HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has raised alarm that social menace of crimes will spiral out of control should the Federal government accede to the dangerous proposal to abolish the NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE CORPS SCHEME (NYSC).
After a well considered research and opinion poll conducted by HURIWA, the preponderance of opinion is that President Muhammadu Buhari should jealously preserve the National legacies that the NYSC SCHEME represents.
In a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said as follows: “If there is one thing the National Assembly has done exceedingly well since the return of the country to democracy in 1999, it is playing to the gallery. Inconsequential laws have always received greater attention while the lacunas to be filled with progressive legislations and legislative interventions are left largely unattended to. One of such distractions is the proposed law for the scrapping of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme . The proposed bill before the House of Representatives seeks to repeal Section 315(5)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended) .
The sponsor of the Bill, which has already reached 2nd Reading, Mr Awaji-Inombek Abiante, in the explanatory memorandum and Lead Debate, rolled out the various reasons the NYSC should be scrapped. His main concern borders on the incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence; as well as kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country.
Hon. Awaji-Inombek also noted that public and private agencies/departments are no longer recruiting able and qualified Nigerian youths because they prefer to rely heavily on the availability of corps members who are not being well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year without any hope of being gainfully employed. This argument is weak in the sense that tertiary education in Nigeria is heavily subsidized and NYSC is one opportunity the youths who are trained almost free at Federal institutions can give back. Corpers have also been retained where there are vacancies. Corpers have also been a great augmentation to the teaching workforce and stopgap for the growing unemployment. The NYSC experience also offers corpers the first real working experience.
Hon. Awaji-Inombek is also of the view that due to insecurity across the country, the National Youth Service Corps management now gives considerations to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone, thus defeating one of the objectives of setting up the service corps, i.e. developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration. Rather than call for the scrapping of the scheme, a more progressive recommendation would have been how the government can secure the Corpers on national service. His dwelling on insecurity as his main justification for pushing the scrapping of the scheme is as if the dire security situation in Nigeria has come to stay and will never ameliorate. This is the height of pessimism. Even the posting of corpers to their regions does not offer any specific respite against insecurity. Besides and importantly, the hierarchy of the NYSC have partnered with the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Services (NYSC) and other relevant security agencies on effective modalities for providing effective and efficient security surveillance of the NYSC camps and facilities just as the participants are constantly coached on strategic mechanisms to operate safely and stay of harm way.
The calls for the scrapping of the NYSC scheme has been on for some time now. The arguments of the proponents center on the position that the scheme had outlived its usefulness. The call for the scrapping of the NYSC reached a crescendo at a point, forcing the Nigerian Government to publicly announce, through the then Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalong, that it would not be swayed by agitations from some quarters to scrap the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
Before the Lower Chamber kowtows to this scrapping call, let us go back to origins of the NYSC scheme. The NYSC was established in 1973 by the General Yakubu Gowon regime as a response to the disunity faced by the country following the Nigeria-Biafra Civil war. The purpose of the scheme is therefore 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.
Necessarily, therefore, the benefits and objectives are to enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment; to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy and to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.
One must concede that many of these noble values have been eroded, which calls for the repositioning of scheme and not scraping it. Over one hundred thousand tertiary graduates pour into the labour market yearly, the NYSC scheme helps to temporarily absord to give the state and youths some respite.
Though the Federal Government had stated that it would not scrap the scheme then, without addressing the reasons that prompted and even justified the calls, the agitations against the scheme tends to continue of which the bill before theHouseofRepresentatives is an example.
There is sufficient evidence that the Federal Government is working to revamp the scheme and restore public confidence as seen in the works of Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim, the NYSC Director General who has been carrying out comprehensive reforms of the scheme .
For a fact, there is no national institution that has united Nigerians more than the NYSC scheme. Nigerian graduates have been compelled to see other States and cultures. This has proved to be a wonderful experience as most Nigerian graduates who have undergone the service year in other States come back with testimonies of how their ill perceptions of other ethnic groups have been positively corrected. Significant number of these graduates have married outside their ethnic groups based on their NYSC exposure and reorientation. No force of national unity can be of greater significance than this.
Acculturation – coming together and interaction of two or more cultures, their imbibing of each other – is what Nigeria seriously needs to foster unity and development, and that’s precisely what the NYSC stands for and has offered since the ’70s. Those going for the death of the scheme can as well call for the disintegration of the country. For that’s the only condition that would render the NYSC irrelevant.
The NYSC scheme has been such a brilliant idea that it has been copied by many other countries. One wonders what example Nigeria as a country would be showing such countries by scrapping the scheme the nation sold to them.
One understands that Bill has reached Second Reading in the House of Representatives and will be referred to the appropriate committee for tinkering before it can proceed to the 3rd and final Reading, and then passing into law. Between the 2nd and 3rd Readings, there ought to be public hearing where the public is permitted to make inputs. Patriotic Nigerians should be on the watch out to help in forcing the National Assembly to regain perspective by shooting down this proposed bill, which will further enperil Nigeria’s unity.
Obviously, the NYSC scheme is in an urgent need for reforms. Insecurity is no doubt a major challenge confronting the scheme. But this is a national problem, which scrapping of the NYSC cannot cure. What needs to be done is the receivers of the corps members to undertake to do the needful, beginning with provision of adequate accommodation in secure environments. Local Government Corpers lodges have to be built in all LGs with adequate security arrangements. We understand that the hierarchy of NYSC has made extensive contacts with state governments and has even kicksrarted the campaign for setting up the NYSC YOUTH TRUST FUND to revitalise the NYSC. HURIWA believes that this is the best way to go instead of throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
Still on security, working with security agencies, NYSC authorities should not post corps members to redflag states until they are safe enough, unless there are corpers who want to go on voluntarily.
In a nutshell, NYSC scheme is too important for Nigeria’s unity to be thrown aboard by the National Assembly.
COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO:
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA). JUNE 8TH 2021.