“This whole scheme is trash. It’s just nonsense,” Tolani Ajayi, a serving corps member lamented as she bumped into this reporter.
Apologetically, she tried to calm herself down realising that she has been shouting and creating a scene.
Subtly, the reporter asked what the outrage was about as well as who it was directed to.
“They’re asking us to pay N1000 for project and another N500 for NYSC annual magazine,” she said.
“I just don’t understand. And they’re even making it compulsory. They refused to let me sign attendance just because I’ve not paid. They’re doing that to so many people there and it’s not just fair.
“After coming as early as 7:30 a.m. and wasting four hours, one ‘human being’ will just come and say you can’t sign attendance because you didn’t pay N1500 for project and magazine; that’s besides the N1000 we ‘dashed’ them for registration,” she lamented as she tried to use her two fingers to write in the air while she stressed the word – “registration.”Looking around, the reporter observed other corps members complaining and one didn’t need a fortune-teller to indicate that they were angry about the same thing.
On one side were angry, frustrated-looking corps members grumbling and talking about how the whole NYSC should be scrapped. On another side, corps members who had paid struggled to sign the attendance register. Those prepared to pay queued up in the midst of the chaos and literally begged the NYSC executives, or ‘money collector’ as they are referred to, to collect their money, so they can sign and escape the scorching sun.
The NYSC executives, who are equally serving corps members , are elected officials who have the added privilege of administering the affairs of their colleagues during the mandatory one year service.
This was the observation made when it visited one of the many Community Development Service (CDS) meetings in Abuja.
Despite official proclamations against these illegal charges on corps members, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation shows the practice goes on without check across Nigerian states. Worse of all, no one appears to be doing anything to stop the trend.
Listening to the plight of both serving and ex-corps members, We discovered that the charges being levied on them include payments for community projects, annual magazines, CDS registration, picnics and excursions, among others.
David Onyekachi, an ex-corps member, who served in Kwara State in 2015, told laments that the charges had become a trend that corps member get used to.
“First it was CDS registration. That one was compulsory, because without being ‘registered,’ your name won’t even be in the attendance register before you’ll start thinking of signing.
“Few weeks into the service year as well as CDS meetings, EXCOs started making announcements, saying we needed new set of chairs and tables and we were required to make contributions of five hundred naira each to enable us buy them but that it wasn’t compulsory for everyone to pay the same amount. They said you have to give something as donation if you can’t pay the required N500, I paid for that one.
NYSC OFFICIALS CULPABLE
CDS officials are staff of the NYSC. They, alongside the corps executive, coordinate the affairs of the groups on behalf of the NYSC.
PREMIUM TIMES findings indicate that not all CDS officials are involved in the extortion of corps members. Some openly dissociate themselves from receiving funds from corps members and even go as far as warning the corps members not to make any sort of payment to anyone in the CDS office throughout their service year.
Kingsley Ayeni, an ex-corps member who did his service year in Abuja, states that the officer in charge of his CDS (Sustainable Development Group) strictly warned against making payments to anyone in the group.
“She even said she didn’t want any contribution of any kind and that the federal government has made provisions for funding any project we might decide to embark on.
“When she found out that we were contributing money to go for outreach in some parts of Abuja, she got angry and asked that each person’s money be returned.
‘No PAY NO SIGN’ THREAT
Attendance at CDS meetings is mandatory for corps members. Each attendee is expected to sign a register to show presence at such meetings. It is that register that is often used to blackmail corps members into making the illegal payments, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
“It’s one thing to charge corps members for payment of certain things, it’s another wicked thing to force them to make those payments – to the extent of toying with their attendance, when we all know that’s the main reason we come here,” the corps member, Ms. Ajayi, said.
Chinonso Stanley, an ex-corps member told PREMIUM TIMES how he was not allowed to take attendance for over a month because he was unable to pay the N1000 for community project and N500 for NYSC annual magazine as demanded by the CDS’ officials. He said it almost caused him to repeat some months of service after their Passing Out Parade.
“At first, I didn’t want to pay because I was beginning to get angry over the unnecessary and irrelevant charges.
“When I noticed they were really serious about it and they were not letting me sign, I pleaded with the excos to give me some time because things were really tight for me then, I promised to pay but the excos still won’t let me sign.
“I almost carried over my service year because it was reflecting in the attendance that I had missed CDS meetings for about seven weeks – which was not so. It was just by God’s grace that I was able to pass out and collect my NYSC certificate,” he said.