The Senate on Wednesday, March 7, rejected a bill seeking to amend the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Act to allow the uniform worn by corps members to accommodate their religious belief.
Literally, the bill, which seeks to change the prescribed uniforms for female Corps members from trousers to skirt among others, failed to scale second reading at the Senate yesterday.
If it had been passed, participants would have been allowed to wear skirt or hijab, among others.
Soliciting support of his colleagues, Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba-PDP) said the amendment was meant to give corps members the liberty of digressing from the rigid adherence to the NYSC uniform specification.
He said: “This particular amendment especially in section 13 and 16 of the principal act is to achieve the following objectives; increase the penalty for offences contained in the Act to make such fines reflect the present value of the naira. To ensure that regulations made by the directorate prescribing drills and uniform for exercise do not violate certain religious practices.
“The uniform adopted for corps members have become a basis for controversy between the directorate and the public. In fact, some corps members drop out of service because of conflict they’ve witnessed. The major bone of contention is that some of the drills and uniform contravene the religious belief of corps members and invariably denying them right of religion, thought and conscience.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who took over from Bukola Saraki in presiding over the plenary called the attention of Mr. Bwacha to the provisions of Section 9 (2) of the Constitution.
“Section 9 (2) of the Constitution says that for you to amend the Constitution, it has to pass through the senate and the state assemblies. We have to follow the same process as if we are amending the Constitution. What we are trying to do here is like to amend the NYSC Act. I understand your position, we have to follow that process.”
However, in their separate contributions, most lawmakers opposed the bill, saying it is not only untimely but unnecessary especially now that the country is faced with serious economic and security challenges.
When Ekweremadu placed the question on voice vote, the bill could not sail through Second Reading as it was rejected by legislators.