INVESTIGATION… 21 Days in NYSC Camps: 59 meals, 7 pieces of beef; where did all the money go?
The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, which NYSC falls under, in its 2017 budget, allocated N3, 272, 103, 431 for the feeding of 297, 293 Corps members (Streams 1 and 2) and 74, 326 camp officials during the 21 days in camp. According to the budget, each Corps member and each camp official is to be fed with N500 daily.
However, simple arithmetic shows that 297,293 Corps members plus 74,326 camp officials equal 371,619. When multiplied by N500, the result is N185,809,500. For a 21-day camp duration, this would amount to N185,809500 multiplied by 21 which gives N3,901,999,500. When subtracted from the budgeted N3,272,103, 431; the result is N629,896,069, leaving a deficit of over N.6bn, if NYSC received the budgeted amount.
“I heard some of you are complaining about the quality of food you receive. Let me tell you; your feeding in camp is N500 per day. That is what the government provided. So divide that amount by three square meals and know what to expect,” the Camp Director in Zamfara, Mr. Summanuwa Yusuf, stated during his July 27 morning address at the parade ground.
Yet, given that in both quality and quantity, food served in camp is outrageously poor, it is not uncommon to find Corps members gathered and debating whether or not they are given food worth N500 every day in camp.
Unlike the camp in Gombe where corps members were lucky to get beef several times in a week, their colleagues in Zamfara didn’t see much. Some corps members observed that almost every day, between five to eight fat cows lie beside the camp’s mosque. From these cows, once in a while, as against every day, a cow is slaughtered. On such occasions, one gets a tiny piece of beef in his food. Of the 59 times food was served throughout the 21 days in camp, corps members in Zamfara said they only got beef seven times.
“More often, there was either nothing or just a tiny piece of cheap iced fish,” added a corps member who wasn’t happy with the development.
“It was therefore not a surprise that in the afternoon of August 15, our passing out day, five fat cows were still lying there. Plus that, as other corpers and I were being driven to our local government of primary assignment in a bus sent from the council, I could see bags of rice, gari, cartons of tomatoes, tubers of yam and others being loaded onto a Toyota Hilux from the camp’s food store to, who knows where?” he added.
At the Iseyin camp, the cows were seen but never tasted, as corpers were fed with fish throughout their stay in the camp, and no one knows what became of the few cows that were put on exhibition by being tied to stakes where everyone could see them.
Speak and be damned!
The fear of getting to speak to the media is real. Corps members were made to sign an undertaking before the Chief Judges of the states they were posted to, or their representatives during their swearing-in ceremony at the camps. One of the requirements of the undertaking includes not speaking to the media unless authorised to do so. This could have been taken as a measure to continue perpetrating the secrecy and looting that hovers around the scheme.
Corpers were even threatened with decamping, if found to have spoken to any journalist, or media house about their experience, or what transpired in the camps.
280 Corpers, 14 pit toilets and a swarm of flies!
According to the United Nations (UN), “2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines” globally. On this premise, part of goal 6 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeks to achieve access to “adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all,” says the World Health Organisation.
If any organisation is going to provide anything short of that “adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene”, it is not expected to be the NYSC, a well-known national service scheme belonging to Nigeria, a country that long adopted the SDGs in 2015.
But surprisingly, at its permanent orientation camp at Tsafe, Zamfara State, most of the toilets available are putrid, fly-filled single pit toilets that lack recommended features of a ventilated improved pit (VIPs) like proper flash screens (for catching flies), adequate air flow, door facing prevailing wind, slab coverage, amongst others. Most of the toilets at the temporary orientation camp in Amada, Gombe state were of the same magnitude.
Pit latrines or Pits of hell?
Coupled with the fact that the toilets are over-stretched and not washed regularly during the camping period (except when the Director General was expected), corpers are exposed to toilet infections. Worse still, these toilets also serve as bath place in the two major male hostels in camp (storey building A and B), leaving Corps members with no choice but to be exposed to the unhealthy toilets several times a day.
