By Ndubuisi Michaels
A civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has urged the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Shuaibu Ibrahim, to reinstate the two female youth corps members dismissed in Ebonyi State for failing to wear trousers due to their religious belief.
HURIWA said the two female corps members in the 2019 Batch C Stream 1 in Ebonyi camp were de-kitted for reportedly refusing to wear shorts, trousers just as the Batch C members of the corps are currently undergoing the three-week orientation exercise nationally.
HURIWA recalled that the two affected corps members are Okafor Love Obianuju, with call-up number EB/19C/0523; and Odji Oritsetsolaye, with call-up number EB/19C/0530.
The Rights group quoted the spokesperson of NYSC in Ebonyi State, Ngozi Ukwuoma as alleging that the two corps members were spotted by the Camp Director, Mrs. Isu Josephine, and her team during a routine morning inspection even as Ukwuoma said the two ladies were wearing their official white T-shirt upon white skirt. Officially, white T-shirts are worn atop a pair of white shorts.
HURIWA recalled that the spokesperson said, “efforts were made by the office of the CD to make them see reason why they must obey the rules and regulations guiding the orientation and NYSC, but all efforts to do that proved futile even as the matter was officially reported and the proceedings for de-kitting were initiated with the corps members queried and subsequently made to face the camp court, where they were found guilty, having stated categorically that they were ready to bear the consequences of their actions.
HURIWA said although the NYSC’s court recommendations were submitted to the camp management and the camp director was directed to de-kit in the presence of security agents, who also escorted them to the gate as they left the camp, but the Rights group in a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf said the unanimous decision of the Rights body is to communicate to the management of the NYSC in Abuja to pray that the two rusticated corpers be recalled given that their objection was supported by their religious faith.
HURIWA said it is imperative that a universal standard of regulations are observed in a national integration scheme for the youthful Nigerians like the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) but stated that it would be unfair and unjust to allow Moslem corpses who want to wear hijab to so do but at the same time to deny other faithful religionists different from the Islamic faith group the same privileges accorded the Muslims since this would amount to a violation of section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 as amended.
Specifically, Section 42 provides thus: “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions. (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. (3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person to any office under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria Police Forces or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria.
HURIWA said also: “We as a dedicated group of patriots believes that constructive dialogue is the best approach in all kinds of issues. The matter of religion is such a delicate issue that it would be better we deemphasize it in official matters. But in this instance, we are persuaded that the decision to dismiss these two corpers is wrong and needs to be reviewed and we have initiated a way of approaching the Director General of NYSC to direct that the two corpers be recalled and reinstated to serve Nigeria their fatherland. We are in receipt of an information from the NYSC which was published in a section of the media in which the management approved White Hijab For Corps Members. The National Youth Service Corps had said that it will allow female corps members, who are Muslims, to use white, shoulder-length hijabs for religious purposes. This was made known in a document released to newsmen in Abuja. The NYSC also added that only three types of dressing used for different occasions would be acceptable for corps members. The document reads. The modes of dressing for corps members are classified into three categories, which are used for different occasions. One, within the camp during the orientation programme, their normal attire, except otherwise directed, consists of a pair of white shorts with a white vest and white canvas shoes and socks. Two, for ceremonial purposes, the proper dressing is crested vest on top of a pair of Khaki trousers”.