Only a few people could hold back their tears yesterday as President Goodluck Jonathan met with 10 families of the National Youth Service Corps members who were killed in the post-election violence that engulfed Bauchi State last month.
Heartbreaking was the sight of the wife of one of the slain corps members from Bayelsa State, Tessy Adohe, who came with three of the four children — an eight-month-old baby and two older ones — she had with her late husband, Elliot Adohe.
“I appreciate the fact that no amount of recognition can adequately compensate for the deep void that their passing has created in your individual families,” Mr Jonathan said while directing that each family be given N5 million, and that any unemployed graduate who was a direct sibling of a murdered corps member be given employment in the federal civil service.
The dead include Adewumi Paul from Ekiti State; Okeoma Okechukwu Chibudom and Ukazeone Amsalem Chukwunonyere from Imo State; Olawale Tosin and Akonye Ibrahim Sule from Kogi State; Ebenezer Ayotunde and Kehinde Jelili from Osun State; Anyanwu Agnes and Okpokiri Obina from Imo state; and Adohe Elliot, Bayelsa State.
Mr Jonathan praised the corps members’ efforts which ensured the success of the 2011 elections and the “wide international acclaim which the exercise has received”. He said that all this was “due in large part to the uncommon patriotism and diligence exhibited by the members of the National Youth Service Corps.”
He vowed that his administration would bring the perpetrators of the post-election violence to book.
“Your sons and daughters may be gone, but they have not died in vain. You can take some solace in the fact that they are today national heroes of whom every patriotic Nigerian is immensely proud,” Mr Jonathan said. “Our administration holds them in the highest esteem, and we are determined to ensure that their names are permanently immortalised as an enduring source of inspiration to us all.”
Awuchewu Okpokiri, on behalf of the bereaved families, berated the NYSC management for the manner in which their children’s deaths was broken to them. Mr Okpokiri claimed that some parents were not informed of their children’s deaths until nearly a week had passed.
“We should have been told of what had happened but this was not so. A lot of us did not know [about] the deaths of these children until April 24, something that happened on the 18th,” he said.
Mr Okpokiri also advocated for the review of the scheme in “all ramifications.”
He, however, thanked the president for the compensation while adding that it would not be meaningful “until the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to book.”
“A lot of the police stations in most of these areas are nothing to write home about and that means that security for our people, our common man in the area, is not there. And that means anything can happen at any time,” Mr Okpokiri also said.
Again, sloppiness was alleged in the manner in which the families were invited to the event.
“Some of us from some states were sponsored by the NYSC to come here while some of us had to transport themselves to this place. They approached the NYSC and they didn’t give them any help and they had to come here on their own. I don’t think that is good enough,” Mr Okpokiri told the president.
He added that he hoped that their childrens’ sacrifice would be “the last sacrifice for the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria and for the unification of Nigeria”.
The president later assured them that they would all be taken care of.
‘Nigeria is not CPC’s bootcamp’
In response to a report published in a national daily yesterday, where the Congress for Progressive Change’s (CPC) Mr Malami was quoted to have likened the post-election violence to “the anger of the people of the Western region in 1965 and the people of Ondo State in 1983 against the use of federal might to dislodge opposition governments in the South West in favour of the ruling parties at the federal level with concocted results,” Mr Jonathan deplored such insensitivity.
“This attempt by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to justify the unfortunate carnage and bloodletting is vexatious in the extreme,” Mr Jonathan said. “It amounts to rubbing salt on the raw wounds of families who lost dear ones, and those who were maimed and lost valuable property to the carnage.”
In the statement signed by the president, he said Mr Malami’s comments amounted to “an open admission that the party’s supporters were indeed behind the violence, and that the party may well have planned it all”.
Mr Jonathan warned that “Nigeria is not CPC’s bootcamp.”
In the wake of the post-election violence, some people were arrested but there have been no reports of serious investigations or arraignments in court.