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NYSC: Regeneration Of Values

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NYSC: Regeneration Of Values

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Emmanuel Onwubiko
“Wherever I see truth, I follow it; Wherever I see peace, I pursue it; Wherever I see justice, I insist on it -John Cardinal Onaiyekan: (Let The Truth Prevail By John Cardinal Onaiyekan with Emmanuel Ojeifo)”

In the last fourteen active years, I have had to spend about fifty percent of my working periods to coordinate the global activities of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a group of creative writers dedicated to advancing distinctive human rights causes.

In the last couple of weeks, we have been meeting as a planning panel to organize the year 2021 National Human Rights Lecture which we agreed should come up on September 29th.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Test Compulsory For All Before Admission To NYSC Camp In Katsina

As tradition demands, the core members of the planning committee meet every other day and in that sense we met for about two hours today’s morning in the form of a very light breakfast parley just as the discussion centred on the chosen theme for this year’s intellectual symposium of HURIWA. The theme is ” Nigerian School Children, Insecurity and Human Rights.”

As we brainstormed on who the major lecturer of the day would be and we ended up nominating a one-time Chevening scholar Abiodun Adeniyi, who is an Associate Professor of Communications Studies at the prestigious Baze University in Abuja, one of us suggested that we also find time to practically suggest to President Muhammadu Buhari to endeavor to deliver an effective public service reforms.

As part of these expected reforms in our considered opinion is the need to fundamentally boost the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC) and clothe the agency with the power and the necessary finances to take on the national assignment of taking mass mobilization and national orientations to all corners of Nigeria. This is because the NYSC has some of the most extensive grassroots tentacles and the activities and duties of the young participants impact directly on the lives of virtually all the residents of the rural communities much more than any of our existing national development initiatives.

Also, the shining leadership examples of the current hierarchy of the NYSC led by Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim has shown that given the right support, the NYSC could be better positioned to meaningfully and constructively carry out regular mass mobilization and orientation of Nigerians.

It was therefore our conclusion that we will begin technical works on how the federal administration can successfully merge the moribund National Orientation Agency (NOA) to become a department within the National Youths Service Corp Scheme.

It was a consensus opinion that NYSC is better positioned, better and much more professionally efficient to carry on the added national task of waging mass mobilization for our citizens so as to reinvigorate the echoes of hope and reduce frictions and inter- ethnic disharmony that are tearing down the basic fabrics of peace, unity and progress of Nigeria.

Moreover we observed with profound empirical evidence that the National Orientation Agency has failed woefully which informs why many Nigerians have become disenchanted with the scheme of things in the country to the extent that some persons are even  campaigning that young Nigerian athletes should rather become citizens of other nations rather than represent Nigeria at global sporting activities.

If truth be told, we observed that each time the NYSC holds its camping across the country the messages that trickle out and from the different states and resonate powerfully  are messages of patriotism, integration and mass mobilization of the youngsters to be their better selves.

The current batch of NYSC orientation Camps has significantly recorded milestones and from most of what was said at the different states and what took place, there are indeed echoes of hope and a reassurance that the efforts of our heroes past in setting up the NYSC scheme have yielded fruits of peace, self-discovery by the youths and the awareness that becoming creators of wealth is the best way to attain lofty heights.

READ ALSO: NYSC: A Tool For Unity

An intriguing event of the past few days within the NYSC was the donation of a digital library by a participant in the NYSC and we were told that the Corporate Affairs Commission’s Registrar-General contributed to making the young corps member with a unique physique and enormously talented to achieve this phenomenal task.

We will very shortly read more details on it. But first, as writers, we are impressed that a very young Nigerian has chosen to follow this historical path of contributing to scholarship and promoting the reading culture in Nigeria which is waning especially in the face of the sudden rampage by different social media platforms that totally take the attention of young people away from their books.

Now this is how the media captured the donation of a digital library  to the NYSC by the youth corps member in Abuja on Tuesday September 7th 2021.

The media reports that “a young corps member, Ahmad Abubakar, has used his compulsory one year service to enrich NYSC.

