On Saturday August 4, 2018, nine 2018 Batch A corps members drowned during a picnic at Mayo-Selbe in Gashaka LGA of Taraba State, where all the corps members affected were posted to serve.
Local residents around the Mambilla Plateau area had reported that heavy rainfall around the 7,000 feet above sea level increased the volume of water, forcing it to rush down to the River Salihu where they were swimming. It caused the death of the nine corps members.
The river widely known as Kogin Mutuwa (Hausa for ‘River of Death’) has a gory reputation. Each year, one to two persons lose their lives in the river, giving rise to the nickname. According to the locals, it is always dangerous to venture into the river during the rainy season – especially from July to October – when heavy rains are recorded.
One of the survivors, who later narrated how the tragic incident happened, said “After taking pictures there, eating and drinking, we were about leaving when someone just shouted.
“When we turned, we saw very dirty water coming with so much force and speed, the kind of speed I have never seen in my life, coming from a distance of about 100 metres. We were almost leaving the place but within seconds, the water got to our position. I don’t know how I jumped out.”
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, had expressed sadness over the tragic drowning of the NYSC members and said, “This terrible occurrence has ended the lives of these young men and women bringing an abrupt end to their lives while they were dutifully engaged in National Service.
“The federal government appreciates their service to the nation and it is my prayer that God will comfort their families and loved ones, and that we would not witness such a calamity again”.
Taraba state Governor Darius Ishaku also condoled with the NYSC and families of corps members and said that the unfortunate case of drowning of young men and women perhaps could have been avoided if participants in the tragic picnic incident had involved the NYSC officials and other security agencies.
Flags of NYSC nationwide were flown at half-mast at the beginning of three-day mourning for the nine corps members.
Following the tragic incident, Director General of NYSC, Brig. Gen. Suleiman Kazaure, has outlawed night parties and social events by corps members across the country. He however said approval from appropriate authorities in each state would be granted if any such social event must hold.
The major lesson we learn from the sad event is that the NYSC camp officials should be more vigilant and attentive as reports had shown that the corps members did not disclose where they were going to, to any figure of authority. There should be a stricter code of conduct for corps members who need to be educated properly on the environment they are serving.
We feel the NYSC should exercise tight control of corps members within the three-weeks camping period and a new code of practice should be introduced. It is only when appropriate regulations are in place would corps members operate with little or no supervision.
The drowning of the nine corps members, young adults who are tomorrow’s symbol of hope, is a very sad development. It is regrettable and unfortunate, and shows a level of indiscipline and permissiveness in the society.
Though it is all part of God’s plan, we are shocked and angered at the senselessness of it all and we advocate putting in place all the necessary machinery to forestall recurrence.
As we acknowledge our collective loss we also express our remorse and commiserate with the families of the nine corps members.