By Kingsley Omonobi, Caleb Ayansina-Abuja
A FORTNIGHT ago, the decision of the Federal Government through the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, to cut down the number of eligible graduates of Nigerian universities for the 2016 Youth Service, caused public outrage. Some of the graduates have been on standby since February 2016 due to their segmentation into batches.
The affected graduates are aggrieved that after spending between four and seven years in the citadels of learning, they are now being made to wait another two or more years in some instances, due to no fault of theirs, to perform the mandatory one-year Youth Service at great cost not only to their families but also to them as they eagerly prepare to move on in life.
Following the end of the civil war in 1970, the NYSC was established by decree No.24 of May 22, 1973. The scheme was originally established with a view to encouraging and developing common ties among the youths of Nigeria, encourage oneness and the promotion of national unity.
Since its creation, NYSC has primarily inculcated in Nigerian youths, the spirit of selfless service to the community, while emphasising the spirit of togetherness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background.
Recently, the scheme came under heavy criticism from some quarters, which called for it to be scrapped, saying it is no longer in tune with modern realities as its objectives are not being felt while government seems not to be at ease with its sustainability.
For instance, the scheme for the past 41 years had been handling the mobilisation of graduates across the country for the mandatory one-year national youth service through analogue method which is replete with all sorts of irregularities.
This had exposed the scheme to undue criticism, a development which, according to the Ex-NYSC Director General, Brig-General Johnson Olawumi, informed the management to embrace the computerisation of the scheme’s activities.
Olawumi said: “The
NYSC of today is a national service institution that needs to operate in line with the dynamics of the 21st century.
“With the computerisation process of mobilisation of corps members, there will be sanity in the entire process. It will eliminate mobilisation of non-qualified persons and address the challenge of lack of proper record of mobilised persons.
“One thing we did not anticipate before and which this online mobilisation process has brought out clearly is the fact that we are now going to eliminate all those sharp practices by some corps members producing institutions that forward names of those who are not legible.”
In 2012, the scheme also introduced the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development, SAED, programme to address the unemployment issue and to make corps members self-reliant during and after their service year.
However, the scheme is currently passing through difficulties due to insufficient funds because the programme which started with a pioneer batch of 2,364 corps members in 1973, now mobilises around 260,000 corps members annually with the population expected to rise to 350,000 soon.
Money for the exercise
In May 2016, the leadership of the NYSC, due to a shortfall of about N13b in its allocation, announced the postponement for Batch ‘A’ stream 2 via their website and text messages, which were sent to prospective members.
The Director-General of NYSC, Brig.-Gen. Suleman Kazaure, had earlier informed the Senate Committee on Sport and Youth that lack of funds might stall the mobilization of 2016 Batch A Stream 2 prospective corps members for orientation.
He told the committee that the money required for the exercise was yet to be provided.
His words: “We are presently at a loss in NYSC as there is no money for us to mobilise thousands of prospective corps members in the Batch A Stream 2 to camp this Friday. This is in spite of efforts made by us to get things done in that direction several weeks ago. The problem staring us in the face arose from the N13 billion shortfall we had in the 2016 budget estimate, which the agency made strong request for its provision during budget defence”.
On his part, Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung, said they had foreseen it and had taken steps ahead to address the situation, but to no avail.
He said: “We anticipated this national disaster early enough; that’s why we included it in the budget proposal last year but was surprised it was not captured.
“We anticipated it in 2015; we drew the attention of government through writing on the need for urgent steps to be taken to avert an unforeseen situation. And the issue of the NYSC programme is that something that has to do with figures. There is high burning zeal attached to NYSC. We have been writing. Since the past few days, I have been shuttling between my office and that of Budget and Finance.
“Where we are now is to see if we can capture the NYSC budget in the supplementary budget proposal later in the year. It’s an emergency that requires urgent attention.” It was unfortunate that the optimism expressed by Kazaure was jettisoned as the presidency that he was hoping would intervene could not save the day. Consequently, the Directorate Headquarters of the NYSC has to inform the Division of Student Affairs, DSA, of Nigerian tertiary institutions to cut down the quota of prospective corps members to be mobilised for the 2016 Batch B, a move that was vehemently opposed by the Committee of Vice Chancellors.
