There is palpable fear among corps members and their parents following killings by terrorists masquerading as herdsmen that have been reported in different parts of the country.
Consequently, thousands of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members posted to the crisis-prone North Central and North East of the country have approached the office of the director-general of the NYSC seeking redeployment to safe areas.
The corps members, who were posted to states like Benue, Adamawa and Taraba, are seeking redeployment because of the incessant Fulani herdsmen and farmers’ crisis which has escalated in`recent times.
It was gathered that the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in those areas have struck fear in the corps members posted to serve in those places.
LEADERSHIP Sunday also gathered that some of the corps members who are presently in camps are praying not to be posted to crisis-prone communities in the states.
Reacting to the mass request for redeployment, the director general of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig General Suleiman Kazaure, reassured Nigerians that the security of corps members across the country is of top priority to the service and said that corps members are at liberty to apply for redeployment at any time during the service year.
Kazaure, who gave the assurance at the NYSC headquarters in Abuja during an interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said the welfare and security of corps members was the foremost concern of the NYSC management.
Speaking through the acting director, Press and Public Relations Unit, Mrs. Adenike Adeyemi, the NYSC DG maintained that the management had always taken proactive steps to redeploy or repost corps members whenever the community they serve in has security challenges.
She said: “Security and welfare of corps members are very paramount; it’s a top priority for us. We take steps to ensure they are safe. That is why anytime there is a situation where the corps members are at risk, we take action to protect them.
“We always work with security agencies, including the Military, the Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and even the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to ensure the security of our corps members.”
According to her, at every given time, the director-general of the NYSC is in constant touch with all these security formations to monitor the security situation in the states; the same with state coordinators, too, who have direct access to all the security agencies to ensure they are abreast of the security situations in communities in order to quickly take action to address the security needs of corps members.
Adeyemi further gave assurance of the commitment of the NYSC to the security of corps members, noting that those posted to Benue and Taraba states were not allowed to have their orientation in the states due to the current security challenges in the areas.
She added that corps members had been given the privilege to apply for redeployment all-year round, unlike in the past when it was at a particular period.
“I want to let you know that relocation is all-year round; it does not start and stop. If a corps member is in an area that is perceived to have security challenges and he takes the necessary steps that are already put in place for relocation, I can assure you these applications are everyday looked into, treated on their merit and corps members are relocated.
“Sometimes when they are relocated from security-challenged areas, we may not send them back to their states of origin; we move them all over the nation to states where you don’t have crisis.
“So if a corps member is in a crisis-challenged area, he will definitely be moved, reposted to that state where there are no crises. If corps member wishes to relocate, the room is always there for the application to be submitted and treated judiciously with dispatch and on merit, but I want to let you know that, at the moment, the director-general’s priority, with every sense of responsibility, is the security of corps members. We want the best for our corps members and the nation.”
Speaking on the issue, a serving corps member, Maryann Ihejirika said she will seek for redeployment if sent to serve in any of those crisis prone states.
“In a situation where redeployment did not work out, I will simply go back to my state. I cannot come and die for nothing though I will stay if my primary place of assignment is safe,” she said.
In Benue State, it was gathered that corps members posted there are not willing to stay because of the fear of the unknown.
Our correspondent observed that most of them have appealed to the authorities of the NYSC redeploy them to more secure states.
Some of the parents of serving and incoming members, in an interview, also expressed fear over the safety of their children in the troubled states, pleading with the federal government to save the young Nigerians from danger. Some went as far as even calling for the scrapping of the NYSC since the country is no longer safe for their children.
Olusola Adebisi, a corps member currently serving in Benue State and posted to a primary school outside Makurdi, the state capital, told our correspondent that he was really scared even though the community where he is currently doing his primary assignment had not been attacked, yet.
“If I have my way, I really want to be redeployed as soon as possible. I am scared and my parents are not even sleeping with their eyes closed with the kinds of killings they are hearing and seeing in Benue; but in any case God knows why I was posted to Benue,” he said.
The parents of Tavershima, a 24-year-old graduate of Benue State University, Makurdi, who is currently serving in River State, said they pray for their son’s safety every day, for God to protect him “because even if we say he should be redeployed here in Benue, it is the same killing that he will meet.
“All we need now is to pray for their safety.”
Another corps member, Jennifer Chukwuebuka, faulted the decision of the NYSC authorities to post young Nigerians to volatile states despite the constant attacks by herdsmen.
“I feel highly traumatised at the moment. When I saw the call-up letter, I was really surprised that the NYSC could still post people to states that have security issues.”
“Many of us have not been to those states before. So posting us to a place where they are killing people is like putting our lives at risk and I am really not happy. My plan is to process my redeployment to my state of residence if I succeed.”
But Benue State NYSC commandant, Mrs Awakessien Herbert, claimed that no youth service member had indicated interest to relocate due to security concerns.
She said although corps members had been applying for redeployment, especially on health grounds and marital status, none of them had ever approached the agency to seek redeployment due to the current state of insecurity in some parts of the state.
When asked to speak on corps members’ safety, an Abuja-based civil servant, Madam Queen Osaretin, said, “God forbid that I should hear that my child is sent to serve in crisis areas. I will faint upon hearing that.
“The next step will be to hit the headquarters of NYSC to demand that my child be redeployed immediately. Let us talk about safety of life first before serving fatherland. You need to be alive to serve.”
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