The Senate on Wednesday struck out a bill seeking to amend the National Youth Service Corps Act to allow the uniforms worn by corps members to accommodate their religious beliefs.
The bill proposed that female corps members be allowed to wear skirts and hijab.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba-South), while leading the debate for the second reading at the plenary on Wednesday, said the proposed amendment sought to amend Sections 13 and 16 of the principal act.
He said the amendment was to “increase the penalty for the offences contained in the Act to make such fines reflect the present value of the naira.”
He also said the amendment was intended to “ensure that regulations made by the NYSC directorate prescribing uniforms and exercise regimen do not violate the religious practices and beliefs of corps members.”
Bwacha proposed that a new Sub-section 3 be inserted to Section 16 of the NYSC Act to read, “In exercising its powers under Sub-section 2(a) and (b) of this section, the directorate shall take into consideration the need to prescribe or adopt uniforms and exercise regimen or drills that do not violate the religious practices relating to modest dressing, and accordingly specify alternative uniforms and exercise regimen that conform to the religious dictates and conscience of corps members as recognised by the 1999 Constitution.”
Several senators who spoke on the bill however faulted its intention.
While the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, asked why religious sentiments were being introduced to the dress code of the scheme, Senator Jeremiah Useni stated there was no need for the bill.
Also, Senator Sam Egwu, said, “We should not waste our time on an issue that we have no constitutional right to amend. This is a paramilitary organisation and that is why drilling and exercise are contained. We have major issues to discuss. If we want to talk about NYSC, it is not uniform; that is a minute issue that we should not waste our energy on.”
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, called the attention of the lawmakers to the fact that amending the NYSC Act would require an amendment to the constitution, which is a long process that would require the input of the state Houses of Assembly.
Ekweremadu, “I am not trying to stop the bill. Even if you pass the bill, you must send it to all the states in accordance with Section 9(2).”
The bill was rejected after its second reading was put to voice vote.