By Nathaniel Gana
18th June 2019
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has said that there can be no successful election in Nigeria without the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members.
Prof. Yakubu made the declaration at a programme held in Abuja on 17thJune, where the European Union (EU) presented Information Technology (IT) equipment to corps members that worked hard and showed dedication during the 2019 general elections.
The EU, one of INECs development partners had identified 75 outstanding corps members who participated in the last general elections and decided to reward them with laptops and phones at the event.
In recognition of the corps members’ laudable contributions to the conduct of elections in the country, Prof Yakubu also disclosed that the Commission would offer those who performed well in the 2019 general elections and those who display the same traits in the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, scheduled for 16th November automatic employment.
The Head of EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, said the gesture was in recognition of the immense contributions made by youth corps members to the success of the general elections.
The envoy implored the corps members to continue to be good ambassadors of the scheme and their country.
Karlsen noted that over 290,000 corps members participated in the elections, during which the EU observed their dedication and commitment to the process. He regretted that the EU could not reach out to all participating corps members but explained that the gifts were the equipment used by the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) that observed the recently concluded elections.
The INEC Chairman, while underscoring the role of the NYSC in successful conduct of elections said: “there can’t be any elections in Nigeria without the NYSC. It is simply impossible. I have said this before, I want to say it again and I will not be tired of saying it, that the youth corps members are the most dedicated, the most educated, the most patriotic, the most willing, the most able, the most readily available and the most committed election duty staff in Nigeria” .
He continued: “It’s not just about the election. It’s about what we call the electoral process. You (corps members) are available for voter education. You are available for voter registration. You are available when we display the voters’ register and also available on election day. As presiding officers, you count the votes, you record them and take the results to the collation centres. You travel to various locations by land and by sea. You go through challenging experiences”.
The INEC Chairman recalled some of the challenging experiences corps members have been exposed to in the course of serving as election day officials.
He said: I recall that in 2015 when we conducted the governorship election in Bayelsa State, when I saw the boat carrying election duty staff and materials to Oproma in Southern Ijaw and to Ekeremo and Brass, and also saw the way the youth corps members were transported, I doff my hat for the NYSC.
“In Ondo, when we conducted the Governorship election in 2017, I will never forget the experience for the rest of my life, of youth corps members who were bringing back results from Ilaje and had a boat accident at night. Thankfully, there was the Navy in the background that came to the rescue. We did not lose a single life on that occasion, but on other occasions, we were not so lucky.
“For the rest of my life, I will continue to remember the memory of the late Okonta Samuel, one of our youth corps members, who was killed on his way home after he submitted the result from his polling unit in Ondo state. We will continue to remember the memories of those who died”.
Prof. Yakubu explained that in appreciation of the commitment of the corps members to the electoral process, and in order to encourage them to continue to do their best as ad-hoc staff during elections, the Commission would identify and offer automatic employment to outstanding corps members on election duty.
His words: “the Commission has embarked on a review of the 2019 general elections. There are many of you here, and many that are not in this hall, who did well in these elections. We will identify you and we will reward those who have done excellently well in the elections with automatic employment with INEC.
“By doing so, we hope that those of you who have done very well will form the core of conscientious election duty staff going into the next general elections.We will extend this beyond the general elections to the two major elections we are going to conduct in November – the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections. All those who are going to man the polling units will be NYSC members 100 percent and we will keep our eyes open. Those who do very well in the elections will also be rewarded with automatic employment by INEC”.
In his remarks, the Director General of the NYSC, Brigadier General S. Ibrahim, expressed gratitude to the EU-EOM for the kind gesture and expressed the organisation’s commitment to further exploring areas of collaboration with the EU.
He observed that the INEC/NYSC collaboration on election duty has greatly enhanced the scheme’s visibility, just as he pledged the NYSC’s commitment to strengthening the partnership.
The event was witnessed by one of Nigeria’s foremost music icons, Innocent Tuface Idibia (aka Tubaba) and entertainer, Uti Nwachukwu both of whom are also INEC Ambassadors. They urged the corps members to continue to serve with dedication and commitment.