“The young Nigerian man donated a digital library to the service to allow easy access to materials.

“Abubakar who was appreciated by NYSC DG said that he took on the project as he saw that manual libraries are becoming ancient.”

“A corps member with the name Ahmad Abubakar has made a big donation of a digital library to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) as his personal Community Development Service (CDS) project. According to the NYSC Facebook post, the corps member said that normal libraries are becoming a thing of old all over the world, and that is why the need for digital libraries is important.

The young man added that he decided to work on the project because he wants to help the service to enrich its resourcefulness to corps members and staff.

“With the new project, access to NYSC materials will be digitalized and that will help easy access. The man stated that he was able to source funds in getting things like printers, book scanners, a server, among others.

Understandably, the director-general of the NYSC, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, appreciated his gesture as he described the young man as an honest and dedicated corps member.

“The DG, therefore, implored other members to follow in Abubakar’s footsteps and provide projects people will remember them for.”
Another corps member renovates classrooms.

READ ALSO: NYSC, Actors’ Guild To Partner On Talent Hunt

It was reported too that a Nigerian lady, Iheoma Sunday, has used her one-year NYSC programme to make many smile.

Taking to her LinkedIn page, Iheoma said that she took it upon herself to raise awareness and source funds to renovate classrooms in disuse.

She revealed that with the help of the project, students who could not continue their education because they lacked conducive environments to learn returned to their classes.

This event is significant because if the youths adequately read, they will have the presence of mind to embark on self-development because of the increasing scarcity of white collar jobs in the country.

This was the point highlighted when  Director-General, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, expressed concern over the rate of unemployment in the country.

He made this known, during the swearing-in of the 2021 Batch B Stream 2 corps members in Bauchi State.The DG, who was represented by the State Coordinator, Hamisu Abubakar, said the scheme was meticulous in the implementation of its Skill Acquisition and

Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme to prepare corps members for self-employment and wealth creation.

He, however, assured corps members that the Federal Government was leaving no stone unturned to address unemployment.

I initially hinted that this week is unique amongst the NYSC participants and this uniqueness was marked by the birth of fresh babies by a corps member who had only just registered for her orientation camp. The member of the National Youth Service Corps was visited at the hospital by the Director General of the scheme after giving birth to twins.Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim visited Adamgba Clara Sewuese and urged the medical director of the hospital to properly take care of her and the twins

Adorable photos of the DG’s visit were shared on social media and Nigerians commended the DG for his kindheartedness.

It was reported thus: “A member of the NYSC serving in Nasarawa State, Adamgba Clara Sewuese, has given birth to a set of male twins.
Sewuese was visited at the hospital by the Director General (DG) of the scheme, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim.

“The disclosure was made on Facebook by NYSC, which stated that Ibrahim appealed to the medical director of the hospital, Doctor Eno Enang, to properly take care of the lady and her kids.

“The DG who congratulated the couple for safe delivery specifically commended the mother of the twins for being patriotic by obeying the clarion call to serve her fatherland.

“Tombu Richard, the corps member’s husband, expressed gratitude to the DG for his fatherly love towards his family.”

According to the statement, Sewuese is an indigene of Benue state and a graduate of accounting from Veritas University, Abuja.

READ ALSO: It Is School Resumption Season Again

A new report says Nigerians on social media soon flooded the comment section of the post to commend Ibrahim for his kindness.

Rabi’at Ishiaku said: “Looking forward to more of such good news. Thank you DG.

You are a role model, few days ago you were in Bayelsa for the same purpose, may God bless you.” Mary Edeh Onoja commented.

“Congratulations. God bless the Director-general for all his kindness towards humanity.”

Sam Jegs wrote: “This Director General is indeed a Father. God bless you and keep you in all your travelings.” Oluwaseun Steve Popoola said: “Congratulations to the family.

“Thanks to God for the safe delivery. God bless the DG.” Abubakar Muhammad Sadiq commented:

“If I were you I will name the baby after DG.”

Just before we drew the curtain on the planning session for our yearly lecture aforementioned, we unanimously applauded the NYSC for showing solidarity to the parents of a corps member who passed on recently.

