Monday, July 27, 2009

The National Youth Service Corps Program

Does the NYSC program have any more relevance? Should graduates still be compelled to a one-year national service? Should the program be discontinued?

It was recently reported in the media that the Director-General of the NYSC, Brig. General Maharzu Tsiga raised the alarm that the number of graduating students would soon rise to half a million per year from the current 80,000, saying there is therefore the need to expand orientation camps and build NYSC lodges across the country.

As we may know, the NYSC scheme was created in May 1973 in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. It was established with a view of proper encouragement and development of common ties and promotion of national unity among youths. And one of the expectations of the program is that "Corps" members should be posted to cities and states far from home and states of origin, where they are expected to mix with people of other tribes, social and family backgrounds, to learn the culture of the indigenes in the place they are posted to.

There is also no doubt that the program has provided immense benefits to few people and local communities. For example, there are university graduates who landed their “dream” jobs, thanks to the NYSC program. Also, there are communities who have benefitted from the services offered by Corp members, some of which may not have been provided by the government. It also worth adding that, the program has encouraged inter-tribal marriages among university graduates.

However, the current state NYSC program is another demonstration of government failure. The program has lost its value due to failure of successive governments to provide adequate funding. Some of the orientation camps lack basic facilities such as water, functional sewage system, electricity, etc. The living conditions in some of these camps are not any different from that of a “refugee camp”.

The same can also be said about the inadequate job posting for Corp members. Following 3-week orientation program, Corp members run around the streets - sometimes like headless chickens - looking for job placements. Some are even exploited by prospective employers, who sometimes see them as a source of “cheap labour”.

From the comments of the D-G, it is clear that the Federal Government has no vision for the NYSC program. Considering the rapid population growth and ever increasing desire of the average Nigerian to acquire University/Polytechnic degree, we do not a brain surgeon to tell us that number of graduating students will increase. I’m therefore not sure why such an obvious situation can be described as” alarming” by the media.

Why will any Government subject young graduates to a compulsory national service without adequate provision for their welfare? Why will any Government expect a graduate to travel 400km away from home without providing him or her with basic amenities?

Unfortunately, the program has become a “cash cow” for corrupt civil servants and government cronies. Every year, inflated contracts worth Nbillions are awarded to government cronies for supply of clothing, food etc. While the value of contract has been increasing at an exponential rate, the quality and quantity of products supplied have been decreasing steadily. And this is one of the major reason why certain elements within and out of the bureaucracy will not support scrapping the program.

For me, the NYSC program needs a total overhaul. The overhaul needs to start with the agency itself. The endemic corruption in the agency has contributed immensely to the decay of the program. Also, the Government needs to come out with a vision for the program. There is no point telling us that Corp member will increase to half a million, without a commensurate action plan. Now that we know, what planning is the NYSC undertaking in this regard. How do they intend to deal with this challenge? Do they intend to undertake a review of the program?

The need to make the program compulsory needs be re-evaluated. It should be evaluated within the context of funding availability and affordability. If the Government cannot afford to fund the program adequately, then it should say so. If the government cannot afford to fund the program, then I see no point why it should continue to be compulsory.

Going forward I will suggest three options to the government. The first option is for government to provide adequate funding for Corp members’ welfare and basic amenities. The second option is to make the program voluntary. This still provides an opportunity for graduates who are keen to undertake a “national service” and explore other parts of Nigeria. The program should also be more flexible to allow Corp members to move between states within the service year in order to broaden their exposure. The third option is total cancellation of the program - which I don’t think is a good idea because of its wider benefits.

A program that was created thirty-six years ago for sure needs a review. The current decay in the program should not be allowed to perpetuate. Some of the reasons for starting the program are likely to be irrelevant in modern day thinking.


Anonymous said...

Have you seen the mayhem in Bauchi? Seyi, do you suppose that the way NYSC is going, I'll allow my children, birthed from my loins, to go anywhere out of the West?
Has the government even said a thing about the NYSC members who were killed 3 years ago in the North? I actually know one such youth who was hacked to death. Corp members used to be safe once in uniform but now...


@Anonymous,thanks for visiting my blog. I will not blame you if don't allow your children to leave the southwest. As I wrote in my piece, the NYSC needs serious overhaul. It's been running for over 30yrs, and I think it is high time the govt review it performance. The question the govt needs to ask itelf if the programme is still "fit for purpose".

patfiddoh said...

elaborate more on the benefit of this NYSC program bcause i see it as a waste of time. what exactly is the age rang of service, i'm still an undergraduate.