The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in 1973 by General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s former Head of State, as part of efforts to achieve real reconciliation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation as well as reintegration after the Civil War.
To celebrate the golden anniversary, Nigerians, ex, and serving corps members spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday and reflected on the journey of the scheme so far while expressing their expectations for the future and its relevance. They, however, celebrated its impact on the growth and development of the nation.
Gowon promulgated the NYSC decree 24 in 1973 with a view to encourage the development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity. This was necessary as a means to heal the wounds of the loss of the entity of Nigeria as a nation.
NYSC is a compulsory scheme for all graduates of different tertiary institutions in Nigeria including Nigerians who studied abroad and who are less than 30 years of age before graduation. It runs for one year. Currently, NYSC paid the sum of N33,000 as a monthly allowance to serving corps members. The graduates are scattered across the 36 states of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while the scheme is structured in a way that affords the corps members to acquire life experiences and vocational skills training which help them to become self-reliant.
Nonetheless, amid calls by some people for the NYSC to be scrapped, those who have participated in the scheme as well as aspiring corps members said though there might be some hiccups in the operations of the scheme since inception, it has relatively lived up to its expectations in some noticeable aspects of our national life.
Speaking in separate interviews with LEADERSHIP Sunday, they asserted that the NYSC scheme has been providing employment for countless Nigerian professionals from all respectable fields of human endeavours.
According to them, many of the graduate participants are employed in public and private sectors, thereby rejigging the economy and making it more responsive. Thousands of participants deployed in many states had got the opportunity of securing permanent jobs after the expiration of their service years.
An ex-corps member who served in Delta State in 2015, Gloria Mlanga, in an interview with our correspondent, commended the government for establishing the scheme while calling for an improvement in corps members’ welfare, especially for those serving in the southern part of the country.
Mlanga said considering the present economic situation in the country, coupled with the fact that most of these corps members are not provided with accommodation spaces by their places of primary assignment, there is an urgent need for the government to review the structure of the Scheme and compulsory accommodation and feeding allowance be provided for the corps members.
She further said the tangible and invaluable roles played by the NYSC have a profound impact on every sphere of development, including health, education, human capital development, manpower, and democratic processes, amongst others. “NYSC is a good experience. I wouldn’t have known how to greet in Urhobo, but I can do that now from my experience in Delta state where I served.”
More so, Miss Suliat Afolabi, a corps member serving in Edo, said the scheme has helped her to explore other states. “All my life, I have been in my state in the southwest. NYSC brought me to Edo and it has helped me to understand life better. Education is not a scam; it has brought me here to learn other people’s cultures and traditions. I have made a lot of friends since I came to Edo,” she said.
A Nigerian who identified himself as Gwandu condemned people who think or hold the narrative that “NYSC is a waste of time. “My experience as a corps member was incredibly superb and never regretful. Don’t use your local experience to judge the Collective. It’s unfair.”
Other prominent Nigerians have also stressed that the scheme has fulfilled its objective of establishment via nation building and uniting the nation. One of such is the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III. The monarch urged the government and wealthy individuals to assist graduates with capital to set up businesses after the service year, hence white-collar jobs are not easy to get these days. He said such assistance will reduce poverty by providing employment opportunities as well as discourage youths from getting involved in criminal activities.
Abubakar emphasised the need for Nigerians to utilise the advantages of the NYSC scheme to promote cultural and religious understanding, as well as harmonious relationships at all levels. “The scheme is a catalyst for promoting national unity, mutual respect, religious tolerance as well as harmonious co-existence among Nigerians,” he stated.
On its part, the scheme noted that it is introducing a programme to help corp members attain self-reliance. One of such programmes is the introduction of the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED).
The SAED programme was founded to enable the corps members to be well informed and orientated on the importance of entrepreneurship as well as equip them with the required skills towards the establishment of vocational outfits of their choice.
Since the invention of the platform, most Nigerian graduates who had successfully completed their NYSC programmes have been opportune to become self-employed or better still employers of labour in various fields of endeavour.
As the Scheme began activities for the anniversary, the Director General of the Scheme, Brigadier General Yusha’u Dogara Ahmed said the scheme has so far contributed significantly in the aspect of education, health, and unity. “Generally, we have done a lot. You can see that in the last election, we did well. Without the Corps Members that election would have been impossible because they formed over 75 percent of the ad hoc staff.
“We also have skill acquisition. Corps Members after passing from their youth service, become entrepreneurs and instead of depending on the government for employment they turn out to be employers of labour. We want to carry out transformational changes in terms of skills acquisition so that a lot of these corps members after service will no longer come back and wait for government work.
“They will depend on their own, they will establish their own business, they will turn out to be employers labour, most importantly with the setting of the NYSC Trust Fund, that will give NYSC opportunity to achieve this objective,” he added.