The National Youth Service Corps presented a cheque of N1 million as death benefit to the family of the late corps member, Mr Chikwado Ezururike in Abia.

The cheque, which is the insurance cover, was presented to the family at the NYSC Abia Secretariat in Umuahia on Wednesday.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Ezururike and four others lost their lives on their way from Uyo in Akwa Ibom to the NYSC Orientation Camp in Katsina State.

NAN also reports that Ezuruike, a graduate of History and International Studies of the University of Uyo, and the four others were involved in the auto crash along Abuja-Kwali Expressway on July 28.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Democracy And Challenges Of Nation Building

Mr Emmanuel Ayeniko, the Assistant Director (Insurance), NYSC Headquarters, Abuja, presented the cheque to the deceased family on behalf of the Director-General of NYSC, Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim.

While presenting the cheque, Ayeniko condoled with the family, saying, “We know that this amount cannot replace lost life, but it is a token to say we feel with you.”

He said that the NYSC official was also in Uyo to present the insurance benefits to other deceased families, who hailed from Akwa Ibom. By way of explanation,  this article is purely a work done in appreciation of the young Nigerians who are making Nigeria proud and at the same time serving us selflessly.  The article is therefore a fitting tribute to these resilient Nigerian youngsters doing their NYSC.

The article is a work of appreciation from the heart. I conclude this way because one of the key members of HURIWA expressed disappointment that the NYSC turned down the invitation extended to it to grace HURIWA’S 2021 national human rights lecture even when we do so much to support the organisation. I had to come up with this piece to demonstrate that we are more interested in supporting the institution out of a genuine love and patriotism and not because of what we hope to gain materially.

 Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

 

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Opinion

Where Are Secular Lawyers?

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Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

This question has agitated me over the years, and it persists. At a recent event in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, a participant introduced herself as a member of the Christian Lawyers Association of Nigeria. Christian Lawyers Association? I wondered, Why Christian lawyers? Why should lawyers associate based on faith? Do we have a traditional religious lawyers association? Jehovah Witness Lawyers Association? Bahai Faith lawyers? Hindu Lawyers? I mean, why the religionization of everything in this country?

In northern Nigeria, the Muslim Lawyers Association exists. This organization is active. It features prominently in cases, especially those that concern religion, Sharia, or Islam. I guess there would be Sunni and Shiite Muslim lawyers associations. In 2022, over 30 Muslim lawyers came forward to defend those suspected of murdering Deborah Samuel in Sokoto. Meanwhile, no member helped prosecute the suspects. Muslim lawyers have strongly supported the execution and imprisonment of suspected blasphemers. They constitute the legal wing of Islamic separatism in Nigeria. This religious slant in practice, profession, and association of lawyers is disturbing and needs to be critically examined.

Look, a lawyer is a person trained to offer legal services. A lawyer is trained to represent an individual or organization in legal matters. S/he applies the law to specific cases, religious or nonreligious. The legal profession should be carried out without religious bias or favor. The law should be practiced to further justice, equity, and fairness, not in defense of a particular faith or belief. In practice, the law should be faith/belief blind. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case in Nigeria. The tendency of lawyers to associate along religious lines is entrenched. As in other sectors of the society, religion has hijacked the legal profession and association. Lawyers practice and are pressured to practice law along religious lines. That is the raison d’etre of the religious (Christian/Muslim) lawyers association. And it is worrisome.

It has become pertinent to ask, where are secular lawyers? Put differently, where are lawyers beyond belief? By secular lawyers, I mean lawyers who are not religious, that is, lawyers who are atheists or agnostics; lawyers who do not take religion seriously. Secular lawyers include those who think that religious and spiritual matters are strictly private affairs and should not be the basis for legal practice, profession, and association.

Nigeria needs secular lawyers for the following reasons. First, based on section 10 of the constitution, Nigeria is a secular state, although not explicitly stated. Nigeria has no state religion. But theocrats often contest Nigeria’s secularity and openly propose that sharia and their religious books are superior to the constitution. The country needs lawyers to defend and uphold its secular character and help prevent the slow undoing of the secular gains and progress that Nigeria has made. Nigeria needs lawyers who can champion secularism. And secular lawyers can fulfill this need.

