will suggest the NYSC should not rely on the NYSC doctors on camp alone. They should collaborate with government and even the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to deploy experienced doctors to camp to assist those young NYSC doctors”.
Having survived several administrations in the last 43 years, the scheme remains the only surviving instrument of national unity. However, it has faced criticisms, challenging its credibility to sustain the core philosophy of the founding fathers, thereby advocating complete scrapping of NYSC or making it optional.
Speaking on the scheme, Adedoyin Oluwatosin opined that government should rather check the failure of the system, insisting that scraping it would generate another excruciating problem in the system.
“ I don’t think scrapping NYSC will solve the problem of the youths or young graduates. I believe the scheme has done so well and it is rather a blessing to the nation. What I will suggest is for the government to restructure it so that all the challenges could be solved”.
Concerned by the huge money being allocated to NYSC on a yearly basis, many have suggested reinvestment of the monies for the young graduates. The belief was that instead of giving the corps members the routine monthly allowance of N20,000, the monies should be disbursed to the young graduates in bulk with the mandate to set up their independent enterprises rather than seeking the scarce white collar jobs.
Others, however, rejected such option, arguing that the initiative may end up in futility. Justifying his argument, Abdullateef Abdulmaliq insisted that the major challenge that may defeat such ideal is lack of business orientation. He thereby called for an expansion of entrepreneurial training provided during orientation camp to widen their experience.
“ I can bet you the system will not work. If you give people money today to invest in business, not minding whether the person has interest in business, the effort would be wasted at the end of the day. Fine, the NYSC is bringing some people to camp to talk on entrepreneurship, but much as many of us would have loved to pick interest in any of the trades the time limit is not enough for us to learn. So if they can extend the training, maybe it will make sense.”
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