The Reps has raised hope for youth corps members who suffered violence while on elections duties as INEC ad-hoc staff. But will the executive implement the resolution?
In the 2019 general election, Smith, a youth corps member, served as an INEC ad-hoc staff in Ogun state and was attacked by an angry mob at his station.
As he recounted, not much support was provided to him by the electoral body or any government parastatal. Rather, the payment for his service was delayed.
His story is one of the many cases of INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) ad-hoc staff who are also members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) that suffered electoral violence while carrying out their legitimate duties.
Using youth corps members as ad-hoc staff during elections has become accepted in Nigeria’s democracy.
INEC, in 2023, deployed two hundred thousand youth corps members as ad-hoc staff for the general election. This is over 75 per cent of the INEC ad hoc staff for the polls.
About 13637 corps members were mobilised for the 2019 general elections. Thousands of them were also deployed in the 2015 election, and they played a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the exercise.
As the INEC chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, puts it, the role of the youth corps members is the “most critical in the chain as they work mainly at the polling units, carrying out jobs such as accreditation, collation, and transmission of results from the polling units.”
Violent attacks on INEC ad-hoc staff
But with the level of violence witnessed during elections, drafting youth corps members into election duties endangers them when violence erupts.
There have been several attacks on corps members during the polls. Many have sustained injuries, and some others killed as a result.
During the 2023 presidential poll, a corps member deployed to a polling unit in Lugbe, Abuja, as INEC ad-hoc staff was brutalised by an angry mob.
In Warri, three corps members deployed to polling units were held hostage by the angry voters over the malfunctioning of the BVAS device assigned to them.
In 2016, during a rerun election in Rivers State, a corps member identified as Okonta Samuel, was shot dead in Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state.
In the 2011 general elections, seven youth corps members were killed in post-election violence in Bauchi State.
While attacks on corps members during elections has continued to occur, not much has been done to guarantee their safety or compensate affected persons.
Rather, NYSC members often suffer neglect, and worse still, delayed payments for performance of patriotic duties.
The motion for compensation
Last week, in a plenary session, the House of Representatives requested the employment of ad-hoc staff who suffered from violence during the 2023 election.
There was a call to compensate ad-hoc staff victimised by the widespread violence that accompanied the elections.
This resolution followed a motion for the “Employment of Corps Members who were Victims of Election Violence into the Civil Service or Independent National Electoral Commission.”
According to the motion’s sponsor, Emmanuel Ukpong–Udo, (YPP, Akwa Ibom), a job in the public service or with INEC should be provided for them in cognisance of their “sacrifice for the assignment.”
Failure to do this, as Ukpong-Udo observed, could discourage the participation of youth corps members in future electoral process.
In February this year, Nigeria had the presidential election, followed by the governorship and House or Assembly election in March, then a supplementary election in April, and a governorship election in April. Corp members were deployed to assist in these elections.
Why this matters
INEC, in 2019, praised some NYSC members who served as ad-hoc staff in the general election for “their exceptional performance.” The electoral body also promised to provide a scheme that would reward the efforts of corps members in the election.
Although INEC has not provided much information about this since then, such announcements indicate the need for a reward or support system for its young ad-hoc staff.
Fifty-three percent of 151 million Nigerian youths are unemployed, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This means, more than 80 million youths in the country are unemployed.
Although youth corps members are not forced to join ad hoc staff of INEC, there is a need to provide compensation for those who have served it. Given that corps members are integral to the success of the elections conducted in the past, it is important to ensure that they feel secured, recognised and encouraged to participate.
Also, the safety and welfare of citizens when on electoral and other hazardous national duties should be guaranteed. Corps members should be briefed on the perilous nature of this assignment before deployment.