AS the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, scheme clocked 48, a bill in the House of Representatives is seeking to have its scrapped because it is no longer living up to its ideals.
The scheme was established by the General Yakubu Gowon military regime on May 22, 1973, as one of the strategies to heal the wounds of the 30-month Civil War. It made the one-year national service compulsory for all graduates of universities and later, polytechnics.
The uniformed scheme was designed in a manner to expose our fresh graduates to other parts of the country. The one year of service outside one’s natural crucible was aimed at getting them to understand the complexity of our country and firing up their patriotism as they prepared for life in private or public capacity.
Initially, the scheme met its expectations, as many young Nigerians were employed in their places of service. It encouraged inter-cultural marriages. Many corps members were deployed as teachers and health officers and impacted the grassroots directly while at the same time gathering their first practical work experience outside the theoretical environments of tertiary institutions.
The bill introduced by a member of the House of Representatives from the Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency, Awaji Inombek Abiante, lists a number of reasons why the scheme should be discontinued. These include the incessant killings of corps members due to religious extremism, banditry, ethnic and post-election violence, and the novel crime of mass abductions of school pupils and travellers by terrorists and armed herdsmen.
The sponsor also noted that public and private agencies are no longer employing staff but rather depend on the exploitation of corps members whom they albeit treat shabbily. He argues that security considerations have forced the NYSC management to consider posting corps members within their geopolitical zones, thus defeating the original intendment of the scheme.
We do not think the scheme should be scrapped outright. If Nigeria were properly run, it should actually be elevated to inculcate higher levels of military training of corps members, including weapons handling and martial arts training to enrich the civic base of our security architecture. It is done in varying patterns in some countries.
The naked truth is that the current security situation calls for a rethink of the scheme. We prefer that the scheme should be retained, for now, while the elements of compulsion should be suspended. It should only be for interested corps members pending when sanity is restored. All graduates should obtain their discharge certificates whether they serve or not.
Secondly, the new practice of posting corp members to nearby states should continue, but no intending corps member should be posted to any place where he or she does not feel safe. However, if the security challenge deteriorates further, a rethink of the scheme’s usefulness might be necessary..