NYSC, a re-think on the dwindling relevance By Polycarp Onwubiko

National Youth Service Corps, [NYSC] was decreed into being in 1973 by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. It is one of those schemes propped by the aberrant military devoid of debates by the people to ascertain the long term financial implications for sustainability.
The essence of the scheme is to serve as the melting pot of Nigerian youths, break down the barriers of culture and tribe. It was envisaged to be a vehicle for national integration as a result of the 30 months gruesome Nigeria-Biafra war that ended in January, 1970. 44 years later, it becomes intriguing to observe a groundswell of popular discontent and general out-cry for scrapping or radical review.
 The cause of the disenchantment, according to a source was “the usual lack of seriousness, deep conviction, long-range cum visionary planning or futuristic prognosis by the initiators [military regime] and subsequent federal government to make the scheme sustainable by adequate budgetary provisions for updating the facilities and remunerations coterminous with the dynamics of the economy”.
Economic recession in the country
The years 2015/2016 university graduates have not been fully mobilized for the NYSC programme due to dwindling budgetary provisions by the federal government. Osita Ikechukwu an accountancy graduate from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka who spoke with Orient Daily said that he is not interested to do NYSC scheme. He said:” The monthly stipend of N19,000 is derogatory and very insulting. We are graduates and ought to be paid the salary of graduates, GL 08 in the public service. The monthly stipend of N19,000 is ridiculous which is the minimum wage of GL 01 in the public service.
“If the federal government cannot pay GL08 then it should scrap the scheme. In this recession, N19,000 cannot pay house rent, transport and other incidentals needed by a graduate. It should not be perceived as sacrifice because it is demoralizing for students who live comfortably in the campus to live in squalor and pass through agonizing experiences in the name of serving the father land”.
A director in Anambra state civil service whose son is doing the service said that he sends him money to make up for the pittance being paid as monthly stipends and frowns at the agony of the participants in the economic recession. He said: “The federal government should scrap the NYSC since it can no longer guarantee the sustainability of the scheme through adequate annual budgetary provisions and subsequent monthly releases.
“It is wrong ab initio for the federal government to be cajoling and compelling state governments to be constructing roads and providing basic facilities in the orientation camps. It is not state governments’ responsibility to be spending public fund on such remarkable federal government’s sole responsibility. But due to intimidation and blackmail, state governments have taken the extra-budgetary responsibility which they haphazardly since there is no commitment and checks to ensure that things were done timely and properly”.
In its failed frantic efforts to mobilize the 2015/2016 batch, the NYSC Director General, Brig-Gen Sule Kazaure lamented that “the poor release of funds to the scheme in the 2016 budget affected mobilization of eligible corps members…as a budgetary dependent-organizations, the scope of activities was facing financial constraints as every government agency following recession.
“In the 2016 budget, provision was made for mobilization of 210,000 corps members. However, the figure for 2016 Batch A and Batch B more than doubled the original projection. As we did before the 2016 Batch A Orientation, we have appealed to government for special intervention grant to mop up the excess of the figure.
“So far, we have received the green light from relevant government agencies to prepare for the mobilization of all qualified prospective corps member. However, the limited cumulative capacity of the orientation camps nation-wide necessitates a second stream orientation course for the 2016 Batch B, which is being planned for January 2017”.
The truth is that many prospective corps members have not been mobilized due to financial constraints. Osita who is yet to be mobilized said that it is immoral to be wasting their time waiting for mobilization while they would not allow them to secure employment. He contended that “funding has become unsustainable and government should stop playing the ostrich and should scrap the scheme to enable graduates to start struggling for life…within one year, I can master a trade or skill”.
Insecurity of corps members
Advising Batch B Stream while inspecting facilities at the permanent orientation camp in Nonwa-Gbam,  Tai local government area, Rivers state last week, the Director General NYSC urged them to be security conscious. “You should not embark on unauthorized trips; don’t walk alone but in groups to avoid being kidnapped, Kazaure admonished the corps members.
Due to woeful dearth of basic medical facilities and experienced in virtually all the orientation camps, last year recorded the death of three corps members namely: Chinyerum Nweneda Elechi, Ifedolapo Oladepo and Monday Asuquo Ukeme in their respective orientation camps in Bayelsa, Kano and Zamfara states. Also, Grace Oghene of polytechnic, Ozoro, Delta state deployed in Kwali area council, FTC, on her way to Lagos was kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen. Due to religious fundamentalism, Miss Grace Ushanga was raped and killed in 2009 in Maiduguri, Borno stae for wearing NYSC trouser. As usual, the culprits were not arrested to face the law.
  An analyst said: “Deaths in orientation camps of our future leaders were largely caused by negligence and lack of capacity on the part of camp and medical administrators. This shows how barren the scheme has become.
“The NYSC scheme is indeed a shadow of itself. Nigeria as presently constituted is not at ease with itself as a national entity. All the fault lines and cleavages which were noticed in 1973 have become even more pronounced today. Recent developments in the country signify clear indications that the leitmotif for promoting the scheme has not in any way delivered the goods. The structure has simply broken down. 
“Again, the concept of national service cannot justify the risks involved and the pathetic living conditions of participants. Graduates are expected to subsist on less than N20,000 a month in a country inn which a coterie of freeloaders and professional jobbers masquerading as political elite arrogate to themselves increasingly absurd salaries and allowances running into millions of naira monthly. Participants in the scheme or ‘corpers’ as they are affectionately called also face the double jeopardy of using Nigeria’s dilapidated infrastructure. Young people educated at enormous financial and emotional costs are made to use death traps which the political elite with churlish sarcasm refer to as roads”.
Lamenting the death in the camps, a relative of one of the deceased said: “The demise of the corps members has ,once again brought to the fore the conditions under which our fresh graduates undertake the compulsory national service, especially the state of the orientation camps and the arrangements made for their health and safety at these camps. It has also underscored the recurring controversy of the NYSC scheme”.
Re-thinking the NYSC
Commentators are diverse in the opinions on the imperative of re-thinking the NYSC scheme; a kind of a realistic and radical review to taking into full considerations the realities of the country battling the apparent contradictions and ambiguities on the structure of governance. A former corps member who does not want her name in print said: “While the scheme was meant to foster unity, national integration and understanding among the diverse ethnic nationalities of the country, in the several decades, it has depreciated significantly. It is now seen as by some as a sort of irritant that is being sustained to cater for interests other than those of the participants. Some have called for outright cancellation since the state of some camps indicates a complete failure of planning, funding and leadership”.
An analyst contended that the federal government should do a serious re-think on the scheme as its objectives are still relevant. It should be modernized to fit in with contemporary challenges. Its modus operandi is 44 years behind time; the programme has to be adequately provided for in the annual budgets so as not to worry the state governments to spend their mean for development. Otherwise, let it be scrapped.

Culled from Orient Daily


NYSC, a re-think on the dwindling relevance By Polycarp Onwubiko NYSC, a re-think on the dwindling relevance By Polycarp Onwubiko Reviewed by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 Rating: 5

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