•Lament lean food rations
•No, govt provides N500 per corps member for feeding daily — NYSC
By Dayo Adesulu
As the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) lost three corps members within 21 days, stakeholders, especially parents are questioning the conditions of living in the camp. You would recall that a corps member, Miss Elechi Chinyerum, 27, five days after arriving at the Bayelsa National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camp died after bleeding and vomiting.
Also,Ukeme Monday, a Corps member who was deployed to Zamfara State died in NYSC camp from an undisclosed ailment.
Just as Oladepo Ifedolapo, a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), lost her life due to negligence by NYSC officials who thought she was feigning sickness and refused to attend to her until things got out of hand. These instances were just a hand full of the corps members who have lost their lives in camp. State Coordinators have the statistics of death record, let them tell the government.
Apart from corps members who died either on their way to or from the state of their primary assignment, Vanguard investigations revealed that many are dying due to poor state of the camp.
Feelers reaching us disclosed that NYSC officials make use of corps members who read medicine to treat other sick corps members. Meanwhile, the norm on camp is to employ the services of medical doctors to administer drugs to sick corps members, as corps members who are doctors have limited experience.
Many corps members who spoke to Vanguard lamented the deplorable living conditions on camps, particularly temporary camps, and the lean food rations in both temporary and permanent camps. These camps accommodate, at each orientation, between 2,500 to 3,000 graduates.
A plate of rice with a barely visible piece of fish, served in the NYSC camp in one of the states in the South-West.“Temporary camps refer to secondary schools that are used by NYSC as camp in the absence of an NYSC- owned compound for orientation purposes. Whenever orientation is to hold, the students of the school, always boarding schools, vacate the premises and squat in a nearby school. While this in itself is a questionable practice, because all sorts of ills can befall the students during the migration and squatting period, it would be tackled squarely on a latter date.
One would therefore wonder; NYSC was established in 1973, how long could it possibly take to establish permanent sites in the 36 states of the federation?
A corps member currently on camp in Anambra State, Ijeoma Philip, shared her experience in one of these temporary camps. “Anambra doesn’t have a permanent site yet. They use Progressive Secondary School in Umuinya-Oyi, LGA.
The school isn’t on holiday. I heard that when there is orientation, NYSC which has an agreement with the school, moves the students to a catholic school nearby. The conditions aren’t so bad though, it’s just a matter of management.
“The toilet area is sadly water-logged, as a result,people don’t like to go inside. The result is that the place is messier than should be. The toilet is pit latrine but we make do. The first two days, the water supply was bad but they eventually had the pumping machine fixed. They probably underestimated the number of persons that would come. The mattresses are old but are not bed bug-infested.”
A former corps member, Titi Bada, recounted her ordeal thus; “I served in Sokoto in 2013. The conditions there were horrible. They do not have a camp there, they use Government Technical College, Farfaru. When we first got there, I vehemently argued with my fellow corps members that the school was not inhabited by students before we got there. I took my stand based on the conditions we met there.
“The ceiling boards were all broken. There was no bunk in my block, we had to look for stones to suspend our mattresses on planks and other surfaces we could find. Two girls managed to get the semblance of a bunk, one was on top and the other at the bottom.
“Eventually, the top bunk collapsed on the lady at the bottom in the middle of the night. There was no bathroom. The entire dormitory area had just 4 pit toilets. If I was told, I wouldn’t have believed such conditions exist in modern day Nigeria. There was no water. The big reservoir had dirty water in it. Eventually, NYSC had to bring tanks that were filled once a day by tankers from outside the school.”
Permanent Camps: On the other hand, corps members in permanent camps have a fairer tale to tell. Taiye Odunuga, a Batch A Stream 2 corps member currently in orientation camp in Osun state, which has a permanent site, says life in camp is fine, save for the long queue at the tap for water. “I would rate the hostel average. The only problem is the long queue for water which is caused by poor water supply and a below service capacity water tank.”
Standard of hostels
From nearby Oyo State, Dare Sopade, also a Batch A stream 2 corps member, has nothing but wonderful tales. “Oyo State has its permanent site at Isehin, Ibadan, they just relocated here in 2014 I guess. Generally, everything is fine.
“The living condition here is one of the best in Nigeria, if I am not mistaken. The accommodation here meets the standard of hostels in federal universities. The rooms are spacious, well ventilated, we have a standby generator. However, for safety reasons, to avoid fire outbreaks, they removed all the sockets in the rooms; you know how boys can be. I believe this camp is the best in all the western states.”
Okolo Okus, also just leaving camp, curtly said; “I am currently in Benue State. It is a permanent camp situated in Tarka LGA. The hostels are above average because it is a new place. The hostels are not painted but you know Nigeria, they start things and they don’t finish.”
As regards food rations, Okolo continued; “The food is above average, it is three square meals but the rations are small. They said the government gave them N500 to feed each corps member daily. So, N500 divided by three meals, that’s approximately N167 per meal, you can envisage the kind of meal you will get. That also means the quality is paltry like the amount.”
Meanwhile, Ijeoma Philip in Anambra said; “Sometimes the food is fine, other times it isn’t. It is the usual thing when cooking for so many people. I heard that the kitchen staff say food stuffs are in short supply, so the rations are small. The soups are surprisingly tasty, but that is characteristic with eastern Nigeria. The beef isn’t bigger than a finger though.”
Taiye Odunuga, lamenting the poor quality of food in Osun camp, said; “The standard of food and the quantity has made me and several of my colleagues rely on food joints in Mammy Market, a sales and service area within the camp, for feeding. The food is not impressive. I hardly go to the kitchen because it feels like a waste of time.”
In Oyo State’s camp, Dare Sopade complained; “Swallows are not really bad, but once the food they prepare has anything to do with tomatoes, the rations will be small. Jollof is also generally okay because it is prepared with tin tomatoes. Beef is reasonable because they seem not to lack beef in these parts. The fish is always very small. It is not for satisfaction, it is just to have something in the stomach. After the meal you can top up with one of the N50 sausage rolls.”
When in Sokoto, Titi Bada recalled; “The food rations were very small till we started cooking for ourselves, platoon by platoon. We were promised cows by dignitaries but it did not report in the food, we were still given pieces of meat that were no bigger than seasoning cubes. Food stuffs then weren’t so expensive but they were still not generous with the food rations. When we began to cook for ourselves, platoon by platoon, the rations improved.”
Faulting the allegations of corps members, Director, Public Relations, NYSC, Mrs. Bose Aderibigbe, said the Director General, NYSC, Brigadier General Sule Kazaure, goes to the kitchen to see what corps members eat. “I don’t think they are telling you the truth, the new DG of NYSC is on orientation tour. He has been to almost 23 states, he goes to the kitchen and there is no complain whatsoever.
Tasting the food
In the stream one, he was tasting the food. I have been tasting the food too, because I have been on his entourage.
‘’The Federal Government gives us N500 to feed them per day. You know the cost of living today. There has been no increase in their feeding allowance. They take chicken and egg, what else do they want?
“The DG checks their toilet, in male and female hostels, to see how clean they are. He goes to the clinic to check if there are corps members who are sick, whether they are being treated correctly or given the right drugs.”
“We were in Plateau State yesterday (Monday), we were in Bauchi on Sunday, on Saturday we were in Jigawa. On Thursday we were in Kastina. The other time, we were in Sokoto. We have been to Akwa Ibom, Cross river , Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi and Osun states; the claims are not true.”