What Nigerians should know as bill seeking an end to NYSC reaches Second Reading

The debate on scrapping the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme has been on for years with different perspectives, however, it took a new dimension on Monday.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Alteration Bill, 2020, sponsored by Rivers state representative, Awaji-Inombek Abiante, to repeal the NYSC Act, scaled the first reading and is billed for the second reading.

Abiante’s reasons for the bill, which include violent killings, were explained in the memorandum of the proposal.

“This bill seeks to repeal Section 315(5)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended) on the following grounds:

“Incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence; incessant kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country;

“Public and private agencies/departments are no longer recruiting able and qualified Nigerian youths, thus relying heavily on the availability of corps members who are not being well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year without any hope of being gainfully employed;

“Due to insecurity across the country, the National Youth Service Corps management now gives considerations to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone, thus defeating one of the objectives of setting up the service corps, i.e. developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promoting national unity and integration.”

POLITICS NIGERIA, however takes you through the pros and cons of scrapping the scheme.

History of NYSC

The scheme, targeted at unifying Nigerians from all parts of the country, was a brainchild of the General Yakubu Gowon-led military regime.

Gowon established the NYSC on May 22, 1973, under Decree No. 24 of 1973 as a means of reintegrating Nigerians after the historic civil war which started in 1967 and ended 1970.

Under the scheme, the government posts college graduates under 30 to work outside their home states.

In other countries, like Malaysia, Nigeria or Rwanda, national service programs aren’t an alternative to the military, but are rather seen as a policy tool — meant to help promote development in neglected areas, and foster understanding in ethnically and religiously diverse populations.

For instance, Malaysia’s national service program is a 3-month scheme that started in December 2003 by using an annual lottery to select 85,000 18-year-olds for military-style physical training and community service.

In order to promote patriotism and racial harmony, each group has 60% ethnic Malays, 28% Chinese, 10% Indians and 2% others.

Heated debate on scrapping

Like Abiante, many people have argued that NYSC should be scrapped in the past, although not for insecurity concerns. While some believed the scheme has outlived its essence considering its modus operandi, some suggested an end to it because of the fiscal burden on the federal government.

Recall that the federal government had in 2019 approved that the monthly allowance for the corps members be increased to 33,000 naira as against the previous 19, 800.This, according to proponents of the fiscal implication, will eat deep into the purse of the government, adding that the sum expended on the scheme can be channeled elsewhere.

However, many Nigerians have posited that rather than scrap the scheme, it should be rejigged to fit into the realities of the current dispensation.

Dipo Awojide, a Human Resources expert, described the scheme as a stopgap for millions of young people, advising the government to modify it.

“Unpopular: NYSC is a good stopgap for millions of young people in Nigeria. Don’t scrap it, rejig it.
Focus on entrepreneurship. Focus on community development. Focus on skills development. Post people to safe states. Scrap the unity and one Nigeria objective. It’s not working.”

But he noted that if NYSC will be scrapped, it should be replaced with an internship or a placement year in the penultimate year for students of tertiary institutions.

“70% of students should have the opportunity to undergo this placement or internship before graduating. I really hope they think this one through before proceeding.The government needs to solve the problems associated with NYSC,” Awojide said.

“If federal appointments truly reflect federal character we won’t need NYSC to forge national unity. Just do the right thing!”

In a similar vein, Shehu Sani, a former lawmaker, posited that the scheme should be expanded to give participants military training.

“The NYSC should not be scrapped.Its needed now more than ever before.Many Nigerians have never known anywhere other than their hometown and University town if not for NYSC.Its mandate should be expanded to give participants full military training in the face of insecurity,” Sani wrote.

Going by the legislative processes, ending the NYSC scheme is still a long way ahead as the bill needs to scale the second reading up till the committee stage, third reading and finally, the President’s approval.

All hands are on deck forthwith as Nigerians observe the process as it goes.

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