By Rev Solomon Semaka.
For the avoidance of doubt, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. The NYSC which was promulgated by decree No. 24 of 22nd May 1973 by the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon, stated that the NYSC is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.”
The NYSC with a very clear vision and mission enunciates in her vision that the Scheme targets to “To develop a sound and result oriented organization that is strongly committed to its set objectives particularly those of national unity and even development. An organization that is well motivated and capable of bringing out the best qualities in our youths and imparting in them the right attitude and values for nation-building. An organization that serves as a catalyst to national development, and a source of pride and fulfilment to its participating graduate youths.”
In her mission statement, the Scheme is also elaborate and states inter alia;
“To build a pragmatic organization that is committed to its set objectives with the ultimate goal of producing future leadership with positive national ethos-Leadership that is vibrant, proud and committed to the unity and even development of the Nigeria State.
“To be at the forefront of National development efforts, as well as serve as a profitable platform for imparting in our youths values of nationalism, patriotism, loyalty and accountable leadership.
“To raise the moral tone of our youths by giving them opportunity to learn about high ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement.
“To develop in our youths attitude of mind acquired through shared experience, and suitable training which would make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest.
“To ensure Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance, a reliable source of economic empowerment and effective participation in nation building.
“To develop an organization that is alive to its responsibilities and responsive to the needs of the country.”
There is no gainsaying the fact that the future of any country depends on the youths. The youths of Nigeria acknowledge this fact and have consistently laid claim to the nation’s leadership. It was the need to look beyond the immediate present and to think of the future leadership of the country that necessitated the mobilisation of certain categories of our youths through the National Youth Service Corps Scheme.
The purpose of the scheme is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian Youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background.
In furtherance to emphasize this spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background, corps members are posted to states other than their state of origin where they are expected to mix with people from different ethnic groups, social and family backgrounds, and learn the culture of the indigenes in the location they are posted to. This action is aimed at bringing about unity in the country and helping the youths appreciate other ethnic groups.
Beginning with a three-week orientation course which is compulsory for all graduates mobilised for national service across the 36 states of Nigeria, Ekaete Bassey of The Nation Newspaper writes “that the orientation course content involves physical training, drills, lectures on the people and tradition of the host State, professional lectures for Corps health personnel’s, lawyers, teachers and Skill acquisition training etc. Corps members participate in social activities designed to create opportunities for them to interact.
“At the end of the orientation, Corps members are posted to their Place of Primary Assignment (PPA). While the NYSC Management takes into consideration the areas of specialization of Corps members carrying out the posting exercise, emphasis is placed on rural posting in the areas of Agriculture, Health, Education and Infrastructure.
“It is expected that Corps members should accept their posting and be agents of change contributing towards the development of their host communities.
“Corps members also engage in Community Development Service (CDS) aimed at harnessing the skills, creativity and innovativeness of Corps members. Where they are expected to identify the needs of their host communities and mobilise members of their host communities to embark on the projects. Through this programme, many Corps members are able to construct bridges, health care centres, classroom blocks, market stalls, culverts etc.”
It is important to buttress that for some corps members, the NYSC is the veritable platform that gives them the first opportunity to travel out of their state of origin. This is because, they would have their primary, post-primary and tertiary education all in their state of origin or birth as the case may be, or some who are being overprotected by parents or guardians, or other reasons, do not travel out until NYSC door opens for them. This is indeed another aspect that the Scheme has succeeded in the many years of her existence.
Another area that the Scheme has contributed to the development of Nigeria is the political sphere. Ineke, Ugbede Joseph in his contribution in “ The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Elections in Nigeria: Success, Challenges and Prospects” articulates that “Since the year 2011 when members of the National Youth Service Corps were largely introduced into the electoral process in Nigeria through the voters’ registration and election duties, they had become strong component of all the subsequent elections that were held between 2011 and 2019. Shortly after the 2019 election for instance, some of the corps members of the National Youth Service scheme were reported to have distinguished themselves in different locations that they were deployed to in course of the election.
“According to the Thisday Newspaper, months after the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rewarded some of the corps members that performed excellently during the election. The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at the event to reward the corps members averred that there can be no successful election in Nigeria without the contribution of the National Youth Service Corps members. Prof. Yakubu declared at the occasion that in recognition of the corps members’ laudable contributions to the conduct of elections in the country, the commission would offer jobs to those who performed well in the 2019 General Elections. At the same occasion, the European Union (EU) which has partnered with the Independent Electoral Commission for long, presented Information Technology (IT) equipment to about 75 dedicated and patriotic corps members for working hard during the 2019 General Elections.”
