IN the 2011 general elections, seven National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, members were killed in post-election violence in Bauchi State. In 2016, during a re-run in Rivers State, an NYSC member, Mr. Okonta Samuel, was shot dead in Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state. Two other corps members who were with Samuel were rescued by security agents.
During the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23, 2019, among scores of people killed was an ad hoc electoral officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Ms. Ibisiki Amachree, who was reportedly hit by a stray bullet in Rivers State. About 13, 637 corps members were mobilised as INEC ad hoc staff for the 2019 general elections.
In Nigeria, more than 38 per cent of the youth population are unemployed. It is callous for a country that has failed to provide her youth with employment opportunities to always put them in the middle of political warfronts (which is what elections have become in Nigeria) with minimal (if any) security cover.
In countries with established culture of peaceful elections, it would be a thing of pride for young people to serve in such capacities. However, with the level of violence in almost all Nigeria’s elections, drafting youth corps members into INEC’s ad hoc staff amounts to positioning them amid deadly crossfire in battlefields. Few politicians allow their children to serve as ad hoc staff of INEC knowing how dangerous it is.
We recognise the fact that these youth corps members are not forced to enlist in the ad hoc staff of INEC, but as their custodians, the Federal Government must take extra steps to ensure their safety and welfare when on electoral and other hazardous national duties.
Youth corps members must be adequately briefed on the perilous nature of this assignment before deployment. They must also be taught basic survival and security tactics and provided with quick security backups whenever threats are envisaged. The armed security agents usually mobilised for elections at huge public expense must be placed within their easy reach.
We suggest that the INEC, in collaboration with the NYSC, should make out a general insurance and compensation scheme in the event of unavoidable loss of lives or permanent injuries.
The current attitude of mobilising corps members with the lure of meagre allowances only to abandon them to their fate at the hands of hoodlums and political desperados is highly irresponsible and must stop.
If we cannot guarantee the welfare, safety and security of our fresh graduates sent far away from their homes of origin to serve the nation and gather service experience, then we should keep them away from electoral duties until Nigerians imbibe the culture of violence-free elections.