By Caleb Ayansina
The 2011 general elections that claimed many of the corps members that participated as adhoc staff, put government on its toes as people intensified the call for the scrapping of the scheme.
Apart from the security challenge which became more manifest than ever for corp members during last year’s election, there is a financial burden on the government as the government claims that it spends about N7b on the exercise annually without commensurate return. Yet the country is beset with massive unemployment.
Unveiling the new posting policy as part of the NYSC reform agenda of the government, the Minister of Youth Development Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said NYSC is becoming moribund and there is an urgent need to revamp the scheme for better result, after 38 years of its existence.
The minister explained that the scheme has lost its glory because of distortions in the system that brought about untapped potential among youths that can transform the country. “Current realities have resulted in the need to improve security for members of the Service posted to various parts of the country and interference by member of the elites affecting the equitable distribution of the members of the Service”.
He insisted that there is a grave consequence, if the challenges are not addressed, mentioning rural heath, education, infrastructure and agriculture as key sectors, where posting of corps members will be focused. “With the Unenthusiastic attitude of some members of the Service Corps undergoing the scheme, there is urgent need for re-branding of the scheme to incorporate current realities”.
Abdullahi, who informed that government has strong reasons for taking on four thematic sectors to drive the reform in the service, said “posting of Corps Members to various parts of the country in the area of rural heath, education, infrastructure and agriculture will lead to equitable labour supply and create equal development across the nation, making them to serve the community, instead of being a cheap labour for private firms in the city”.
The minister continued by explaining that this would strengthen values system through “Exposure to new cultures and experiences, expansion in Corps members’ perspectives, by creating opportunities to instil discipline and societal values in the youths, while building a people of integrity, discipline and reducing the strain of corruption.
“The possible contributions of NYSC’s new reform policy include economic development, labour supply, strengthening value system, unity and national integration, patriotism and national loyalty to provide a sought-after experience that brings value to youths and the nation.”
On the economy, Mallam Abdullahi said the reform will harness the power of youths towards national competitiveness and increase in rural growth and development, adding, “through Community Development (CD) initiatives, concrete contributions can be made to infrastructural facilities in localities”.
Abdullah maintained that the scheme would no longer post corps members to private sectors as means of cheap labour at the expense of youth employment, except those whose services fall within the key sectors of the new policy.
The Minister said President Jonathan has approved the implementation of the reform which he would personally lead with the assistance of the Director General of the NYSC, noting that, there would be no preferential posting for foreign students.
The Director General of the NYSC, Nnamdi Okore-Affia, has rolled out conditions for volatile states to receive corps members, as it insisting that governors of such states must write and sign an undertaken to take responsibility for any thing that happens to corps members posted to their states.
The DG added that corps members are not harmed to defend themselves and, therefore, any crisis prone state will not receive corps member, adding that the distress call centres established by the scheme will be commissioned before the opening of orientation exercise for the Batch ‘A’ 2012.
“Any of the volatile states that want corps members to be posted there must write with firm assurance of adequate security and would bear the consequences of any threat to the security of the corps members,” Affia said.
Mallam Abdulahi further revealed that the Youth Ministry would collaborate with the Ministry of Health in the posting of corps members in order to make corps members participate actively in the provision of primary healthcare especially in the rural areas.
Abdullahi noted that the large youth population in Nigeria has a serious implication on how public health should be managed in the country.
The two ministries are working in partnership in leveraging on the spread and manpower provided by the NYSC scheme to enhance health care development in Nigeria.
The Minister of health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, wants a situation whereby corps members would be deployed to areas that will help the ministry meet some of its millennium development goals and midwives’ services scheme which are being handled in all the 36 states of the federation and the one thousand health facilities being managed by the ministry.
Chukwu maintained that corps members would be required to supervise all the components of primary healthcare, maternal health, immunization, behavioural change education and disease surveillance.
The Minister noted that “we think it will help us in the area of public health, we can not avoid to leave public health in the private sector, our local governments apart from Lagos and some of the more developed parts of the country do not have a properly set up health department.
“We are not just talking about medical doctors but other health workers, they can all form part of what we call formidable department in our local government, they (corps members) have many things they can do, they can supervise immunization, water sanitization etc”
The National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil War by decree No. 24 of 22nd May, 1973.
This decree stated that the NYSC was 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 purpose of the scheme is primarily to instil discipline and foster patriotism in Nigerian youths, and to inculcate the spirit of selfless service to the community. It emphasises the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background.
The National Youth Service Corps Decree No. 24 was repealed and replaced by Decree 51 of 16th June, 1993 with clear objectives. But today, 38 years down the line, the scheme no longer enjoys the enthusiasm that it used to, the NYSC uniform that brings prestige and honour is now a mere identification tag.