Second, Nigeria needs secular lawyers to professionally and constitutionally handle cases linked to faith or belief, such as witchcraft, blasphemy, and apostasy allegations. Lawyers who practice or associate on grounds of faith cannot be trusted to handle these cases because they are likely to compromise. They are likely to sacrifice their profession on the altar of their faith. For instance, it is a challenge to find lawyers to defend victims of witchcraft accusations because most lawyers, as people of faith, believe in the reality of witches and demons. Even though witchcraft accusations are against the law. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted to render professional services to victims of witchcraft branding. The same thing applies to cases of blasphemy and apostasy accusations. These accusations are linked to religious beliefs. Many lawyers do not want to profess law in ways that violate their faith. So, faith is a factor in hiring an attorney or getting a reliable solicitor.

In cases where Christians are accused of blaspheming Islam or insulting the prophet of Islam, Christian lawyers volunteer. They offer to help. Religious (Christian or Muslim) lawyers consider it a duty to defend their members. Christian lawyers defended Rhoda in Bauchi or the Christian barber, Elijah, in Kano. Muslim lawyers defended the suspected murderers of Deborah Samuel. But it is more challenging when the accused is a nonbeliever, an atheist, or a nonreligious person. Religious lawyers are reluctant to take up the cases. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted or entrusted with these cases because of concerns over religious bias.  Christian lawyers are guided by their christian faith and muslim lawyers are guided by their Islamic faith in their legal practice and representation.
So secular lawyers are needed. They can be trusted to represent in these cases because, in principle, they are free from the faith baggage that encumber legal representations by christian/muslim lawyers. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to keep church, mosque and state separate, and to ensure state neutrality on religious matters. It needs secular lawyers to tackle religious oppression, persecution and tyranny. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to uphold the rule of law and defend the freedom of religion or belief of all.
 Igwe, PhD,  is a board member of the Humanist Association of Nigeria.

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Opinion

Minister Dangiwa Versus Cement Cabals

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Felix Oboagwina

By Felix Oboagwina

Wednesday, 31st October 2023, CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, paid a visit to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Aso Rock. As he walked out of the President’s office, journalists swarmed round Rabiu. To cut this narrative short, the billionaire businessman said he had come to assure the President that by March 2024, a bag of BUA Cement would start selling at N3,500 instead of N4,500 for which it then sold. The market leader, Dangote Cement, retailed for between N5,000 and N7,000 per bag. The hike not only alarmed but frustrated users because just two months earlier, Dangote Cement sold for a lower price of N3,500 max. The jump in price annoyed Nigerians. Thus, when the media went to town with Rabiu’s assurance of crashing the price, the news provoked much happiness nationwide.

Easier said than done, however, Rabiu’s optimism quickly evaporated into thin air. Mysteriously, thereafter, the price of cement went crazy and bizarre. The popular 50kg bag of cement flew to N10,000, then N12,000 and landed at N15,000. This year, Dangote Cement PLC reported a profit of N166 billion for first quarter of 2024.

In Nigeria, the dominant cement brands are Dangote, BUA, Lafarge and Elephant. For a country of 250 million, being serviced by four brands sounds like a monopoly or oligopoly, when a few companies exert significant control over a given market and together control prices by colluding with each other to promote uncompetitive prices. Today, manufacturers blame the skyrocketing rates on the falling value of the Naira. From the N700 per dollar pre-May 2023, the Naira had gone to exchange for N1,600 to the dollar, although it has now dropped to about N1,200. In addition to using the unhealthy Naira as scapegoat, cement makers blame the high cost on expensive gas and manufacturing equipment.

However, in the midst of the darkness, a silver lining appeared to appear from the midst of Tinubu’s cabinet ministers.

