The African Jotter

How INEC Risked the Lives of NYSC Corps Members By Postponing the 2019 Elections

The postponement of Nigeria’s elections is a huge blow to the country’s optimism and democracy presently. But from all indications, the move affects members of the Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in more ways than could be imagined.

Experiences being shared online and in other quarters, shows that thousands of corps members were left stranded and uninformed about both their posting details and the postponement.

Originally drafted for the mandatory 12 months National Service scheme, NYSC corps members have become indispensible for the successful implementation of the Nigerian elections.

Since 2008, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has had an agreement with the management of the NYSC to use corps members as temporary staff during elections. NYSC corps members are trained weeks to the election and are posted to handle voting activities at various electoral wards.

Many NYSC Corps Members Left Stranded

Unlike the postponement of 2015, the postponement of the 2019 elections came as a shock to corps members.

Many had been waiting at various INEC offices across the country to find out details of what wards they’ll be posted to. Popular stories say these corps members arrived the INEC offices by 2pm on Friday for this.

While some corps members in some locations got their posting details and positions by 4pm, many across the country had not.

By 6pm, many were yet to be posted. But worse, nobody came out to debrief them or give them a heads up on what was going on.

Due to the fact that Election Day always comes with curfew on vehicular movement, corps members decided to wait at these offices until solid information was provided.

Many corps members shared that they had been at the INEC offices till mid-night waiting for information.

Instead, the INEC staff kept them in the dark. No information was shared whatsoever, until rumours about the postponement began to go viral close to mid-night.

However, INEC never confirmed the story until 3am when it announced new dates for the elections.

Risks for Corps Members

Corps members understand the risks of engaging as INEC adhoc staff. Yet they are willing to go through with it for the experience and for the money. However, what they did not signup for is the terrible treatment, lack of courtesy and unscripted postponement.

While waiting at the INEC offices for hours, corps members had to sleep outside on the floor, with nothing more than their khakis, as the cold swallowed up the night. With police officers on ground to protect electoral materials, waiting at the INEC office was a better alternative than going home that late at night. Besides, with INEC requiring workers to be at the wards before 7:30am, corps members had to get their posting details before making further plans.

However no information came. Corps members waited outside in the cold in vain. And even those who had been posted had to sleep on the floor with mats, an understandable inconvenience.

But aside these inconvenience, corps members carried all the risks of conducting elections. With many NYSC corps members serving in unfamiliar locations, the risk of being caught up political violence or getting lost is high. Yet, INEC kept them in the dark and left them to travel miles in futility.

Worse, the postponement of the election could carry with it threats of violence. If certain groups resort to violence as a means of protest, corps members will be the first casualty.

Despite all these, corps members are still expected to return by February 23 to conduct the election. Hopefully all issued should have been addressed. Yet, it is up to corps members to speak out now and complain about the problems they’ve gone through.

Will Complaining Corps Members be Penalized?

The issue has sparked a lot of outrage among corps members across the country, but few can speak out.

According to the NYSC bye-laws, corps members are not allowed to speak publicly against policies and issues in the program. However in this case, corps members are INEC adhoc staff. So technically they can speak out against the unfair treatment meted out on them.

But who will listen?