The challenge of inadequate space in the National Youth Service Corps Orientation Camp in Lagos State is far from being over. Rather than abate, facilities at the orientation camp located on a property belonging to the state Ministry of Youths and Sports at Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos, are daily being overstretched. The ‘‘temporary orientation camp’’ that could conveniently accommodate about 2,000 corps members now house 3, 392 corps members posted to the state for the 2012 Batch C of the scheme.
Consequently, officials of the NYSC in Lagos are always working to ensure that the camp is habitable each time corps members are mobilised to the state. Also, those posted to the state always have had to endure the pains of inadequate space that most often reminded some of them that attended public institutions of the squatting syndrome while on campus. Though the Lagos State Government had about 20 years ago designated some hectares of land for the camp’s permanent site at Igando, a Lagos suburb, nothing was done until land grabbers started encroaching on the land.
This was further compounded by the decision of the original land owners to push for the recovery of the land since it was not being used for the purpose for which it was acquired by the government. It was also learnt that the land owners and some land grabbers had started selling the land to interested citizens and corporate bodies. This has become a source of litigation between the government and the land owners. This was responsible for the state government’s decision to relocate the permanent site to Imota, a town close to Ikorodu.
Though the State Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Wale Hammed, was not available to comment on this, a top official in the ministry who pleaded anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press confirmed this. According to the source, the state government reached this decision last year because of the outcome of the court case.
“The Lagos State Government is just being proactive and you know that Governor Babatunde Fashola has respect for the rule of law; so, it was decided when Chief Tola Kasali was the commissioner supervising the NYSC that an alternative land should be provided for the NYSC camp so that whatever the outcome of the case might be, the scheme would not suffer,’’ the official said.
Kasali had told the press while speaking during a ministerial briefing last year that, even if the state government won the case on the proposed camp at Igando, the site would not be useful anymore for NYSC camp.”
According to him, an NYSC camp ought not to be within the city, recalling that the state government acquired the Igando camp in 1982.
“The state government then fenced the site for planned development but the litigation by land owners (Omo-onile) in the area had foiled our plan,” he had said.
But a year after this, the Lagos State Government has not done anything that could show that the new orientation camp would soon become a reality.
Consequently, corps members deployed in the state for the Batch C of the 2012 scheme are the ones bearing the brunt of the inadequate space. The corps members in camp are complaining in hushed tones. Though they are not allowed to speak to the press on any issue except they had the official permission, some of them who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said that living in the camp had been a challenge.
“The place is stuffy. The space is just inadequate to cater for all of us. The officials are trying to make the place enjoyable but having to cope with stuffy rooms remain a challenge,” one of the corps members said.
Another corps member, who blamed the state government for the challenge the corps members were facing, urged the governor to expedite action on the new site so that those coming behind them could have a befitting orientation camp.
“I cannot blame the NYSC for this because by law it is the responsibility of the state government to provide orientation camp. So I will not expect the NYSC to build the camp. It is the duty of the state government and some of them (state governments) have performed this duty very well. Some of my colleagues who are serving in states such as Osun for instance told me that their camp is huge and adequate. Lagos State should emulate these states,” he said.
Another female corps members blamed her colleagues particularly males for the sanitary situation in the hostels, saying her stay in the camp had been difficult.
“I’m not complaining but they (NYSC officials) should know that we are not soldiers, they should treat us like civilians that we are,” she said.
The Lagos NYSC Coordinator, Mrs. Adenike Adeyemi, said that the agency did all its best to ensure that corps members had a nice time.
“While I’m not contending that the Lagos NYSC requires a more spacious orientation camp, I will never agree that the present accommodation is dirty, cramped and planks are used to give a semblance of windows. The camp officials and corps members on a daily rotational basis jointly clean, maintain and administer the camp a practical training for corps members on dignity of labour and team work. We also employ the Lagos State Waste Management Agency to evacuate the dirt we generate on a daily basis.’’
Adeyemi said that in spite of the limited space at the camp, corps members, officials of the NYSC and soldiers on duty always make do with the available space.
“Corps members should be reminded that an orientation camp is not a home or hotel where you enjoy maximum comfort. So, we should not expect maximum comfort. All of us including me sleep at the camp during the three weeks orientation. However, I want to state that the Lagos NYSC camp is not as bad and as dirty as you want us to believe.
“I sleep there and we ensure that water, electricity, quality food and hygienic environment are provided. We have five bore holes, standby power generators and LAWMA people always come to camp for the whole of the three weeks to evacuate the dirt generated by all of us.
“I’m a mother and I cannot expose these youths to anything that we endanger their lives. That is why I take it upon myself to ensure that they eat well and have the best comfort available. But a corps member should not expect officials of the camp to spread his or her bed, arrange his or her room or come and flush the toilet for him or her after use, that is irresponsibility and it should not be promoted,” she said.
Adeyemi, however, urged corps members to serve the country with discipline, honesty and transparency.
She added that the NYSC would not spare any efforts at ensuring that corps members were exposed to skills that would enhance their marketability, creativity and ability to create jobs for themselves.
“That is why we organised a lot of workshop, and seminars for them on entrepreneurial studies,” she said.
Adeyemi, however, thanked the Lagos State Government for the support the NYSC had been enjoying. She specifically thanked Fashola for the regular rehabilitation of the NYSC camp at Iyana-Ipaja. “Let me use this opportunity to once again plead with him (Fashola) to please expedite action on the new orientation camp site project,” she added.
But how soon will the Lagos State Government fulfil its promise to build a new camp for the NYSC in the state? Only time will tell.