The Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Brigadier-General Johnson Olawumi has assured corps members working as ad hoc staff for the elections of adequate security as Nigerians troop out to vote today.
More than 168,000 corps members were participating in the exercise across the country. About 75,000 had opted out after it became clear that participation was voluntary.
Speaking in Abuja as part of the activities to mark his first year in office, Olawumi said that a Distress Call Center has also been opened at the national secretariat of the NYSC.
“I need to make it clear that we signed an MOU with INEC in 2010 for corps members to take part as ad-hoc staff in the conduct of elections. Since then, corps members have been taking part and contributing so much to improving our elections.
“A dimension that was introduced late last year is that we are no longer the ones who submit names of corps members to INEC. INEC opened their portal and asked interested corps members to register and they registered. They were not forced. They registered on their own volition.
“That was why from the over 240,000 corps members that we have only about 168,000 registered which means close to 80,000 did not register. It should be noted that the corps members were not forced and what that means is that any parent who does not want his or her child to take part must have told the child not to register.
“Yes it is voluntary. They registered on their own. Not only that, in the course of registration, they supplied information as to where they are serving and where they want to be during the election.
“That means, if a corps member is serving in Anambra State and the parents live in Oyo State, when asked where he or she would like to participate during the elections, the corps member could fill Oyo State. So these are things that have been done as part of security measures.
“We have documented all the contacts of security agencies in all local government areas in Nigeria. And we made these contacts available to all corps members in those areas. Then in the headquarters here, we keep a record of all those contacts because we have a Distress Call Centre which we have reinvigorated to cope with whatever challenges that might arise during the elections.
“Through that Distress Call Centre, once a corps member is in distress and he or she calls, we immediately identify the location and we inform the closest security agency within the location to rescue the corps member. We have also compiled the addresses of all the Corpers Lodges across the country which have been made available to security agencies in all those areas.
“We have also issued out directives that all our Local Government Inspectors will not take part in the elections. Their sole duty on that day is the security of corps members. We have approached INEC and they are going to provide logistical support in each of the local government areas for easy monitoring and rescue operation on the day of the elections.”
Olawumi, while reacting to concerns in some quarters that some corps members who work as polling agents usually compromise election standards and connive with desperate politicians or party agents to rig elections, Olawumi said that would not happen as NYSC members had been sensitized sufficiently against any electoral fraud.
“It is expected that all corps members to handle this critical assignment with high sense of Patriotism, Intergrity and responsibility,” he said.