THE 2015 General Elections in Nigeria are particularly significant in their potential to be the first truly contested election featuring a viable opposition since the transition of civilian rule in 1999.
As we are all aware, corps members have been part of electoral process since 2011 and their involvement has brought some credibility to the elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have apparently concluded arrangements to deploy NYSC members as electoral officials across the country for the 2015 General Elections.
The use of corps members in elections has become part of the electoral process for obvious reasons. Corps members are well educated and enlightened to handle election materials in all local government areas of the federation.
Director-General of NYSC, Brig-General Johnson Olawumi confirmed that an agreement had been reached with INEC on the matter. The electoral commission, he explained, would provide the necessary logistics for the corps members, as well as their stipends.
Under this arrangement, corps members who would be deployed for the elections would be barred from giving out sensitive electoral materials or receiving financial  inducements from politicians. Those who are caught involving themselves in electoral malpractice would be prosecuted. There are indications that President Goodluck Jonathan supports this plan as he recently enjoined corps members to brace up to play an active role in this year’s elections.
The fact is that the use of corps members as ad-hoc staff in elections has become part of electoral process for some years now the shortage of personnel to man electoral activities has often been cited as one of the reasons for engaging their services during elections.
Ordinarily, there should be no problem with that, provided that the NYSC members have been trained on the basics of electoral processes, and what is required of them during elections. But my concern however, is about their safety. The lives or corps members should not be put in harm’s may, for any reason. If NYSC scheme is to participate in the forth coming elections, it is absolutely necessary to put adequate security in place, especially in volatile parts of the country.
Some areas in the Northern part of the country have become a safe haven, and killing fields, for insurgents. The Federal Government the relevant agencies must not lose sight of that fact. It can be recalled, the grisly post election violence in some parts of the North following the 2011 presidential election, which claimed the lives of some corps members who served as electoral officials.
Considering the importance of the 2015 elections and the desperation of contending forces and interests to win at all costs, the lives of corps members should not be put on the line by involving them in electoral duties where their security cannot be guaranteed. Beyond the Northern States, there are other flashpoints of violence in the South where the lives of youths corps members could be endangered they may become victims of electoral violence while some may get into trouble through their inducement by desperate politicians.
Undoutedly, the 2015 polls are crucial for democracy in Nigeria. They require all hands to be on deck to ensure a credible, transparent and violence-free exercise. There should be support for every effort that will enhance the integrity of electoral process, including the use of competent personnel. It is essential that the safety of electoral officers must be provided. This is even more so for the youth corps members who may be deployed to this crucial and critical assignment against their will and better judgment.
In this regard, the federal government and INEC are to ensure that there is no margin for error in all the coming elections, including the 2015 general polls. Only recently in Ekiti State a corps member was cited in an election issue. The electoral agency fixed the Ekiti governorship election for June, followed by that of Osun State two members later. In both elections corps members were deployed as electoral officials. That situation called for extreme caution and adequate preparation on .
It is for this reason that the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) recently cautioned INEC not to deploy corps members for elections anywhere in the country  without proper arrangements for their security. It advised that alternatives should be sough if the safety of the corps members cannot be guaranteed. The concern of ALGON on this issue is genuine and should not be over looked. It should not be ignored.
It is necessary that we learn from past mistakes and avert any danger to corps members who are vulnerable to attacks because they are most times, strangers in the communities they are posted to serve. The electoral agency should also try to avoid the type of incident that happened during the Anambra governorship election in November 2013, where corps member was arrested for absconding with sensitive electoral materials.
The security of corps members is a very serious issue that must not be trifled with by the relevant authorities. For INEC, this is the time to ensure that the necessary unassailable arrangements are put in place to guarantee their safety, and that or all other electoral officials.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should make a necessary arrangement to strengthen its relationship with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to ensure adequate  security of corps members participating in the elections.