“I had anal itching after using the toilets twice,” Samuel, a graduate of a polytechnic in northern Nigeria, told Ripples Nigeria. “The bathrooms are sometimes water-logged and the pit toilets ooze hot putrid smells with flies perching around everywhere. I just had to find other alternatives because I could not put up with the facilities.”
Gombe state coordinator Mr Ibe repeatedly complained that “facilities in the camp were grossly inadequate” because it was a temporary camp and as such lacked in many areas, including poorly constricted toilets, bathrooms and some mattresses were old.
For example, 1,716 Stream II Corp members were mobilised to the Tsafe, Zamfara camp, according to the State Coordinator. 280 of them (occupying 140 bunk beds), according to our counting, were housed under recently-renovated storey building B. The 280 Corpers had only 14 pit toilets to themselves. This, on average, means 20 corpers per toilet.
The same applies to storey building A, another major male hostel. However, there are five other halls (Shinkafi Hall, TsafeHall, Gusau House, and two other unnamed, male-occupied halls) containing 90 bunk beds (180 corpers) each. Each of these toilets have 10 flush toilets, with just a few functioning properly. Even the functioning ones have faulty flush systems.
At Shinkafi Hall for example, only three out of 10 toilets are still usable. This further over-stretches the pit toilets at storey buildings A and B, as many corpers resident at Tsafe Hall and others cross over for toileting.
However, for the two female halls (Gusau House and Tsafe Hall), none of their in-built toilets are functioning, instead, manual flush toilets are constructed beside the hall – 10 toilets per hall.
Despite this infrastructural breakdown, each year, the Approriation Act allocates money for the rehabilitation and repair of NYSC’s fixed assets. In the 2017 budget, 600 million naira was budgeted for this purpose.
At the Iseyin camp which is a permanent facility with mostly new buildings, there are about six hostels with several wings and different carrying capacities. However, each of these wings do not usually have their separate conveniences.
The conveniences, though clean and well equipped with steady water supply, are not enough for the capacity which they are meant to carry, resulting to queues and quarrels every day. For instance, Ajumobi wing D, one of the hostels in the camp, with about two hundred corps members, and Wing C with about one hundred corps members shared four bathrooms and two toilets. To use the convenience without hassle, some corpers had to wake up as early as 1am after sleeping for only three hours (having been released by 10 pm after socials).
Hypocrites! DG’s visit: Time to get things right
NYSC officials dread the Director-General’s visits to camps in part because the DG’s visit is meant for inspection of facilities such as toilets, accommodation, camp kitchen, and many more.
At NYSC temporary orientation camp in Amada, camp officials swung into action few days before the DG’s visit. The hostels without doors were fixed, sanitation properly enforced, and the toilets and bathrooms well cleaned to receive and impress the all-important visitor. There was even a town hall meeting at the parade ground where the Gombe state coordinator discussed issues raised by corp members in the Servicom suggestion box.
One of the complaints raised by corps members was that they needed egg in their breakfast and the state coordinator consented to the request and urged the officials at the kitchen to start including egg henceforth. Upon his visit on August 8, the Director-General of the NYSC, Brig-Gen. Suleiman Kazaure told around 1,470 corps members posted to Gombe state in the Batch A stream II that his purpose for visiting was to “inspect the condition of the camp facilities and to see to the welfare of corps members”.
He commended the camp officials for keeping the camp clean and ensuring that camp facilities including the clinic met standards. But one thing Brig-Gen. Kazaure didn’t know was that his camp officials always try to get things right whenever he is scheduled to visit.
For example, before his visit, a Gombe state NYSC official warned students the morning before the DG visited: “Some of you would want to cause trouble. Just learn to say positive things. Don’t ask unnecessary questions that will bring bad reputation here.”
And the next day after the DG had visited, he added: “For those of you who wanted to bring us shame, you have been shamed. The DG praised our camp and said it is the best, there is nothing you can do about it.”
Though in all fairness, the Gombe state coordinator Mr Tobias Ibe tried as much as he could to make himself available to corps members. He stayed in the camp several times in a week and attended nearly all camp functions.
