The NYSC scheme today It does seem the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) project is in dire straits, considering the conflicting signals streaming from its supervising ministry and the leadership of the scheme since January this year. Early in January, for example, the Minister of Youths’ Development and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalong, defended Federal Government’s refusal to scrap the scheme despite strident calls to that effect. Dalong said the FG planned to include skill acquisition and entrepreneurial training, back by a token start-up capital that would assist graduating youth corps members establish small businesses of their own, to reduce the pangs of poverty.
By April, reports said the FG might increase the allowances of NYSC members. But early this month (October 2016), unconfirmed reports screamed that youth corps members’ allowance had been slashed by 25% from N19,800 per month to N14,800. But the NYSC quickly refuted the report. Presently, the leadership of the scheme is battling with a leaked internal memo indicating that it instructed universities to cut the number of prospective corps members for the 2016 Batch ‘B’ orientation course by 67 percent, leaving only 33 per cent to participate.
Stakeholders – university administrators and students, etc., – are averse to the directive, while the House of Representatives is investigating same. The NYSC says the cut is still at the consideration stage. It may be well said, therefore, that the task of effectively tackling the mandate for which it was set up is gradually overwhelming the NYSC, perhaps for the lack of adequate funding and other logistics’ deficit.
The argument in recent years has been that the NYSC has outlived its usefulness. Established through the NYSC Decree No. 24 of 22nd May, 1973, to facilitate the realisation of the reconstruction, reconciliation and rehabilitation (three Rs) project of General Yakubu Gowon’s military regime after the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil war, the NYSC was specifically created to encourage and develop common ties among the country’s diverse youths, with a view to promoting national unity. It originally appeared a veritable key for unlocking sustainable unity and development in the country. We are, however, no long persuaded by that optimism. The scheme was most beneficial to the country by way of educating the youths and leaders of tomorrow on the strengths, weaknesses and challenges the country faced in the course of nation building, which the interstate posting of youth corps members promoted in the beginning. Inter-ethnic marriages between corps members also assisted in fostering national cohesion. But events of recent years have provided incontrovertible constructive re-evaluation of the relevance of the NYSC. Its social and political usefulness are very much in dispute in Nigeria of today.
Even with the scheme in place, excessive greed and gluttony, ethnic and religious intolerance, selfishness and lip service to peaceful coexistence are rife nationwide. The terrible collateral damages corps members and the scheme suffered during the April 2011 general elections with the cold-blooded murder of about 10 youth corps members in Bauchi State may be cited.
Likewise the revelations, in 2012, that some youth corps members posted to the National Assembly were reduced to ‘tea boys and girls’, a development that also interrogated the usefulness of the scheme. Youth corps members suffer mass rejection by institutions and organizations meant to serve as hosts for their primary assignments, too, while some of them are subjected to heartless exploitation by hunters for cheap labour, whether public or private institutions, including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The scheme’s mangers are also constrained by intense lobby for favourable postings and strike-induced epileptic academic calendars of tertiary institutions, among others. Some youth corps members, after rendering dedicated service to their hosts, with the hope of being retained on the job after the service year, are discriminated against and kicked out on ethnic, religious or other unjustifiable grounds, et cetera.
While we agree with the reasons that gave rise to the setting up of the NYSC in 1973, there seems to be a gradual but steady erosion of the sensitive exigencies that necessitated its establishment. The scheme has suffered reverses emanating from the warped perceptions of Nigeria’s political and religious
elite that prefer the elevation of parochialism and ethnic goals to frightening levels. The NYSC is no longer a sacred integrative tool for the nation.
Therefore, the suggestion is strongly made and unequivocally, too, that the scheme be scrapped or made optional, especially against the backdrop of plummeting national revenue. We insist that the FG should concentrate more on how best to create jobs for fresh and unemployed graduates.