The Chief Security Officer of the National Youth Service Corps, Ikare Akoko campsite, Ondo State, Wale Owolabi, is currently undergoing treatment at a hospital in Akure after some soldiers manhandled him at the close of the camping exercise.
The offence of Mr Owolabi, of the Batch B Stream 1 camping site, was that he dared to stop and search the vehicle of an army captain, C. U. Kanu, who visited the camp on the June 18.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered from a source at the camp that the captain, who was the Camp Commandant at the camp during the last batch camping, had visited the camp, supposedly to visit the new camp commandant, identified as Captain Garba.
While leaving through the gate, he was to submit himself to a routine search of his car by the security officials at the gate.
The man who had the misfortune of doing the job was Mr Owolabi, whose duty it was to ensure security at the camp on behalf of the NYSC.
On opening the boot of the black Mercedes Benz car the officer was in, an NYSC kit was reportedly found in it. Mr Kanu was also allegedly leaving the camp with two female corps members.
Mr Owolabi sought to know why the NYSC kit was in the booth and wanted to identify the female corps members, for proper documentation.
But the officer would take none of the questionings. He was said to have started shouting at the security officials, a situation which saw the matter bought before the NYSC State Coordinator.
“The matter was supposedly resolved between the Captain and Mr Owolabi, but the officer was still angry over the way he was treated,” a source close to the NYSC in Ondo State, said.
“Mr Owolabi was only carrying out a directive of the coordinator that all vehicles coming in and going out of the camp must be checked, plus her own cars.
“There were two corps members’ uniforms in his booth, so the CSO asked if the corps members in his car had (a) pass, or (were) expected to leave at that time of the night.”
On July 8, the closing day of the camp, Mr Owolabi reportedly worked till very late in the evening. He was on his way home in his car when he discovered that he was being trailed by the captain and some soldiers in an Army Hilux van.
“They tried to block him, but he managed to turn his car around and headed back to the camp,” an NYSC source said. “They followed him into the camp and in the full glare of traders in the camp market, started hitting him with logs and cables.”
His cousin, who fell on her knees begging for her brother to be spared, was, however, not spared by the soldiers, as she was also given knocks and slaps for daring to intervene, the witness said.
By the time the soldiers were done, Mr Olowolabi was reportedly bleeding all over his body.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the commotion drew the attention of the camp commandant and other officials still at the camp.
The victim was admitted at the Police Hospital in Alagbaka, where he is still receiving treatment.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the hospital on Wednesday, he was still undergoing treatment and could not speak with our reporter.
His relatives and NYSC staff who visited him also declined to speak on record.
The information available to PREMIUM TIMES, revealed that Mr Owolabi had been hypertensive prior to the incident, and the assault had worsened his situation resulting in his prolonged stay at the hospital.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the NYSC in the state, Bankole Semeon, said the matter is being addressed by the authorities of both the army and the NYSC.
“For now the NYSC has taken administrative action on the matter,” Mr Semeon said. “Until we have the outcome, it will not be proper for me to pre-empt its outcome.
When asked what the nature of the “administrative action” taken by the NYSC was, Mr Semeon said he would not provide further information.
Sources at the NYSC, however, said that the NYSC State Coordinator, Grace Akpabio, informed the members of staff that a formal complaint had been lodged with the Brigade Commander, who had promised to act appropriately on the matter.
Mrs Akpabio, it was gathered, assured members of staff, who are still very angry at the treatment meted out to one of their senior personnel, that justice would be done at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, the Brigade Commander, Z. L. Abubakar, a brigadier-general, told PREMIUM TIMES that the matter was better left for both agencies to handle.
He said it should not be a matter for the pages of newspapers, given the relationship between the NYSC and the army in the development of the NYSC.
“Whether it happened or it did not happen, the two organisations have addressed whatever the problem is, given blames to whoever is to be blamed, so that next time we don’t have a misunderstanding, because we will continue to work together,” he said.
“This is not what is supposed to be put on the pages of newspapers because of national interest.”
He also refused to give details of the manner in which the issues were resolved, insisting it was an issue that did not require the intervention of the media.
“This is something that probably would have been addressed by myself and the state coordinator because we will continue to work together,” he said.
“What this will do now is to cause disunity between the Nigerian Army and the NYSC because we must continue to work together.
“When two brothers work together, of course, you will expect some little brushes, but what is important is how the problem was addressed. That is why I am asking you if you have gone to the state coordinator.
“Please, let us not cause disunity in this country in the name of selfish reports.”