Following this decision, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors, CVC, released a statement informing their students that due to a paucity of funds, the NYSC has cut the number of prospective corps members eligible from each university by 60 per cent.
CVC President, Prof. Adebiyi Daramola, therefore “pleaded with the government and the National Assembly to provide resources needed for full mobilisation to stave off impending problem of partial mobilisation.”
In the 2016 budget, the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development was allocated N75.47 billion, NYSC alone takes the largest share of N66.83 billion, compared to the N68,103 billion it was allocated in 2015.
Obervers say the budgetary allocation to the NYSC should be looked into from the point of the number of institutions producing these corps members. According to them, if the number of the corps members producing institutions is increasing every year, there will be increase in the number of graduates participating in the mobilisation exercise.
“Therefore, this increase should always be taken into consideration when preparing for budget allocation for the scheme; there is no way government will make the programme mandatory, while at the same time not mobilising some graduates despite their eligibility,” argued one such observer.
The implication of the partial mobilization is that thousands of graduates will remain at home, unable to serve and unable to get employment as employers in Nigeria avoid employing graduates who do not have an NYSC discharge certificate.
Meanwhile, the NYSC-
DG said the corps had taken proactive measures to ensure that all prospective corps members eligible for the 2016 Batch ‘B’ service year are mobilised.
To this end, the NYSC leadership had met with the CVC and the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, as part of measures to facilitate the mobilisation of all the eligible graduates.
The meeting with Professor Adebiyi Daramola-led CVC, agreed that the universities would upload full list of all prospective corps members approved by their respective Senates, while the NYSC would take the most appropriate decision in processing the lists.
A statement made available to Vanguard Features by the NYSC Director of Press and Public Relation, Mrs. Abosede Aderibigbe, noted that “the discussion at the meeting also centered on the need for the Vice-Chancellors to put in place internal mechanisms that would ensure credibility in the handling of mobilisation data by their institutions, including avoidance of submission of names of part-time graduates, as well as strict adherence to the approved carrying capacities of the institutions.”
While meeting with the NANS leadership led by its President, Aruna Kadiri, the NYSC boss appealed to the students’ umbrella body to cooperate with the scheme in its genuine efforts to resolve all issues relating to hitch-free mobilisation of prospective corps members for the 2016 Batch ‘B’ service year.
Meanwhile, the NANS through its President, Aruna Kadiri, noted that the union leaders were in the NYSC Headquarters to seek explanation on the earlier plan to get Corps Producing Institutions to submit partial list of their eligible graduates and to discuss the ways out.
After being informed of the latest development, the students’ leaders applauded the Federal Government and the NYSC management for the steps taken towards addressing the challenges, and assured that they would promptly transmit the information to all their members.
Interactions with some prospective corps members revealed that they had uploaded their detailed information and had subsequently received their ‘Call Up’ numbers for the mobilisation.
Observers are of the
opinion that the current trend if not properly addressed, may not only spell doom for the scheme but may eventually lead to the end of the programme. Instances abound where due to funding constraint, both federal and state government agencies hitherto in existence and which had served to impact on the nation’s development, were scrapped on the altar of lack of funding.
They point to the fact that in these times when emphasis are placed only on revenue generating concerns and institutions, the survival of the NYSC which falls into the category of consuming agencies is in question unless the leadership of the scheme put on their thinking caps and quickly fashion out alternative survival strategies.
An example in this direction was recorded at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Batch ‘B’ Pre-Orientation workshop in Calabar, where the NYSC-DG commended the Governors of Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Zamfara states for providing additional NYSC camps for hosting of 2016 Batch ‘B’ Orientation course for corps members deployed to states with security challenges.
The gesture, he said, will allow Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba states to host two camps simultaneously – one for corps members who will be deployed to them and the other for corps members who will be deployed to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, respectively.
In the case of Zamfara State, both the Permanent Orientation Camp and the additional camp will host corps members deployed to the state because a number of corps members will be above the capacity of the permanent camp.
Kazaure stressed the need for the three tiers of government to live up to their statutory roles in the operations of the scheme as a panacea for addressing the challenges of obsolete, dilapidated and inadequate facilities in most orientation camps.
The DG also said the current management of the scheme was encouraging public-private partnership to complement the efforts of federal and state governments towards enhancing all aspects of its operations.