Indications emerged at the weekend that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) may have lost several billions of Naira through over payments of allowances to the participants, including those that just passed out after their one-year mandatory service.
Sunday INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER learnt that the NYSC accountants, while paying the allowances for last month, credited the accounts of participants in Lagos, Edo, Ekiti, Oyo and many other states, totaling four months instead of one.
Some corps members, as soon as they discovered huge amounts in their accounts, many of them, including those that just passed out, withdrew the money, which they considered to be largesse.
The NYSC pays about N19,500 monthly to each participant. But, in October, they were paid four times their entitlements, amounting to about N88,000, per corps member.
Sunday INDEPENDENT sources revealed further that as soon as the NYSC discovered what they thought to be an error of its accounts department, took step to block the accounts of the corps members in the affected states.
According to sources, those who were affected are those clearing their monthly allowances through Union Bank and Access Bank, as they could not make withdrawals from their accounts.
The blocking of the accounts has led to untold suffering of the affected corps members, with many of them sending distress calls to their parents across the country.
They lamented that efforts to make the NYSC authorities instruct the banks to unblock their accounts had fallen on deaf ears.
They maintained that for those of them who did not withdraw the overpayments credited to them, the NYSC should just remove the amounts and unblock their accounts.
One of the sources, a serving youth corps member in Edo State, told Sunday INDEPENDENT: “We are passing through tough time. Many of us did not withdraw the huge amounts we discovered in our accounts. For instance, I only withdrew N11,000 from what should be my October allowance of N19,500, which I have already used for something else, leaving the balance for my feeding. Now, I cannot lay my hands on my money because of the error of government officials.”
The corps members fear that if anti-corruption agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) step in, their problems may be prolonged, while the possibility of getting their allowances may be affected.
They called on the NYSC authorities to hasten whatever they are doing and unblock their accounts so that they can have access to whatever is due to them as of right, stressing that they should not be made to suffer for an error committed by corrupt public officers in the agency.
Investigations by INDEPENDENT in some states indicate that the source of the ‘error’ had remained a mystery, as the NYSC, its supervising ministry, the Ministry of Youths and Sports, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and service providers, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), continued to trade blames over the incident.
A source at the Edo State office of the NYSC disclosed that the windfall might not be unconnected to the recent upgrade of the payment platforms in banks as directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
According to the source, the directive by CBN on accounts regulation, on Bank Verification Number (BVN), might have trigger the errors, which he said involved several states.
Corps members that passed out in Ekiti and Oyo states also confirmed the development, saying that a number of their colleagues, whose accounts were blocked, had been stranded in the state.
Exonerating the NYSC of the error, another source close to the Oyo State secretariat of the scheme, said the Ministry of Youths and Sports under whose supervision NYSC operates, should be held responsible for the error.
According to him, NYSC only provides logistics on the number of serving corps members, time of commencement and end of the service year of respective corps members, pointing accusing fingers at the affected banks and the supervising ministry for the lapses.
He appealed to the affected corps members to refund the excess payments, saying that would be more honourable than being invited by the authorities to redeem the overpaid ‘allowee’.
When contacted, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi, Acting Director, Press and Public Relations, NYSC Abuja Headquarters, acknowledged the development, which she attributed to “an electronic error”.
According to her, payment of allowances to corps members was done in conjunction with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and not strictly an NYSC affair.
She said though payment of ‘allowee’ experienced a hitch, the challenge was resolved to effect payment and this resulted in technical difficulties that led to excess payment.
Mrs Adeyemi said: “It is a technical issue and the service providers are on top of the situation to resolve the issue. Sometimes, banks underpay or overpay their customers and such issues, whenever they come up, are resolved between the banks and their customers.
“It was the malfunctioning of the electronic platform. The service providers are aware and are working round the clock to resolve it.”