While you were probably in the comfort of your home awaiting the verdict of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the general election, corps members deployed as ad hoc staff were abandoned to their fate in various parts of the country. While some managed to sleep on benches, others were “packed like sardines” on bare floor.
The corp members, numbering hundreds of thousands, were deployed to each of the 36 states for the presidential election initially scheduled for Saturday, as well as the other polls. Like has always been the tradition, they were to assist official staff of INEC in election activities, usually acting in supervisory roles in the various polling units.
But while INEC held a meeting that lasted well over five hours to decide on the way forward regarding the elections, members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) deployed as ad hoc staff were unattended to in some parts of the country, forcing them to find solace wherever they could: in cars, benches and even open fields.
LACK OF PROPER ACCOMMODATION, COLD, HUNGER — ALL IN THE DARK
Checks by TheCable across the country revealed that a good number of the corps members were not given accommodation where they will all stay before commencement of their duties the next day (Saturday). A good number of the offices they reported to also did not have lights, forcing them to staying the dark.
In Lagos, for instance, corps members who spoke to TheCable said some of them were at the INEC office in the local government as early as 6pm.
“Some of us even came earlier than 6; we were there till rumours about the postponement started filtering,” a corps member deployed to Etiose 3 LGA in Lagos Island and who gave his name as Michael told TheCable. “Till I left some minutes ago (at about 4am), there was no sign of any INEC official at the office. Some people even left in anger.”
The situation is not any better in Ankpa, Kogi state. Corps members had to manage a canopy provided outside the INEC office as their accommodation, while grappling with cold and mosquito bites.
A corp member deployed to the area told TheCable “people are furious” and that most of them did not come with adequate clothing to keep cold away. “The worst part is no INEC official is around to address us,” he said, declining to give his name.
In Ogun, the situation is even more pathetic. A Twitter user by the name Adedoyin shared pictures of the corps members in the state, sleeping in an open field, beside buses.
AT WHAT COST?
This might give you some headache: each of the corps members on election duties are to be paid N35,000 as duty allowance, according to the NYSC management; for the cold and mosquito bites; the frustration and danger they are exposed to; and transport fare as some of them came from far places.
It is not clear why things turned out the way they did but INEC had repeatedly said adequate arrangements have been made for the welfare of those that would be involved in election duty, corps members inclusive.
In fact, in its N143 billion budget for the elections, N22.6 billion was budgeted for “election administration including payment of insurance of properties, insurance of officials involved in the electoral process including ad hoc staff, procurement of items, stationery, among others”.
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF?
The welfare of corps members has always been an issue of serious concern in Nigeria’s elections. In some cases, they are caught up in situations where either adequate security is not made for them or proper accommodation given to them. This usually leaves them at the mercy of hoodlums and bandits.
In 2016, a corps member, Okonta Samuel, was killed during the Rivers rerun election in Ahoada west local government area of the state. Back in 2011, about 10 youths partaking in the NYSC and serving as INEC ad hoc staff also reportedly lost their lives to violence.
Nigerians have taken to social media to condemn the act, while calling on INEC to put necessary measures in place to ensure the welfare of the corps members involved in election duty. It is a tale of outrage and anger.
Rotimi Oyekanmi, INEC spokesman, was yet to TheCable’s enquiry when this report was filed.
Below are some of the reactions to the development, as well as accounts from across the country:
These are NYSC members having to sleep on grass and bare floor just to help with their country’s national elections.
Why do we treat people so inhumanly?
Why do we make everything so difficult for each other? What if a snake bites these people?
This is a real national disgrace. pic.twitter.com/vg7o649lGP
— OurFavOnlineDoctor 🥳🏁 (@DrOlufunmilayo) February 16, 2019
My room is currently an IDP camp
Inec can't provide adequate accommodation for nysc adhoc staff
Leaving corpers roaming the street after their late night last training n briefing tueh!!! #NigeriaDecides2019
— NWADIJE JOHNCROSS C (@drcross042) February 15, 2019
Somewhere in Ogun state, 2:18am. This is the current situation of INEC ad-hoc staffs. Shame! pic.twitter.com/bNGdpjKv1s
— Adédoyin (@adedoyin_mic) February 16, 2019
I expect NYSC to condemn this nonsense and do better in the future by engaging INEC about the welfare of the corpers.
Be assure provisions were made for accommodation and their feeding.
Same happened to us in 2011 when I was a corper,no food we slept in the cold open space pic.twitter.com/QSWgj0ysjX
— Tosin Olugbenga (@TosinOlugbenga) February 16, 2019
— Kayode Ogundamisi (@ogundamisi) February 16, 2019
— NWADIJE JOHNCROSS C (@drcross042) February 16, 2019
Inec office Ankpa, Kogi. Just negodu pic.twitter.com/WBrJLVvzoc
— Hybrid🇳🇬 (@Warmhoney4) February 16, 2019
— Your Daddys Uncle (@iam_hypeng) February 16, 2019
~ Abia state …. Corpers deployed to work for inec – 1:20 am!!! pic.twitter.com/6S5ZG8XoO1
— dir D. (@DirectedByDiji) February 16, 2019