We all know that at the moment, almost everyone is upset at the spate of avoidable deaths of youth corps members across the country. It did not start today – from natural disasters to rape and murder, ethno-religious crisis to post-elections violence, these young men and women serving their country find themselves easy targets to be killed and maimed – and not just in the north.
Yes, we are angry now but 1) How much longer will that anger last before we all go back to our merry lives and forget all about this? 2) How will anger actually lead to any solutions unless we do something?
The government has promised compensation for the families of those like Ukeoma AikFavour and Obinna Okpokiri who lost their lives, but this is not enough. Their deaths should not be in vain – it should lead a fundamental change in the way that the youth corps scheme is implemented.
The Future Project (which runs The Future Awards), in partnership with the National Youth Council, AIESEC, SleevesUp Nigeria, Friends of Aik, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and the EnoughisEnough Nigeria Coalition has decided to take up this cause.
We are aware that many initiatives have been undertaken in the past – but we believe it is time to move from anger and protest and to make this a broad-based national campaign. It is also a fine opportunity for us to put our hard won democracy to work – to move from protest and activism to advocacy and productive democratic lobby.
So, over the next nine-months, we are implementing a solution-oriented approach that involves 1) Engaging government on a policy level to restructure and reform the NYSC in order to protect corps members in the interim and then to completely overhaul the scheme in the long term so that it is actually useful to the nation. 2) Supporting this Policy Engagement with a wide-ranging public and media campaign to ensure pressure is sustained on the government.
Starting from tomorrow therefore, we are activating a #ProtectTheCorpers campaign that will involve both online and offline strategies to engage the authorities, the media and young people.
The strategy is simple –
1) We are gathering 100, 000 signatures for a petition that is going to the Presidency with a 7-point demand (see demand below) to restructure the scheme and protect the corps members.
2) Request an urgent meeting with the Minister of Youth and the Director-General of the NYSC to implement immediate action points.
3) Begin an aggressive lobby at the legislature, especially the Senate and House Committees on Youth, towards include the deletion of the programme from the section of the Constitution and placing it as an Act of Parliament with a revamped structure, as recommended by the Senate Spokesperson, Ike Ekweremadu.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1) Read the demands below and sign the petition on www.thefuturenigeria.com/protectthecorpers – and get at least 20 of your friends, family and associates to sign the petition.
2) If you have any direct influence with any legislator who can help with introducing and facilitating this bill, please get in touch with us at [email protected]
3) Use the #ProtectTheCorpers Hashtag on your Twitter and Facebook Accounts Daily, Use the Avatar/Display Picture on Your Facebook/Twitter/BBM Accounts and Send this Message To All Your Contacts.
4) Support this initiative with resources or donation to sustain the publicity and lobbying drive over the next 9 months (our working time-frame). Send a mail to [email protected] titled SUPPORT.
5) Join the ProtectTheCorpers group on Facebook as well as the ProtectTheCorpers group on Yahoo.
6) Send us an e-mail on [email protected] or call us on with any suggestions or how you can or want to help.
7) Visit www.thefuturenigeria.com/protectthecorpers for more information.
7-POINT DEMAND TO #PROTECTTHECORPERS
1. Hotspots – Identify violence-prone “hot-spots” states and/or districts and ensure that corps member posting to these areas is voluntary. This voluntary posting must also come with an institutionalised incentive.
2. Emergency Fund – Institute an NYSC Contingency Fund that is easily accessible in pre-crisis and crisis situations.
3. Decentralisation – The command structure of the NYSC should be devolved in terms of accommodation, welfare, wages and security to avoid red tape during times of crisis. State governments should be primarily responsible for welfare as well as security – including immediate evacuation during conflict.
4. Compensation – Corps Members posted out of their states of residence should be beneficiaries of a comprehensive life insurance policy as a compensation structure in time of unavoidable loss.
5. Data Management – Digitise the database of corps member with location, contact information and total number per state. This is to ensure easy pre and post-crisis accessibility and tracking.
6. Representation – Institutionalise an alternate platform for corps members to interact with administration on welfare and security. This structure will interface directly with the Corps Commandants at state level and the Director-General at federal level.
7. Full-scale Reform – Constitute a National Youth Service Corps Reform Committee that will recommend full scale structural and policy reforms for the scheme and make binding recommendations to the Federal Government to be implemented into a National Youth Service Act.
1. Because they are in their locations compulsorily – they have no choice, they have to complete the programme to start off their lives. In essence, they are sitting ducks for violence.
2. Because they are undergoing a special service for the country, and so deserve the country’s special attention.
3. Because they are young – and the future of the nation.
Let’s ensure that we put our government under pressure immediately after the elections. This is a good place to start making our democracy work! Those ‘corpers’ cannot die in vain.
The Future Project, Nigeria.