George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Ordinarily, 425 volunteers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), in Imo State who have been part of the organisation since 1996 ought to be happy with the 2003 enabling Act of the National Assembly which has conferred recognition on the Corp as a paramilitary organisation under the Ministry of Interior, but they are not, as they have been left in the lurch even when their counterparts in other states were absorbed into the now federal agency.
Amunwa Nnaemeka Crispin, the Imo State coordinator of the Association of Unabsorbed Pioneer Volunteers of the Corps, disclosed that majority of those who have been left out have been volunteers since 1994 and were surprised that they were shunted out when the corps got the recognition by the Federal Government which has been the utmost desire of the corps members.
He said when the National Assembly enacted the Act making the Civil Defence a federal paramilitary organization in 2003 it was emphatic in section 26 (5) that anybody who was a volunteer or regular member before the commencement of the Act is deemed to have been transferred to the corps.
However, Amuwa pointed out that they were deceived by the state command that their absorption will come in batches.
“We had in 2012 embarked on an inquiry journey to Abuja to find out from the then Commandant-General the state of affairs since the Imo State command has not been forthcoming with the number of volunteers gradually increasing through secret replacements, because the then Imo State commander had told us that no volunteers was handed over to him when assumed the state command.
“So, we had to embark on that journey to Abuja but we were deceived at Abaji and taken to the Academy at Gwagwalada where we were told that the Commandant-General will address us.”
He further alleged that instead of being addressed by the commandant General as they were previously told, they were stripped naked and beaten and their personal effects confiscated.
“After we were manhandled at Gwagwalada, the National Headquarters came up with the propaganda that we are not employable. They claimed we are overaged, illiterates and disabled whereas our colleagues who were absorbed are still in service.
“Ironically, the same people who said were are overaged, disabled, illiterates and unemployable also submitted our names for the 2015 general elections duties to INEC and at the end of the general elections we were not paid a kobo. Whenwe asked to be paid, they claimed that the money came directly from the CBN. And the question is who took our money?”
Speaking in the same vein, the Secretary of the association, Etumnu Meshack said the enabling Act confers automatic employment to all serving volunteers and their ranks retained but that regrettably both the state and the high commands were bedeviled by corruption, alleging that their positions were either sold or given to cronies.
“In the face of this injustice, we are being constantly threatened by both the state and high commands of the Corp to keep quiet saying that demonstrating with uniform will send a bad signal to the world and would attract severe disciplinary action yet they have refused to do the right thing. We had written the then president of the Senate and we were told to exercise patience as our case is being looked into.”
Meshack said they were willing to be interviewed and will make available a comprehensive list of all those who have been sidelined with all their academic qualifications to puncture the propaganda of the high command that they were illiterates, overaged and unemployable.
“Many of us who were recruited in 1995 as Civil Defence Volunteers were graduates, although there were later recruitments before 2003 and at that time the state governments had placed us on stipends and thus we provided services for them and were structured properly as a security outfit. It would be recalled that we started making contributions for the enabling decree as it was then known during the military era before 1999,” he lamented.