Camps of extortion
Besides the scheme initially collecting N3,000 as a condition for getting a green card and call-up letter during registration, little did many corpers know that they were being mobilised to camps of extortion.
Some corps members said they paid double rates for prices of goods and services at the open market in camp. At the front of the camp’s mosque in Zamfara, under the shed of a tree, were sited a group of photographers, some shouting “take your passport here”.
Photographers were charging 600 naira for eight copies of passport, this is against what one can find around town where photographers collected either 300 or 400 naira for the same number of passports.
In the temporary orientation camp in Amada, eight copies of passport went for 1,000 naira, and when corps members complained, the small business owners inside the camp often said they paid “crazy” amounts to camp officials to be allowed to trade in the camp. Saidu owns a small shop where he sells sodas, sachet water, sausage rolls and meat pie.
“I paid 12,500 naira to camp officials in Gombe state to be allowed to sell here, so my things would be a bit expensive so I won’t lose much in the end. Some of the food sellers paid at least 25,000 naira or even more to be allowed here. So you don’t expect things to be cheap.”
At the camp market in Zamfara, products and service prices were highly inflated and like the photographers, sellers of identical products sold at an agreed price, leaving the buyer with no bargaining option.
For example, knowing that NYSC-given food was poor in quality and quantity, food joints at the camp market sold a little plate of food for between N300 (for rice) and N400 (for a rap of baked cassava flakes and soup).
“You people don’t understand. See, for just this little space where my sewing machine is, I paid N7,500,” a young tailor who was amending oversized kits in the Zamfara camp blotted out. At the tailors’ stand, not less than 12 tailors operate.
“My mom told me she spent about 15, 000 naira to secure this place,” said a young man whose mother sold plastic items like bathing buckets, cups, flasks and others in the Zamfara camp.
Camp Clinics: Palace of hope or sadness?
The idea of a clinic working efficiently in the orientation camp is a solid idea as the change of environment can affect individual’s health and well-being which can be effectively managed with the help of the camp clinic.
At the NYSC Temporary Orientation Camp in Government Girls Science Technical College in Amada, Gombe State, various health professionals were available as corps members from various field including doctors (15), pharmacists (4), nurses (3), med. Lab scientists (3) and physiotherapists (2). There were also consultants, nurses, and other health professionals present in the clinic to monitor the clinic’s activities and also work with the corps clinic team to improve and maintain the quality of life of graduates in the camp.
The various fields work 24 hours in the clinic using a roaster to ensure that each professional field is represented by a member in the clinic at all times. The order of attending to patients is just as in hospital practice.
First, corps members see the nurses who take their vitals, then they see the doctors who further get information from the patients, make necessary observations and then a diagnosis from which they draw out a prescription. Some tests are carried out if necessary, and the physiotherapist attend to patients with musculoskeletal complications for some massage as the case may be.
The patients finally move to the pharmacist’s desk presenting the prescription with which the pharmacist uses to prepare the patients’ medications, label them appropriately, and advise them on proper usage as well as the benefits of completing therapy. Where injectables are prescribed, the nurses administer the injectables to the patient.
Patients that have low consciousness and reduced strength are admitted in the clinic and properly attended to with constant monitoring until the patient is strong, healthy and fully conscious. Cases that prove to be serious or complicated are referred to the Federal Teaching Hospital (FTH) in Gombe using a standby bus meant for emergencies.
The camp clinic operated fully well with all necessary equipment and facility in place.
A good number of drugs were available in type and quantity, including antibiotics, antimalarials, analgesics, antacids, antihypertensives, antidiabetics, antidiarrheal drugs, infusions, and more, but most were not sufficient, especially the antimalarials, antibiotics, antacids, ORS, (which had high demands) as well as blood giving sets, cannulas, bandages, weighing scale, and blood sugar measuring machine.
