These may have been responsible for the harvest of about 300 fake corps members the FCT National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) recently handed over to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in 2013 alone.
Coordinator of the FCT NYSC, Mr Frank Ekpunobi made the disclosure in a chat with Abuja Metro during the last passing out ceremony held in the permanent camp in Kubwa. He also revealed that the FCT Command lost only two of the 12,000 corps members to death last year.
While describing 2013 as a good year for the service, Ekpunobi also spoke on other challenges the FCT NYSC is passing through, stressing that they are in dire need of a permanent secretariat.
FCT NYSC in 2013
We have every reason to thank God for the year because most of the corps members have impacted positively on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Apart from two members that lost their lives within the year through ill health and road accident, most of the corps members that served or are serving in FCT are healthy conditions. So, the year was positively very eventful for the officials and the corps members.
There is no organisation that does not have challenges, but the ability to overcome the challenges is what makes the difference. We did not actually face insurmountable challenges but now the only visible one we faced within the year was the inadequacy of our secretariat.
It is not just enough to accommodate most of our staff. The situation has forced most of them to be at the field for the implementation of policies. The secretariat would have accommodated more if we had had a very big one. This insufficient space was also responsible for the constant friction we had with the implementers of these Park and Pay policy harassing the corps members that park along the road due to lack of space inside our compound.
Most times they clamped their cars and tell them to pay as much as N5000 or N25,000 without minding that they cannot raise such money from their little allowances and that we don’t have sufficient place inside for them to park their cars. Good enough we have sorted it out with them.
Another challenge is where to post the corps members based on the four critical areas of the economy. Obviously, FCT attracts many corps members but the numbers of industries in terms of the four critical areas, are quite inadequate.
Take agriculture, for instance, there are not enough commercial farms where the corps members would be posted. It is the same in the health sector. I know how many health centres we have in Abuja. I have to admit that education is playing a very vital role and we have many of them going into education especially in all the public schools within the FCT.
However, the good news is that the Minister of FCT, Alhaji Bala Mohammed, is still prosecuting the renovation at our permanent camp with the promise of completion before the 2014 Batch A Orientation. We are hoping that 2014 will be better.
Actually, more than 12,000 corps members that served last year impacted positively on the FCT. At the moment, we have close to 11,000 corps members still undergoing their compulsory services. As I said earlier, it was a glorious year for the NYSC FCT.
Corps members and primary assignment
I can boldly say that we did not record a serious problem in almost all the establishments our corps members served or are currently in their primary assignments.
Yes, we had pockets of complaints but in a service year when we recorded about 12 to 13 cases of misdemeanour out of the large number that served was good testimony that we have disciplined and patriotic corps members ready to serve the fatherland.
However, the few reported cases we have had especially, where corps members make official report against their employers, we redeploy the corps members and blacklist such organisation once we verify it to the be true.
Corps members, not cheap citizens
We have done that and would continue to do so. A day before the swearing in at the orientation camp, it is the responsibilities of the state coordinators to do what we call briefing. We use to emphasis on those issues during such events.
Due to the impression people have about corps members posted to the National Assembly, we have reduced to the barest minimal the number of corps members that serve with the National Assembly and it is verifiable. The reorientation has yielded positive result and impacted positively on the discipline of the corps members.
The level of discipline among the corps members within Abuja is high. The good thing again is that parents of some of the corps members from a well to do background don’t interfere in our affairs. I want to think that it depends on the leadership. I made it abundantly known that a corps member must remain as one throughout the duration of his or her service.
We don’t want to know their background. We don’t tolerate double standard because we mete the same punishment to the corps member regardless of background. I don’t also encourage any ethnic cleavages. So, whether Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba, if you foul the provisions of the law, I apply the same disciplinary sanctions.
Accommodation for members
The good thing is that those posted to the Area Councils have Corpers lodges, but those within the metropolis have relatives and friends to squat with for the duration of the service. However, we are already thinking of a situation of converting some parts of the orientation camp to Corpers’ lodge by the time the next camping resumes.
We have adopted several measures to empower the corps members to make them independent by the time they finish their service. Talking on specifics, in October 2013, we organised a job fair where we invited many establishments to interview about 3000 corps members of the Batch C and employ those found capable especially in the ICT sector.
We used such to help the youths of this nation as part of the transformation agenda of the Federal Government. Although the general knowledge has been that there is no job, we still have agencies that have many openings.
Many companies in the ICT, energy sectors and some others, participated in the job fair. It might not be much but it helped in reducing the unemployment problems in the country.
Again, NYSC has collaborative efforts programme with the USA to equip the Corps members with the necessary skill to be self employed. We know that for some time now, we have the problem of lack of job and unemployment facing our youths.
The programme was among the ones we put in place to mentor the corps members on how to acquire some skills before they finish the service. It offers the right opportunity to those of them passing out to start thinking of what to do with their hands and heads.
We already have some collaboration now with so many agencies like SMEDAN, the CBN and the NDE and these partnerships have reached the stage we think of the practical aspects of the training. Again, during the orientation camp, we normally invite many resource persons to drill them beyond the normal theory of productions. They teach them the practical aspect of how to make disinfectants, soap, dresses, how to engage in agro-based activities, and it has been very wonderful.
The partnership with USA in training corps members is mostly in exchange of experts to talk to the corps members, introducing them on the rudiments of entrepreneurship development and skill acquisition. In August 2012 we invited one of the entrepreneurs from US who spoke to the corps members.
Through the US Embassy, we invited a young man of 23 years who made a lot impact on social engineering. In 2013, we invited Sarah Green who did good work with her interactive presentations. She gave the corps members opportunity to air their views and at the end, tap something out of the interactions.
The one we did in 2012 yielded positive results because some of them who thought they could not start a business without money discovered through the young man that the most important thing is idea. Some of them with ideas started something without having the cash.
He told them that even if they invest N1 million on something, if they don’t have focus and direction, the money will fizzle out. Those with ideas easily galvanised the little fund and started something.
We had only 130 corps members that participated in the 2013 programme because of our resolution to make it more effective. They were just the selected few expected to transfer the knowledge they acquired from the programme to others.
Fake corps members
Let me confirm to you that the tradition of some desperate Nigerians posing as corps members is still on. Such ‘corps members’ post themselves to certain organisations with fake letters but because we have created special features on our letters of posting, they cannot forge. It was easy for us to detect the fake letters they parade as corps members.
Mind you that these ‘corps members’ don’t care asking for government approved statutory allowances. They only rely on the allowances of such organisations they post themselves to. We have also continued to wage war against them and because of our vigorous inspections, they are now finding it difficult to operate.
We have started serious collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC), that made us hand over more than 30 fake corps members to the organisation. I think they are still facing prosecution.
We are envisaging that corps members would key into the transformation agenda of the Federal Government in contributing to the socio-economic development of the country. We are also hoping that the Minister of the FCT would have completed the second phase of our orientation camp, with the conviction that they would fulfil their promises of commencing the construction of our permanent secretariat in Gwarimpa. They have already allocated land to us.