Vanguard News Nigeria

Economics of NYSC and stranded Nigerians in diaspora

By Henry Boyo
FINANCE Minister, Kemi   Adeosun, has been in the eye of the storm lately, with the allegation that she forged an NYSC Exemption Certificate, to secure an earlier appointment, as a public servant in Ogun State.

Kemi Adeosun

However, despite President Muhammed Buhari’s professed zero tolerance for corruption and unwholesome practices in public office, government has, inexplicably, not shown any interest in investigating the allegation, while NYSC’s Administration, has simply signed off with a non-committal open ended statement that “we shall investigate the origin of the purported Exemption Certificate in question.”

Nonetheless, despite the subsisting allegation of forgery, which has not been denied, the Finance Minister was elected to chair the board of the African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), at its General Meeting in Abuja, in July 2018. Arguably, President Buhari will burnish his image for discipline and accountability, if due process is strictly followed in the investigation of the NYSC Certificate forgery; clearly, an apology is nowhere prescribed as legal penalty for the crime of forgery.

Hopefully, however, from a positive perspective, Adeosun’s predicament may induce a second look at the requirement for Nigerians, who graduated abroad, to participate in the compulsory 12 months Service Year for ‘Youth Corpers;’ failure to comply, invariably, excludes any Nigerian graduate, below 30 years, from employment in the Public Service or in the Organised Private Sector. However, even if the conduct and content of the scheme still leave much to be desired, there is undoubtedly, much to be said for the vision of the founding fathers to facilitate youth exposure and national integration.

Unfortunately, there is presently no yardstick for assessing the national utility of the NYSC scheme, against the hundreds of billions of Naira, expended over the years, or the impact of the insecurity and social and economic uncertainties that these youths have to forcibly endure.

Some critics find very little value in the present NYSC scheme and, therefore suggest that if we must sustain the programme, there are good reasons to reconstruct, its content and structure, to address current challenges relating particularly, to health, transportation, accommodation, feeding, etc, etc. The NYSC scheme clearly has both social and economic implications, as participants are relocated outside their accustomed comfort zones for almost 12 months. Furthermore, for those graduates with exceptional results, who may already have better paying jobs waiting for them, participation implies loss of a whole year’s income, in place of the very modest NYSC monthly stipend below $100.

Invariably, compared with their overseas counterparts; participation in NYSC would expectedly be less traumatic for graduates from Nigerian Universities, who are physically on ground, undeniably, the plight of foreign graduates is probably significantly multiplied, even if the rigours of participation don’t necessarily make the graduate a better Nigerian.

Expectedly, therefore, with the perceived obstacles and challenges of compelled continental relocation, there is generally, very little inclination for Nigerian, foreign graduates to return home in a hurry. The horrendous downside also, is that the serious challenges of participating in the NYSC scheme, may forever discourage the return of thousands of diversely, qualified young Nigerian graduates back home, to reduce the expanding deficit in our nation’s human capital to steadily drive social and economic growth.

Sadly, therefore, Nigeria’s loss, invariably becomes gain in human capital for those host countries, where our wards and children study. This phenomenon is generally, aptly described as “BRAIN DRAIN” (The Webster Dictionary defines Brain Drain as “the process in which a country loses its most educated and talented workers to other countries through migration or  the departure of educated or professional people from one country’s economic sector, or field for another usually for better pay or living conditions). Notably, the ironically, income challenged home economies, which funded the education and training of these migrant workers with significant sacrifice, regrettably, turn around to become increasingly deprived of the same vibrant human capital they require to drive their domestic socio-economic development.

Thus, in an unexpected turnaround, an obviously poorer economy, inexplicably, ultimately, becomes a humble recipient of morsels of economic aid from those same countries, whose treasuries are constantly buoyed by the substantial foreign exchange, remitted annually for education of our wards and children in the US and other OECD countries.

If this same model of engagement persists, between our country and other more successful economies, whose growth and development, we inexplicably seem to willfully fund, it is unlikely that the scale will ever tilt in our favour. These host countries, clearly recognise the commercial and economic advantage, derived from the subsisting arrangement, as Newspapers and other popular media are regularly surfeit with advertisements and campaigns to enroll Nigerian students for undergraduate studies in Universities, in countries such as the UK, US and EU and Canada.

Nonetheless, the World Bank and its affiliates are quick to point out that the undenied Brain Drain, actually, ultimately translates to GAIN for countries with decayed educational infrastructure, such as ours; these otherwise respectable international financial Guardians, suggest that the over $20bn, reportedly, annually remitted from Nigerians in the Diaspora, also contribute steadily to growth of per-capita income, which in turn stimulates consumer demand to encourage real sector investment, economic growth and more job opportunities.

Invariably, it is generally mute that the $20bn reported remittance, is probably less than 10% of the annual total value of human capital contribution which these host economies benefit from our wards and children who migrate or studied and remained aboard. Who is to say that Nigeria’s foreign based human capital cannot also create over $200bn annually, in value terms, if our government also pursues sensible economic models to drive the economy?

It is obviously not in the interest of foreign host Universities, and economies, for Nigeria to improve its educational infrastructure.  The reality is that, with the estimated annual requirement of about $50000, for each student to study and live the USA, UK, Canada and the EU, it is estimated that Nigerian families probably spend well over $2bn annually as fees and allowances for their wards in foreign institutions, i.e. this is much more than the federal fiscal allocation for education for most years; this amount does not include cost of air ticket for the students and for the parents whenever they wish to visit their children or wards abroad for any reason, including childbirths.  Sadly, the modest aid received, in return, is often a small fraction of the total outflow from Nigeria; It surely makes sense with the prevailing reality to redress this imbalance by removing any obstacle, such as the compulsory NYSC scheme for Nigerians who graduated abroad and are willing to return home to supplement our human capital.

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