There are 46 ministers, although 13 of them wear the title of Junior Minister or Minister of State and 33 substantive ones. Suddenly, two substantive ministers called cement manufacturers to a meeting. The meeting by Dave Umahi, Works Minister, took place first on Monday, February 19, 2024. At that meeting, the minister and manufacturers fixed the price of cement at between N7,000 and N8,000 max.

The following day Tuesday in Abuja, Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, also met representatives of the Cement Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (CEMAN). And there things exploded. Dangiwa displayed uncommon knowledge of all the tricks and shenanigans. He told the producers the implication of their pricing: “This is a crisis for housing delivery. An increase in essential building materials means an increase in the prices of houses.”

For Dangiwa, the reasons for the price hike were insufficient to justify such outrageous pricing. He confronted them with the bare facts, that the government stopped cement importation to enable local companies to increase output and lower prices.

Then he dropped the banger: “Government can open the borders for mass importation of cement, the price will crash, but you will have no business to do.”

When CEMAN said the association “does not interfere with the pricing of cement,” Dangiwa hit back with, “One person cannot be selling at N3,500 per bag and another selling at N7,000 per bag and you cannot call them to order. The association is expected to monitor price control; otherwise, the association has no need to exist.”

Where the President and the Works Minister pacified and appeared to have lost touch with reality, Dangiwa spoke to manufacturers in the language they understood. He threatened them. Government, Dangiwa said, could fling open the borders to tame prices.

He told them: “We know that some of the key components of producing building materials, especially cement, are locally sourced, so the recurring disproportionate increase in the price of cement is unacceptable and unreasonable. Key input materials such as limestone, clay, silica sand, and gypsum within our borders should not be dollar-rated.

“You cannot continue to give excuses and blame it on the dollar all the time. The worst part is that other building materials manufacturers take a cue from cement manufacturers, and once they see that you increase your price, they do the same. Recently, this is happening almost every week, and it has to stop.”

Fact is Nigeria has been hijacked by cartels. They have the country by the jugular mercilessly. Like cartels the world over, the Nigerian business profiteers nurse the motive of profiteering at all costs. Governments have been unwilling to confront them and break that hold today. Past pro-people regimes behaved otherwise.

General Murtala Mohammed imported Argentinean beef to force down the price of meat in the market.

General Gowon goes down in history for the Cement Armada. Ships upon ships upon ships of cement harboured at the Apapa Lagos port and crashed the price of the product.

In his own time, when the price of cement rose astronomically and the country complained, Goodluck Jonathan, in May 16, 2011, invited producers to Aso Rock and gave Dangote, BUA and others 30 days to crash cement price to N1,000. They succumbed.

While that drama played out, four cement manufacturers in February 2013 wrote to Jonathan to demand import licences, calling themselves “Cement New Entrants Stakeholders.” They each wanted to be granted papers by Jonathan to import 5 million metric tons of cement. According to them, granting import licences was a sure way of forcing down cement price to between N500 and N1,000 per bag and breaking the current monopoly of the “cartel” in the industry.

There is much to learn from this engagement. Monopolistic profiteering dictates cement pricing in Nigeria. The monopoly flaunts every excuse to justify the high price, which the proposed independent importers told Jonathan was “making Nigeria to be classified as the country with the highest price of cement in the world” with the ex-factory price then fixed between N1,400 and N1,800 per bag.

That is the way to go. Good history ought to repeat itself. Open the borders. Grant licences to import. Create competition. It will amount to a win-win for Nigerians because cement imports will create a new line of businesses as well as jobs through the value chain of importation, ports, clearing, re-bagging, warehousing, marketing, advertising, distribution and retailing. This the Housing Minister Dangiwa knows as a professional architect, a player in the building industry and a politician who wants to deliver pocket-friendly housing to the masses.

He had similarly maintained this humane stance when, as Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN, 2015–2022), he packed several human-faced, pro-people policies into his tenure. He processed N39.5 billion worth of refunds to 247,521 retired Federal housing contributors. Under him, FMBN made available NHF mortgage loans to 5,900 beneficiaries as well as home renovation loans to 77,500 people. He, also, led efforts to develop the Diaspora mortgage loan. This innovative scheme specifically aimed at assisting Nigerians living abroad to own homes without the weeping tales of getting duped by relatives or friends in Nigeria.

