Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Until recently, the permanent orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Yikpata, Edu Local Government, Kwara State, was in a decrepit state. It was bad enough for any decent mind not to notice. And corps members spared no time to decry the state of the camp.
Abubakar Bello, a one-time corps member told Daily Sun: “I did only my three-week orientation at Yikpata. Thereafter, I applied for re-posting away from the state because the camp was in a mess.” One other who preferred not to be named told similar sordid tale:
“My journey began on the 27/03/19 being a Wednesday. We booked a bus from Oshodi, Lagos, to Yikpata for N3,500 and we were 14 in number. I spent nine hours on transit to camp, my body was in severe pain.
“Got to camp around 7pm and started registration same day. At 9pm, the officials told us to return the following day to continue the process after wasting two hours doing nothing. I was pained.
“I couldn’t bathe that night because there was no water and I was told that water was sold at N50 per bucket. I thought it was a joke until I woke up Thursday by 2am to bathe. The crowd I met was very long, I was number 200 on the line. Within five minutes, the line was more than 500.
“I waited patiently for another hour or so before it got to my turn. The moment I paid and left, the water finished. I just thanked my ancestors and left for the hostel.
“On getting there, I asked where the bathroom was, they laughed me. I later realised bathing and shitting was done in the open. As for the shitting, you use shit-and-dodge technique. “I had my bath while economising water and sold the water left to the highest bidder for N30.
“By the way the room was a mini-oven. I brought out my tattered mattress to the balcony why hugging my phone tight to avoid stories. The most valuable thing in this camp isn’t your money, phone or other gadget but your water. A guy dropped his water to get towel only to return and met empty bucket. The guy cursed to no avail.
“The camp was not fenced, corps members had to struggle with cows to get water in a pond close to the camp this made security to be porous.”
The camp was established as a youth camp in the early 70s for Man O War activities under the Ministry of Youths and Social Development. Subsequent governments failed to upgrade the facilities at the camp until recently when there was outcry on the need to make the place habitable.
While being conducted round the camp, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq described its facilities as penitentiaries not fit for human beings and promised to ensure the facilities are fixed. Barely two months after, he provided the camp with 400 mattresses, 200 double-bunk beds, long benches and other basics to make living conducive for the corps members.
He took further steps to refurbish the dilapidated structures including the problematic water and toilets. Yikpata today is by no small measure prospective corps members’ delight.
The state of decrepit has been touched by the wind of change; refurbished and transformed into a befitting camp. A former corps member who served in the 2016/2017 Batch II, Gift Charles from Akwa Ibom State, who came to Ilorin and visited the camp said: “Eureka! Prospective corps members shall no longer get hypertensive but radiate joy and nothing but optimism about coming to Kwara State.
“We can all just imagine what impression the old state of that camp gave to Nigerian youth corps members– who were prospective leaders, captains of industry, big businessmen, investors and so on–the past few years. A moment with some of them curried tearful of lamentations and stories of anguish. Who wouldn’t anyways? Especially when one finds it difficult differentiating between one’s condition of living as a graduate on a three-week camping to a hardened criminal condemned to the most dreaded imprisonment. Or how best can we explain a facility with dilapidated structures, jaded beds, problematic water supply, unusable toilets amongst other inadequacies that made it eminently an eyesore. Obviously, there was a need for a miracle to come.”
The state NYSC coordinator, Esther Ikupolati, described the camp as the best in Nigeria: “The management and staff of NYSC are really grateful to Mr Governor for keeping to his words by renovating three main hostels, including the two-in-one Mayflower hostel to standard hostel.”
Rafiu Ajakaiye, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, said, the governor renovated the decrepit hostels of the state’s NYSC camp, barely five months after he described the facilities as penitentiaries not fit for human living: “The renovation came three months after his administration also supplied the facilities with 400 mattresses, 200 double-bunk beds and 100 long benches.”
Like Oliver Twist, Ikupolati, appealed to the Federal Government to construct a perimeter fence around the camp. She expressed concern over the porous nature of the camp, making it vulnerable to thieves and vandals. She cited instance when thieves broke into hostels in the camp a few days to the commencement of orientation course, carting away mattresses and beds:
Ikupolati explained that having a perimeter fence around the orientation camp would secure the camp against intruders, adding that leaving the camp porous poses a danger to corps members and camp officials.
“I want to appeal to the Federal Government to please construct a perimeter fence around the orientation camp to make it secure. If the Federal Government is determined to give Kwara orientation camp a fence, I know it can do it.
“The Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna, is bigger than this place and it was fenced within three months; this is why I said the Federal Government can do it.
“I am not talking of doing it in stages; they can do it at once. I want them to come to the aid of the state government or to work hand in hand with the state government by way of provision of funds to the state government to do it.”
Ikupolati said the welfare of corps members remained her priority during the orientation course and at their places of primary assignments. She called on employers to also accord top priority to the welfare of corps members serving in their establishments.
The coordinator also appealed to the state government to pay the local allowances of corps members: “The last state government promised the corps members of Batch B Stream II camp of last year to pay the local allowance, but up till now, it has not started paying.
“I know the state government can do it because it promised the corps members and I know it will do it. I am reminding the state government to please redeem the pledge to the corps members.”