The Nigerian Government has again snubbed a recommendation by the Economic Sustainability Committee led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and decided to re-open orientation camps nationwide next Tuesday amid rising COVID-19 infections.
The Osinbajo-led committee had in June 2020 recommended that while the National Youth Service Corps programme could continue, the three-week orientation exercise should be suspended for two years.
The recommendation read in part, “The immediate focus in the education sector is to address the disruptions caused by the pandemic and ensure social distancing measures at all levels of education.
“In a similar context, consideration will be given to suspending the National Youth Service Corps orientation camp exercises for at least 24 months while allowing deployment to places of primary assignment. This will ensure that there is no backlog in the national service placement pipeline.”
It was learnt that when the spread of COVID-19 dropped late last year, camps were re-opened in November but the nation again recorded a surge.
A top health official said the increase in activities, including the re-opening of NYSC camps and the #EndSARS protests, contributed to the spike in COVID-19 cases that exceeded 100,000.
He said, “The whole world knows that increased human interactions lead to an increase in COVID-19 infections. Even in the UK and the USA, schools have been re-opened and shut at different times, but the key thing is to reduce human interaction as much as possible.
“The truth is that re-opening of NYSC camps is avoidable. Corps members could have been given virtual orientation lectures and posted to their places of primary assignment. That was what the Vice-President’s committee recommended. There is no way these camps will not record infections.
“Will there not be human interactions? Wouldn’t there be physical activities, sports or marching parades? Would corps members be wearing masks inside the hostels?”
However, a presidential aide said he had no clue as to why the recommendation of the vice president was ignored.
“We are all surprised that the NYSC is going ahead with re-opening orientation camps at a time when infections are increasing. It is completely avoidable because the orientation can be done online and corps members can get their postings afterwards,” the aide said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, did not take his call when Saturday PUNCH attempted to get his reaction on Friday evening.
He had yet to reply to a text message sent to him when filing this report.