Government disagrees with calls to scrap NYSC

Yakubu Gowon

Yakubu Gowon

… Augments Fund Shortage For New Corps Members

The Federal Government has kicked against the call by some Nigerians for the scraping of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). It hinged its opposition on the achievements of the scheme, particularly in the area of fostering national unity.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youths and Sports, Mr. Christian Ohah, in an interview with The Guardian, said that after 43 years of its establishment, the scheme remains an enduring vehicle for national unity and integration in the country.

He stated that the NYSC scheme, which was introduced by the Gen. Yakubu Gowon led military administration in 1973, after the civil war, has been saddled with the responsibility of inculcating selfless service in participants and emphasising the spirit of oneness of all Nigerians, regardless of their social and cultural backgrounds.

Ohah said: “The NYSC scheme is one of the strongest unifying leadership institutions that has helped to harmonise Nigeria’s interest. It is an institution that has realigned the different ethnic groups in the country, to ensure unity. In the cause of national service, during the orientation course, people are well trained and the values of Nigeria would be inculcated in them. In the cause of the youth service scheme, some of the youths get married, this helps to foster inter-tribal marriages and we have unity in our diversity, which is the key.

“The one year national service provides a cushion effect, which more or less is a stop gap; it would have been a terrible experience for some university graduates going into the labour market without any experience or guidance. Some of them are not exposed, but their first port of call is the NYSC scheme. It enables them to interact with different groups from different cultural backgrounds, and it is a good platform for national integration.

“The NYSC is the only organisation that has been playing a very important role in harmonising the different ethnic and religious groups in the country after the NIgerian Civil War,” he added.

He argued that the scheme, which has trained over 2.5m Nigerian youths is still very much relevant, and it serves some cardinal roles, which are vital in nation building, adding that it could be counterproductive to scrap the scheme.He maintained that the scrapping of NYSC could lead to the total collapse of the education sector, considering the role it plays in providing teachers in the rural communities.

“The NYSC provides the majority of the teaching staff in majority of the states, particularly in the core North and Niger Delta. If you remove NYSC, it is likely that the education system in the country will collapse. The services of the corps members are unquantifiable. Many states that could not recruit enough teachers dues to paucity of funds, depend on the services of the NYSC,” he stressed. He noted that many countries in the West African Sub-region are making efforts to replicate the model of the NYSC, which mobilises about 200,000 youths annually, in their respective countries.

“NYSC does not have any alternative, it is the foremost leadership training institution in Nigeria today, many countries in the West African Sub-Region are coming to Nigeria, to come and learn the model of the NYSC and they want to replicate the scheme in their countries. As an institution that predates the civil war, it has removed the fear of domination,” he said

Asked if the country is not more divided now than before the scheme was introduced, the permanent secretary noted: “The corporate existence of Nigeria is not in question, people calling for division don’t mean well for the nation and of cause, it is just a mere expression of sentiment because the different ethnic nationalities in the country have leaders, and those leaders do not share this sentiment.

“The unity of Nigeria is not in question and one of the critical institution that our forefathers bequeathed to us, especially the Gowon regime, is the NYSC. The scheme is working effectively on its mandate.”

Ohah noted that about N66.9bn was allocated to the scheme in the 2016 budget, adding that the budget had a shortfall of around N14bn.He dismissed reports that the scheme, which mobilises more than 200,000 graduates annually, had become a financial burden to the Federal Government.

He however, assured Nigerians that the Federal Government is working assiduously to address the challenges faced by corps members across the country.“The NYSC is not different from any other in the country, even though we are facing some economic challenges, we try our best to make provisions for their transportation and accommodation.

“Even the salaries of the workers is a burden to the Federal Government, but it is a responsibility, we have to bear. We had issues in mobilising the last batch of corps members because there was paucity of funds, but the president intervened and made money available and the corps members are being taking care of as much as we can, within the purview of their entitlement and what is available. The delay in the last orientation exercise was not deliberate, it was a problem of budgeting, there was shortfall in the money that was allocated to the scheme and we had to get the president’s approval to source the funds for the batch. Mr. President augmented that amount and the delay was sorted out.

“Nigeria operates a federal system of government, which comprises of the federal, states and local governments; although the NYSC is a federal institution, majority of the corps members work in the states and the local governments, the enabling law gives whoever is hiring them some responsibilities to carry out. It is because of the pressing economic needs that is making a lot of them to default in the payments of their regular staff and corps members,” he said

He pointed out that a lot of innovations have been added to the scheme at the implementation process, to keep it line with the current economic realities in the country.The permanent secretary said that the NYSC Skill Acquisition and Development programme (SAED) was introduced to facilitate the training and mentoring of 100, 000 young graduates in skill
acquisition and entrepreneurship development, for self-reliance annually.

“The NYSC has introduced skills acquisition and trainings of different skills; they are now trained and retrained. At the end of the training, most of them receive some funding from the Central Bank. We are introducing a lot of innovations to meet up with the current realities in the county. We have employed some experts to teach them skills, so that they can be self-reliant. We have introduced farming components like fisheries and agro-allied products. We think it is important for the youths to take their destinies in their hands.

He also dismissed reports that the scheme was no longer appealing to many Nigerian graduates, saying, “Undergraduates are still enthusiastic about serving their fatherland, even those who study abroad. Some would even voluntarily decide not to go for their master before they serve. Many people are still enthusiastic about serving Nigeria in spite all the challenges we have. The government is working assiduously to reduce the problems faced by corps members. During the last orientation, the minister had to travel to different states, the NYSC DG also did the same to ensure that they are safe and that all the necessary amenities are provided.

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