Mrs. Eno Herbert Awakessien is the Coordinator of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Benue State. In this interview, she says Nigeria will break up if the scheme is scrapped. She also speaks on the milestone the corps has recorded in the last one year in the state.
You are barely one year in office as coordinator of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Benue State. What would you count as your achievements during the period?
I would like to say that my greatest achievement so far is the completion of the construction of the NYSC orientation camp at Wannune in Tarka Local Government Area.
When I assumed duty in January 2017, I went to the camp and I saw it in a sorry state and I was told that it was handed over to us in 2009 in an uncompleted state.
To me, it was not a site that I could stand and I was opportuned to meet with the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who promised that he would do everything within his powers to ensure that the orientation camp is completed. The Almighty God was on our side and today, most of the structures on that camp have been completed.
A few other places that are yet to be completed, the governor has given his words.
For instance, the multipurpose hall where the corps members sit everyday is in a dilapidated state and when we were there with the governor in November, he promised to give it a face-lift but because we had an orientation course coming in Benue in matter of days, he said it would be put on hold until it is over so that we can look forward for that been done as soon is would as possible.
Second, is the renovation of the NYSC secretariat complex. I am sure you may have seen this building before now. When I came in, it was sickening driving into this office with the state in which it was. So with the help of God, today it is wearing a new look. In between, I have also been able to interact and give my staff a rewarding environment; an environment that makes them to work selflessly without looking back. We have done a lot more but so far these are the outstanding ones for now.
Specifically, which other areas has the state government assisted you in transforming the camp?
All the hostels, both male and female were also in a sorry state, but they have all been completed and painted. This has afforded the corps members the opportunity to have a wonderful stay to carry out camping activities.
What are the challenges confronting you in discharging your activities effectively?
I was faced with a major challenge in the last orientation camp with low level of water supply, but that was not a problem that we could not succumb because we immediately moved into action and we were able to get some tankers to supply water to the corps members in the camp.
The other challenge which was addressed recently was that of power supply. That camp had no alternative power supply we depended largely on the Jos Electricity Distribution Plc for power but luckily, our directorate headquarters gave us a brand new 100 KVA generator. We also have a lot of our partners, who have come to assist us in various ways and that have made my stay in Benue good.
What specific projects can you point out that corps members have executed in their places of primary assignments?
The corps members have done a lot and I am proud of them. They carried out renovations of some school blocks and provided books to certain schools in individual capacities. But the very last one that I spoke about, during the last orientation course is the one that challenged himself so much that he made up a full library that was commissioned in Gboko Local Government Area of the state.
You must have recorded cases of death of corps members since you assumed office as Coordinator in the state. How many of them have died under your watch?
I will not be able to give you the exact number but I have had a couple of them that have passed on. For us in the NYSC, the death of a corps member is like that of a biological child because they are children kept under our custody and we jealously guard them. Some of them have died in circumstances that we do not appreciate.
One of them went to bed in company of his fellow corps members and in the morning they found him dead. That was about three months ago and only recently, we had some of them involved in accidents. I am referring to corps members, who are serving in Benue State.
There was another case of a corps member (a Benue indigene) serving in Zamfara State who came stay with his parents in Benue for treatment and in the course of staying with them we did the usual follow-up by reporting to our sister secretariat where he was serving, but unfortunately every effort to save his life failed and he died. We are seriously grieving over this matter. Sorry, I get emotional when I talk about death of corps members.
What other things would you like to do to for the development of NYSC in Benue State if time permits you?
I came to Benue State with a song and the song says: ‘Today, I am going to try to change the world.’ I made it an anthem. When we sing the National Anthem, we sing the NYSC anthem and my corps members naturally sing that as the third anthem. I want a situation where when I leave Benue State, I will leave an indelible mark, and of course, I can’t do that alone, but with the cooperation of the corps members and staff of NYSC.
With their support, I can be able to make some indelible marks on the sands of time. I like to see a lot of development in the area of health services, agriculture and education. We are looking at developing the minds of the young people, which is what I encourage our corps members to do, not just to teach in the schools and go, but talk to the minds of these young people so that they will shun all forms of anti social vices.
There have been cases of corps members declining postings to crisis prone areas like Borno and Adamawa states over activities of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. Have you recorded similar cases in Benue State?
We have similar cases like that in Benue but we were quick to address them.
In Katsina-Ala for instance, there were cases of serious harassment of corps members by members of the communities, cases of robbery and attacks. I had to wade into the situation immediately. I get the government, Department of State Security (DSS), police, and the army involved and within a short period, there was massive deployment of security operatives to the area and sanity was restored.
When this was done, the corps members came to me that they don’t want to leave Katsina-Ala again as a result of the prevailing peace. Meanwhile, before I came, there was the Agatu issue. Up till now, we have still not been able to send corps members to Agatu.
The people have come to us, we are interacting with the government that the people have assured us of peace and security for them. So, we are yet to get a response from the government and we believe when that comes, we will send corps members to the local government.
There have been several calls in some quarters that the NYSC scheme be scrapped. What is your take on that?
If we succumb to such pressure, we will just be destroying the unity of Nigeria. I can tell you that I am here today because of NYSC and that has allowed the fabric of this nation to be knitted together. If we now decide to segment ourselves to our various locations, this country will go into pieces.
So, as a Nigerian, I believe that NYSC is as relevant today as it was when the founding fathers established it. The unity and integration that it was meant to foster is still very much on. What I am saying is that the NYSC should be and must be allowed to continue.