14 February 2013

Nigeria: Nasarawa Corps Members Disrupt Pop, Protest Unpaid State Allowance

Lafia — Members of the 2012 Batch A National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in Nasarawa State, today, disrupted their passing out parade with a protest against the non-payment of stipends by Nasarawa State government.

The youth corps members poured unto Lafia-Akwanga Road in front of College of Agriculture, where their passing out parade was to take place, and held the road up for hours, beginning from about 9am, when dignitaries where expected to start arriving.

Bearing fresh leaves, the protesting corps members barricaded the major highway with branches of trees, and defied the presence of truckloads of armed policemen. They obstructed traffic along the road, causing serious gridlock there, until two hours later when the state deputy governor, Dameshi Barau Luka arrived to appeal to them to reopen the road.

They told newsmen that they were being owed between six and 12 months of stipends from the state government, and vowed they were not going to leave the state without their allowances.

"The protest is our last resort. We complained between Monday and Tuesday. We were told our problem would be addressed before our passing out. We were surprised that NYSC coordinator and the state government went ahead to organize our passing out without first addressing our problem as promised", one of the corps members said.

They said the amount the state government undertook to pay them was N4,000 each. A total of 2,600 corps members were expected to pass out today.

The state deputy governor, who visited there at about 11am, was accompanied by the state NYSC coordinator, Mr. Stephen Akin Alabi.

Luka appealed to them to bear with the government, as he explained that the situation was due to inadequate data collection. He said the state government only knew that corps members were owed, on Wednesday and commenced processes to lead to their payment.

"When we got the notice yesterday, we went into an action to know why because the present administration has never broken the procedure of the payment. We have been working with the NYSC state director to solve the problem," the deputy governor said.

He said a committee was promptly set up to pay, naming the state Auditor-General Yusuf Gani, as its chairman.

Daily Trust reports that at about 3pm, the state government had just commenced the process of payment, which ran into hitches because some corps members could not find their names on the list of persons for local allowances. The development sparked series of protests, with corps members throwing stones at the ministry's building along Jos Road.

Armed policemen were on ground, and tried unsuccessfully, to calm them down.

Public Relations Officer of the NYSC in the state, Mrs. Josephate Onawo declined to speak to Daily Trust on the development, just as she declined to answer whether or not the passing out was to hold.

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