Minister Dangiwa knows that ONLY the cartels’ insatiable greed propels the price of cement sky-high. Exorcising this evil begins with taming the profiteers and making them sell cement to Nigerians at the N3,500 per bag that CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, promised Tinubu at Aso Rock.

Oboagwina is an author, journalist and publisher, reachable via foboagwina@gmail.com

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Opinion

Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!

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The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr Hope Nwawolo

Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!

By Hope Nwawolo

Recently, l came across a trending post of a 72-year-old pensioner, who was said to have worked all his life to raise his kids. The writer of the post claimed the man was abandoned by his children whom he trained in expensive schools, at home and abroad.  It was further disclosed that his 65-year-old wife, had relocated to live with her children abroad, on the excuse of taking care of their grandchildren. The writer went on to paint the gloomy picture of the man as a bachelor once again and battling with high blood pressure and other old age ailments. He cautioned men that women love their children more than their husbands, so they should plan for their future. He erroneously put the number of such women at 97%.

This piece is in response to the above biased claim which is also capable of causing friction in homes striving for unity and togetherness. He may just succeed to plant a negative seed of distrust and discord in the minds of fickle-minded men, who before reading the article were enjoying a blissful relationship with their wives. It may also be possible that the writer is a disgruntled person who did not succeed in marriage or relationship and believes the same must be for all men.

When we see people like the writer portrayed, we should ask a pertinent question. What was the man’s relationship with his wife and children when he was ‘struggling’ to fend for them? Unfortunately, some men fail to realize that there is so much more in family life than money. In as much as money ‘answereth’ all things, it cannot be exchanged for lasting family relationship. 

Some men literally shove their wives aside while making the money without realizing the children see the treatment of their mothers. When some of these children become independent and financially stable, they feel obligated to compensate their mothers for the loveless treatment received from their fathers. In other cases, some men do not value family time, no matter how short, and would not understand the emotional craving of the wives and children when they really need it. Often, it is these women, that stay in the  gap in their absence, making the children bond more with  them. And instead of appreciating such women for filling in their physical vacuum, some men rather get jealous of the bond and further drift away from the children, while blaming the wife. 

Today, wise men make out time to pray, discuss, and have family outings with their families. This is called relationship building, which cannot be broken by distance in the future. The children from these homes grow up with memories of fun and family laughter. The women from such homes, have strong relationship with their husbands and will not stay more than one month when they go to visit their children. You will hear them say to the children, “Please, l want to go back to my husband.”  Why is nobody talking about them?

There are also couples who travel together to visit their children from time to time. So what stops a man from also going to visit his children whom he struggled to train? Is it that they did not invite him, and why? Perhaps they have no relationship! 

The claim of 97% women who abandon their husbands for their children is not empirical, cannot be scientifically proven, and is unfair to women. It also has the tendency to put fears into innocent men who are building strong relationships with their wives and children. I pray such men do not abandon their effort after reading such a biased write-up…for their own good! Every marriage and family is unique and should have values and principles that will bind its members together today, tomorrow, and in the future. This should override the quest for money if it cannot be combined with building lasting relationships with every member of the family.

Nowadays, while many men believe their provision of money for the home is the answer to family issues, the women sacrifice key factors that cannot be monetized, and build lasting relationships with the children. These vital factors are their tears and worries, emotional support, and constant prayers, among many others. Observably too,  some women are also contributing financially to feeding and sometimes, schools fees, as well as other necessities of the families. Despite these, they  find time to ensure that the family bond is maintained as best as possible. Unfortunately, the ego rather than complex of some men will not allow them acknowledge or appreciate the effort of these women and which the children obviously witness as they grow into independence and financial stability.

Therefore, instead of blaming women for the unpalatable fruit of old age loneliness as a result of early years of family emotional neglect, men should attempt to juggle their quest for money with building relationships that will see them through the evening of their lives, with members of the families. 

 Nwawolo, PhD, writes via 

hopenwawolo@yahoo.com

 

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