However, the camp clinic head was able to manage the clinic for the period of the orientation, making necessary adjustments especially in dispensing and administering medications. The camp clinic in Gombe state played a major role in the orientation camp as major ailments that would have disrupted the orientation programme were managed appropriately, surgical procedures were employed where necessary, asthmatic attacks were taken care of, and even a pregnant lady on emergency was delivered by the corps doctors and nurses before being referred to FTH, and so much more.
‘You have malaria…but I don’t think we have anti-malaria…’
However, at the NYSC Permanent Orientation Camp in Tsafe Local Government Area, Zamfara State, it appeared expecting treatment at the camp clinic for any health issue beyond headaches and malaria was effort in futility. Or what should one expect when the Camp Director, Mr. Yusuf, made it clear early enough during his July 27 address? “We have a camp clinic where simple and basic health issues can be taken care of. For other serious issues we would have to refer you for treatment outside the camp. But we don’t pray for that.”
Yet, even the “basic” treatment was hard to get at the Zamfara State permanent orientation camp.
One day, one of our reporters feigned cold and pretended to have typhoid and fever, walked into the clinic and demanded attention. A corper-doctor was smart enough to subject him to a test. He scrambled a few words our reporter found hard to read on a piece of paper, and directed him to another room that served as a laboratory. In the lab another corper-doctor collected the note from this reporter and immediately picked a venipuncture, pricked the thumb and took a blood sample. “Wait at the counter,” he ordered.
About five minutes later the doctor came out with his own doctor-like hard-to-read wordings on another piece of paper. “You have malaria,” he said. Take this note to the pharmacy department and collect drugs.” Then he turned again: “but I don’t think we have antimalarial. Just see the doctor at the pharmacy section.”
When our reporter got to the pharmacy, the attendant immediately picked six tablets from a plastic container, threw them into a blister pack and handed it to the reporter after reading the note.
“What drugs are these,” our reporter asked.
“They are paracetamol,” he answered.
“Why?’ this reporter retorted.
“We do not have antimalarial drugs,” he responded. With that, he picked a piece of paper, wrote down some prescriptions, handed him the note and said: “Please check the chemist at the camp market and buy drugs for malaria.”
Days later, among corpers, it became a regular thing to hear complaints about them being issued paracetamol or panadol for a case unrelated to headaches.
“When my hand was seriously paining me, they gave me Paracetamol, complained Kashim, a corps members in Zamfara. “The second time I went there it was still Paracetamol they gave me.”
At the Iseyin camp clinic, insufficient drugs and most times, the lack of it was a common feature. One corper, a graduate of University of Agriculture, Makurdi suffering from ulcer told Ripples Nigeria that when he exhausted the drugs he brought to the camp, he went to the clinic hoping to be replenished.
“But to my greatest shock, of the seven drugs which I needed as an ulcer patient, only one was given to me, because that was the only one available. I was given substitutes which had no effects whatsoever”, he said.
A corper-doctor at the clinic, while agreeing that there was insufficient drugs in the clinic, however, argued that they had to ration by giving patients just enough to last a day because, “some of the corpers fake illness to dodge and excuse themselves from parades and other camp activities.
“So when they come like that we just give them enough for a day, if they use it up and come the next day for more we know they are ill and give them more. Some of them just take the drugs to show to the soldiers, saying they are ill, so as to escape some camp activities”.
All work and no play…but where are the facilities?
The 2017 Appropriation Act has N18, 500, 000 budgeted for purchase of new recreational facilities, while N60,000,000 was budgeted for renovation of NYSC orientation camps nationwide. However, at the Tsafe and Amada camps, there are no recreational facilities available and in Gombe particularly corps members have to stand to receive lectures because the plastic seats are nowhere near the number of corps members available.
Even in Iseyin, the pavilion where activities hold, and corpers receive lectures is an open space with only a roof and no form of furniture whatsoever. There are also no snooker and table tennis boards available in any part of the three camps in question, but in Zamfara they are supposedly owned by private individuals and are on a N50 per game basis.
“At least I played table tennis and snooker in camp, and each time, I paid 50 naira.” A corp member said.
