It is no longer news that the Federal Capital Territory is always flooded with corps members after they are posted to their various Places of Primary Assignment (PPA), shortly after new corps members leave the orientation camp.
Prior to that period, most corps members, both new (those who redeploy to FCT) and old, struggle to get PPAs in large offices and organisations like the Presidential Villa, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), other banks and ministries.
One other location where corps members clamour to be is the National Assembly. While some see the legislative complex as a location to begin to build a career and work as aides to lawmakers, others, however, see it as a fountain of fortune and a land flowing with milk and honey where one could go in and partake of the fortunes.
In recent years, corps members who struggled and got posted to the National Assembly, have discovered that the complex is not a rosy place after all.
Contrary to their expectations, corps members are turned to errand boys and girls, with little or no responsibility given to them, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Some of them also lamented non-payment by the authorities and their immediate superiors.
CORPS MEMBERS LAMENT
"There's nothing here o! These people don't pay at all. Serving in the National Assembly is just about the name and if possible, creating connection or trying to secure a job," a serving corps member who gave his name as Hamza told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Hamza, who serves as an office assistant in the office of a northern senator, said his working time is six hours a day but he is idle for most of it.
"Sometimes, I just look around and find something to do. I volunteer to make photocopies of documents and submit them to other offices. I hate it when I'm being sent to buy something outside but I can't complain because I just want to be effective during my time here and see where it takes me," he said.
Another corps member, Peter Idowu, who serves in one of the Senate committees on Education, told PREMIUM TIMES that in his three months of service, he was only given a stipend of N5000 as transport fare by his superior.
Although Mr Idowu had heard the past experiences of some ex-corps members who served at the legislative complex, he said he willingly chose the National Assembly when asked where he wanted as his PPA.
"I just chose to serve here because I believe things will get better. Although I had heard stories from people's past experiences that they paid corps members before and that it is not like that anymore. I feel bad, though.
"I studied Computer Science so all I do for them is just sit down, sometimes I type. That's all. Besides the N5000 they gave me after my second week, I've not received anything again," he said.
Olamide Goke, who did not want the name of his committee mentioned for fear of victimisation, had the same complaint.
He said he was already prepared to work without pay as he was told there would not be any payment from the outset. He explained, however, that he gets stipends from time to time ranging from N3000 to N5000.
"I'm not being paid anything. They don't pay in National Assembly now. They just give us stipends as little as N3000. It's like an agreement. You've been told you will not get cash, so it just comes on and off so whatever they give us is just them doing us a favour."
When asked if he cared to find out why the authorities decided not to pay corps members, he said he and some colleagues asked around and learnt that the authorities stopped paying between four and five years ago, "because there was an overflow of corps members into the National Assembly and that was because of the fact that they paid N10,000 to N15,000 monthly.
"It was stopped because of the crowd - with almost all the lawmakers bringing their constituents. It is like they are trying to control it.
"When I heard that, I felt it was a good reason to control the crowd, although what I feel is, they should at least pay even if it's transport allowance and if they cannot do that one, then there should be benefits. They should at least increase the employment rate of any batch of corps members who come there."
A cross-section of the NYSC Batch B Corp members during their closing ceremony at Wailo NYSC Permanent Orientation Camp in Bauchi on Monday (13/8/18). 04366/14/8/2018/Deji Yake/JMH/HB/NAN
Leonard Ezeh served at the legislative complex in 2016. He told PREMIUM TIMES that although he was disappointed when he learnt the authorities of the National Assembly did not pay corps members, he was, however, not discouraged.
According to him, he taught himself that "money was not everything" and decided to maximise the opportunity to carry out his service year in the National Assembly.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Section 18(2) of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Act stipulates that "An employer of corps members shall provide basic accommodation and where it is not available, pay the minimum sum of N250 per month in lieu of accommodation."
It also states that an employer of corps members shall provide all welfare facilities normally provided for the regular staff, including medical service and transport - or where it is not available, pay the minimum of N150 per month in lieu of transport.
Despite the provisions of the NYSC Act, the National Assembly Director of Information and Publications, Rawlins Agada, expresses a different opinion. To him, paying corps members will be double payment as provisions have been made for their allowances in the annual budget.
Although he corroborated the fact that authorities of the National Assembly paid corps members years back, he urged corps members to drop the sense of entitlement as they are no longer entitled to monthly salaries from the authorities.
Mr Agada explained that the decision of the management to stop payment was not deliberate but had to be taken because the financial implication was massive.
"We used to pay up to N10,000 but I think we stopped that during the 7th Senate. The influx of everyone coming to serve in the National Assembly was way too much - both those that were brought in by lawmakers and those who just wanted to serve in the National Assembly.
"It became a problem because there was no budgetary provision for them in the National Assembly budget. So the management said they could not pay the crowd of corps members anymore.
"The decision was purely administrative and it was made because the capacity of the institution is overstretched - without any monetary consideration. So, considering them will be double payment."
Mr Agada further explained that although authorities try to help corps members when in need, he, however, lamented that most of them who come to the National Assembly are dormant, without any aim and motive.
"Another issue is, in as much as we try to help them when there are challenges, some of them are not serious. They have no set goals or aim and motive. They don't request for work. They should request for work and responsibilities!
"Especially the female corps members. I'm sorry to say but the ladies do come to make money - find any lawmaker or senior officer that they can attach themselves to - and make quick money from them. Nobody wants to work," he said.
A WORD OF ADVICE
An ex-corps member, Leonard Ezeh, admonished corps members both within and outside the National Assembly to stop considering payment and salaries as their top priority. He said corps members should stop feeling entitled and seek ways to work and make an impact in their PPAs.
"Inasmuch as there's the need to survive, especially for those who stay on their own, it is necessary to adapt and endure the struggle for a while. This doesn't mean that you won't jump at opportunities that come, but prioritising money at the beginning is not the best way.
"Corps members should be concerned about putting in their best in whatever they are asked to do, that's how you build a career. Whatever you find doing, do it well. There's no way they will let you go or at least, not recommend you to another organisation if you do your work diligently," he said.