The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is set to mobilise about 49,950 corps members in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory next week while another set will be mobilised in August.
This was revealed during a virtual meeting with prospective corps members which was also attended by the Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu; and the Director-General of the NYSC, Brig.Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim.
The NCDC revealed that between 1,200 and 1,500 corps members would be deployed in each orientation camp across the country, bringing the total to at least 49, 950 if an average of 1, 350 corps members is housed in each camp.
Although virologists, including the Chairman of the Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, who spoke to The PUNCH, were not against the orientation, they warned that there would be problems if COVID-19 protocols were not obeyed in the camps.
The development came just as the number of infections almost hit 170,000 on Sunday amid fears of a third wave propelled by the highly infectious Delta strain as well as a scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide.
Also, less than one per cent of Nigeria’s population has been vaccinated since the first dose was administered on March 6, 2021.
Nigeria recorded 203 new cases on Sunday, a wide departure from last month’s figures, when the country was recording an average of less than 50 cases daily.
On Thursday last week, the University of Lagos asked its students to vacate halls of residence to check the spread of the COVID-19 on the campus.
The Senate of the university took the decision to close the hostels during an emergency meeting held on Wednesday after some students tested positive for COVID-19.
As part of the preparations for the NYSC orientation, the Deputy Director, Surveillance/International Health Regulations, NCDC, Dr Oyeladun Okunromade, said the corps members would be mobilised on July 27, but only about 300 to 500 would resume in each camp per day.
She said corps members must provide their travel details and vaccination status as well as other information.
Okunromade further stated that testing would be free but corps members must come to camp with masks which they must wear at all times.
The NCDC official said, “For this Batch B camp resumption, camps reopen on July 27 according to the timetable available to us by the NYSC and this will run for three weeks and we expect about 1,200 to 1,500 corps member per camp. In the past, we used to have a lot of corps members in each camp but we don’t have that luxury because of COVID-19.”
She revealed that the next batch would be mobilised in late August, bringing the total number of corps members to about 99,900 within a space of two months.
The Economic Sustainability Committee led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had in June 2020 recommended that while the NYSC programme could continue, the three-week orientation exercise should be suspended for two years to prevent a spread of the virus.
Speaking earlier, the NCDC boss, Ihekweazu, asked prospective corps members to abide by COVID-19 protocols or risk camps being shut for the next two years.
“Like you know, we are beginning to see a slight increase in cases primarily in Lagos and a few other states. So, the mistake we can all make when we are dealing with the virus is to think that it has gone away. It definitely has not gone away and we have to sustain what we have been doing in order to keep the fragile successes that we have been doing together.
“So, in camp, there will be some limitations. If you hear about your story in camp, it might not be the same. There might be some limitations in what you are able to do and how you are able to engage. Please it is for our success. The alternative is to postpone camp for the next few years and none of us wants to do that.”
In his remarks, the NYSC boss asked prospective corps members not to bring drugs to the camp as officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency would be present.
He also stated that prospective corps members who present fake results during clearance would be arrested.
The NYSC boss said this would be the fifth orientation exercise amid the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that some corps members might even meet their prospective spouses in the camp.
Shuaibu said all NYSC staff had been vaccinated.
When asked if corps members would receive vaccines at the camp, Dr. Okunromade said all vaccines had been exhausted but more would arrive late July or early August.