Also, for each platoon to participate in the inter platoon competitions, the platoon must buy its own volleyball, football, dancing and acting costumes and even pay N1,000 to hire NYSC-bearing jerseys and footfall boots in Zamfara state. Each platoon consisted of not less than 70 Corps members. To fund these expenses, each platoon member paid either 500 or N1000, or even above depending on the agreed sum.
In Gombe state camp, some platoons bought footballs and also paid for the NYSC football wears to be cleaned up any time they are to be used.
In Oyo state, it was the same story as corpers had to buy the things they needed for sports and games. but the attires for cultural activities were rented out to them by camp officials for a fee.
However, if there was a thing the camps deserved commendation for, it was the almost always availability of water at the Zamfara, Oyo and Gombe states camps. At least two water taps provided water. In addition, water was always available in the two under-ground reservoirs. A water tanker was always standing by too.
Rejected! ‘Some of you, your employers do not need your service’
When, in May, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo issued a statement warning government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) not to reject corps members posted to them for their primary assignments, it was a relief for many prospective corps members. For years, on many occasions, some MDAs and private institutions rejected corp members posted to their organisations as their place of primary assignment.
Given the presidential warning, our reporters were not expecting the “reject” part of their posting letters ticked as against “accept”. But at the camp, just after receiving the posting letters on August 15, one of our reporters and his other colleagues had barely entered the bus sent from their local government of service before their Local Government Inspector (LGI) collected their posting letters from them, promising to tell them more when they got to the council.
“Some of you, your employers do not need your service. That is why we collected your posting letters so we can redeploy you according to your employers’ needs,” the LGI later explained at the council. Inside his office, he rolled out a drawing paper; on it are written names of institutions (most of them secondary and primary schools) and the corresponding number of needed corps members.
As it turned out, some institutions did not demand for corps members, yet as much as seven corpers were sent to them. This was true of the government college one of our reporters was initially posted to with six others. Of course, they were all rejected. Rejected and denied in a land where they knew nobody, some of them spending the night on wooden tables at the local government council and preyed on by uncountable giant mosquitoes.
The frustration shown on the faces of fellow corpers who were supposedly posted to “happening PPAs (Place of Primary Assignments)” but were later rejected was all too obvious. At least four of our reporter’s close friends who were initially posted to “bright spots” were rejected and later reposted to secondary and primary schools.
In Oyo State, although there were some cases of rejections mostly in urban Ibadan, the reported cases were about fifty as gleaned from WhatsApp groups set up by the corpers to share experiences. Incidentally, government Ministries, Departments and Agencies were most guilty of rejecting Corpers posted to them.
Over four decades gone, why doesn’t the NYSC produce its own food?
For a scheme established in 1973, in a country with vast agricultural resources, it is inexplicable that the NYSC is not yet self-sufficient in food production.
For a scheme that has variously listed support for agribusiness as a vital component of its overall empowerment strategy for Nigerian youths, it is indefensible that it has not led by example by creating a sustainable agricultural production base that will eliminate or at least significantly reduce its dependence on contract-based volatile market-determined supply of food to its various camps across the country.
The disclosure by the NYSC’s current DG in May 2017 that active farmlands have been acquired across the nation’s geopolitical zones with four already fully operational in Kwali, Bauchi, Oyo and Kebbi, is a welcome development, but must not become another short-lived policy conquered by inconsistency and overriding selfish interest.
It is not only in food that the NYSC should aspire to be self-sufficient. Nothing stops it from seeking a cost-effective production of the kits and other items required by the corp members.
One way to achieve this would be to integrate the skills and productive capacities of the corp members into a home-grown, need-aligned industrial system that will especially be highly beneficial on two key fronts– enhancing the industry and sense of enterprise of the corp members, while also saving the scheme money.
Since the scheme has continued to grapple with the challenge of limited funding and government has determined it should continue to exist, it appears the only way forward is for strategic sustainability-enhancing initiatives to be developed internally to augment whatever statutory support is provided by the government.
This report, supervised by Etaghene Edirin, was conducted by our investigative team whose identities have been kept secret to protect them from possible victimisation.