NYSC: Burdened by funds, constrained by bureaucracy

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nly recently, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) wrote to all Corps Producing Institutions (CPIs), asking them to make ready a percentage of their prospective corps members for mobilisation for the 2016 Batch B Orientation, from the massive backlog on queue, for the national assignment.

This development brought about anxiety among parents, guardians and graduates of schools across the country, including that of UNIBEN, where only 715 of the 2, 000 graduates were mobilised for the orientation programme, which got underway Thursday, round the country.

A letter from the NYSC Headquarters dated September 30th, 2016, with reference number NYSC/DHQ/CMD/35/267, addressed to the vice chancellor of the university, explained that the reason for the quota was due to tight budgetary allocation for the scheme this year.

A copy of the letter, which was obtained by The Guardian, was signed by the Director (Corps Mobilisation) Ekpunobi F.O., on behalf of the director general of the scheme.

“Taking into cognisance of this situation, in relation to the number of graduates earlier forwarded by your institution, management has, after due consideration of the scheme’s 2016 budget, approved 715 graduates for your institution for mobilisation into the 2016 Batch ‘B’ service year.

“In view of the above, it is expected that the figure of 715 graduates will cut across all approved academic programmes run by your institution and gender balance as well.

“It should be noted that this allocated figures does not include the following category of graduates who are either to be exempted, or excluded from service respectively; exemption on grounds of age and armed forces and exclusion for part time graduates.

“Accordingly, your institution is at liberty to present as many as possible of these aforementioned categories of graduates. However, you are to adhere strictly to the approved number of graduates as indicated above for those that will be deployed for national service please,” the letter read.

Last month, a leaked internal memo dated October 4, 2016 sent to all heads of departments at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, painted a similar picture there.

The memo signed by Mrs. Ifeoma Egboka, from the Dean of Students Affairs office of the institution, said the NYSC had explained that the slash was as a result of “tight budgetary allocation of the scheme.”

The letter therefore, asked the HODs to “work out the percentage of the number 894 (total) from each department,” as against the initial 2, 314 ready for mobilisation.

The NYSC scheme was birthed with Decree No. 24 of May 22, 1973 (now repealed, and replaced with the National Youth Service Corps Act, Cap. N 84, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004).

Among other things, the scheme was created to facilitate the reconstruction, reconciliation and rebuilding of the country, in the wake of the civil war.

Forty years since coming on board to help bond a badly fractured country, it has contributed immensely to restoring national unity, through the mobilisation of over 250, 000 graduates yearly, up from the less than 10, 000 graduates, who took part in the inaugural exercise.

All these not withstanding, many are worried about the Federal Government’s ramrod posture when it comes to reviewing certain terms of the scheme, especially in the light of contemporary realities.

For instance, as a result of the poor carrying capacity of public tertiary institutions (where the bulk of Nigerian youths are), and the uncertain academic calendar in these school, occasioned by industrial actions, increasing number of undergraduates are graduating older than they ordinarily should.

This itself is a disincentive as many employers are beginning to put a ceiling on the age limit of persons they are employing as first timers. When these people add that to the two or so years they have to queue to be mobilised for national service, there arises a tendency that they could be stabbing their laps waiting to be mobilised for national service.

Franklin Uzodinma, who has lost out of the service on age grounds, having graduated two years ago, and not mobilised till now, is one of those who believes that the very existence of the scheme should again be appraised, by the Federal Government in order for it not to add misery to the lives of Nigerian youths.

“Much as the Federal Government does not want to scrap the scheme for obvious reasons, it should be sensitive enough to review it since the scheme is made to serve the people and not the other way round.

“I honestly don’t see the reason why government cannot make the scheme optional, or reduce the age limit to 25 years, as against the 30 years limit, which is becoming a big problem. When young people graduate, they want to urgently settle down to face tomorrow, but when government’s lack of funds causes some of them to spend two years at home waiting to be mobilised for youth service, something dies in them. This stresses the need for a second look at the scheme before it becomes completely abhorrent,” Uzodinma cautioned.

Opeyemi Johnson, a graduate of Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State, agrees with Uzodinma’s views regarding making the service year an optional thing.

“As far as I am concerned, the NYSC scheme has lost its basis and purpose. So, why should it still be made compulsory for young graduates, by a government that cannot offer you a job after delaying you for years? He queried.

Johnson who is one of those mobilised for the ongoing orientation continued, “I am one of the lucky few to be mobilised in my school, that is after I spent five years for a four-year course because of incessant industrial actions. Unfortunately, those that are not mobilised have no choice than to stay at home till the next mobilisation, which they may still not take place because of the poor state of the economy. I ask, why should we be punished when the government fails to get it right?

He therefore, urged the Federal Government to urgently look into the programme, review some of its obsolete conditions, and make it optional.

His views resonate with that of Foluke Bankole, a graduate of Kogi State University, Anyigba, who also wants the scheme made optional, even though she was technically ruled out of the scheme.

Bankole graduated at 28 about three years ago. She was, however, not mobilised for the scheme because of a mistake made by the school in the computation of her final result. It took two years for the error to be corrected by which time she had clocked 30 and no longer qualified to be part of the scheme.

She said “I stayed at home for two years before the mistake in my final year result was amended. By the time that happened, I was already 30 years old, and so was not mobilised because I was no longer eligible. But it would be a great idea if the scheme is made optional and the participation age brought down.”

According to him, it is because of the situation in the country that scores of young graduates still aspire to go for national service.

He said, “How can someone elect to stay back from NYSC and deny his/her self of the N19, 800 monthly when you know that getting a job that pays as poor as N10, 000 in the country today requires connection, yet you don’t need any connection to go for NYSC. All you need is to be through with your undergraduate studies and still be under 30 years.”

Adewale advised the Federal Government to strive towards creating employment for young graduates who are above 30, so that the rate at which undergraduates under declare their age in order to be eligible for the scheme would reduce, and by extension, the over-bloated number of graduates bogging the scheme would also plunge.

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