The commitment of the NYSC Scheme to the overall development of the youth and Nigeria has been maintained and taken to the next level since the assumption into office of the 18th Director-General, Brigadier General Ibrahim Shuiabu. General Shuiabu who until his appointment on the 10th of May, 2019 was the Registrar of Army University, Biu, Borno State, apart from his military training is a thoroughly bred academic who holds a doctorate (PhD) from the University of Abuja.
It is noteworthy that General Shuiabu has brought discipline which is consistent with the army personnel to bear on his job as the Director-General. It is commendable how despite the agitations that were surrounding November 6, 2021, Anambra State governorship election, Shuiabu allowed the Corps members to participate in the election, ensured their safety and there was no reported case of any corps member harmed before, during and after the electoral exercise.
More than ever before, the office of the Director-General of NYSC is becoming more tasking as the number of prospective corps members keep rising exponentially, biting economic realities and the general challenge of maintaining the welfare of corps members, there arises an urgent need to think outside the box to solve these foregoing problems.
Consequently, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Ibrahim Shuaibu, has advised the Federal Government on the need to create a trust fund that would financially empower all Corps members as they pass out from the National Service. Many Corps members have brilliant business ideas but lack the funds to make them a reality.
In the light of the aforementioned, many Nigerians including the minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Musa Bello and chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Youth and Sport, Hon Yemi Adaramodu, among other stakeholders have expressed support for the establishment of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Trust Fund.
As reported by Henry Tyohemba in The Leadership Newspaper, “They stated this in Abuja, during the opening ceremony of a symposium on the imperatives of NYSC Trust Fund with the theme, “Consolidating the Gains of the NYSC in Youth Empowerment and National Development in the Face of Current Economic Realities: The Imperatives of a Trust Fund” that was held on October 31, 2021.
“Bello who was represented at the event by Mrs Asabe Umar of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA) said NYSC remains one of the most cherished national institutions bequeathed to our country to foster unity, integration and national development after the unfortunate civil war.
“He said, “The establishment of an NYSC Trust Fund could not have come at a better time than now owing to the fact that the NYSC has capacity to drive Nigeria’s economic recovery process especially through the empowerment of its teeming youth, given the budding talents at its disposal. It therefore behoves on all to support laudable initiatives such as this.”
“Also speaking, the director-general of NYSC, Brig. Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim said the essence of the symposium was to engender a greater appreciation of the imperative of the Trust Fund and to generate ideas that will facilitate its actualisation as well as the realisation of the set objectives.
“He said the exponential rise in corps population has brought with it the demand for commensurate allocation of resources. While the state and local governments have demonstrated commitment to the discharge of their statutory obligations to the scheme, other equally pressing needs seem to make the resource allocation inadequate.
“In a very significant way, the Fund will also focus on making the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme of the scheme more functional through adequate provision of training facilities,” he noted.”
However, the second chamber of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives is considering discontinuing the National Youth Service Corps Scheme, as the bill pushing for the scrapping of the NYSC gets the second reading on the floor of the House.
The sponsor, Mr. Awaji-Inombek Abiante, in the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, listed the various reasons why the NYSC should be scrapped, top of the reason put forward was insecurity. He noted that due to insecurity across the country, the National Youth Service Corps management now gives consideration to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone, thus defeating one of the main objectives for which it was established i.e. “developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.”
In as much as the argument of the federal lawmaker may sound palpable, the benefits of maintaining the scheme overwhelms those projected by him for discontinuation. It is rather imperative for the national assembly to fast track the passage into law the establishment of the NYSC Trust Fund, make laws that would strengthen the security architecture of the country other than finding an easy way out of it. This is because, whether the NYSC is scrapped or not, the issue of insecurity in our country is still there and it is better to deal with the issue of insecurity so that other things will automatically in.
More so, all Nigerians must support the NYSC now under the watchful eyes of General Shuaibu who since assumption of office has not rested on his oars to keep the flag of the Scheme flying high.
Semaka is a public affairs commentator and convener of SNM.