In 1973, a one-year nation building and development service scheme was established in Nigeria after the Nigerian civil war with the aim to promote rehabilitation, reconstruction, and reconciliation. The service scheme, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a service scheme that is mandatory for graduates of Nigeria’s tertiary institutions and was made compulsory at its initial phase for all graduates of higher education institutions. Thereafter, age limit was set at 30 with the exception of holders of the National Education Certificate (NCE).
So far, the NYSC scheme has given a lot of young graduates the opportunity to travel far and wide to various states and also get to interact with people from other ethnic groups, thus expanding their social network. In a bid to make the one-year graduate scheme more beneficial to young graduates, a Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme was set up in 2012 to help fight against unemployment in the country. This acquisition program enables corps members’ to be enrolled in their choice of vocation which would at the end make them self-employed after their compulsory service.
In addition to one of the benefits graduates get during the period of their service year is an entitlement to a monthly allowance from the Federal Government throughout their service to the nation.
Worthy to take note of are the numerous reports of corps members being killed in troubled areas or caught in the crossfire at local communities, by terrorists, and sometimes police clashes. Despite the problem of insecurity in Nigeria coupled with terrorism and banditry gaining ground especially in the northern region, Corps members are still being deployed to states of unrest. On record and in history are numerous cases of Corps Members who have died in ghastly motor accidents and been victims robbed by thieves on their way to their various states of deployments. Who would account for these lives and who would be responsible for the loss of these lives?
On 25th of May, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Alteration Bill, 2020, seeking to appeal the NYSC Act was billed for a second reading in the House of Representatives. The bill sought to appeal Section 315(5)(a) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, on the ground of ‘incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence.’ Alongside this ground are other grounds such as public and private agencies refusing to recruit able and qualified youths.
Federal government criticized the bill for scrapping the National Youth Services Corps (NYSC), saying it has started reforming the program. The Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, said, “The NYSC program continues to be one of the best tools for the national development of our youth. The government’s commitment to support the NYSC program is maintained.”
In response to the bill passed on scrapping NYSC, the Director-General of NYSC, Brig. Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim said, ‘Corps Members are part of the national defense policy of Nigeria and can be mobilized for war if need be’. The DG further stated that ‘corps members are like reserve soldiers because their education, exposure and sophistication can make them easily adaptable to military training’.
As amputation is not the antidote to headache, so is scrapping NYSC not the rightful solution to the death and loss of innocent corps members. A few workable alternatives to NYSC are: Paid Internship Programs, Reformed Vocational and Technical Training. We live in a digitally-driven world so, repairing graduates with useful skills relevant to their area of expertise would be of good and great benefit to young graduates.
Consequentially, young graduates do not have to be posted far away from their various states of residence to an unknown land for their one-year service scheme. Right there in their various states of residence, a lot can be achieved without being faced with unnecessary and avoidable havoc.