Established about forty years ago to foster national unity and integration, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has recently become a subject of public discourse.
Proponents of the scheme say it is an avenue for youth empowerment and job creation in the country.
It is equally their view that the scheme has been of immense help in creating cross cultural awareness, understanding and cooperation among Nigerian youths.
Proponents of the scheme also favour it because it ensures equitable distribution of corps members across the country to check manpower shortfalls, especially in less educationally developed states.
Recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lent his support for the scheme, saying calls for its scrapping were unpatriotic.
According to Abubakar, the scheme is making critical impact positively in the various sectors of Nigeria’s economy, stressing that dropping the scheme would be antithetical to even the socioeconomic development of the country.
Abubakar maintained that the impact was more pronounced in the health and education sectors, revealing that many schools might be forced to close down if the scheme were abolished.
Corps members have contributed immensely in the sustenance of democracy, peace and unity of the country, and in the provision of infrastructure like roads and water, Vanguard quoted the sultan.
Aside the above arguments in favour of the National Youths Service Corps, critics say it has fallen short of public expectation.
Opponents of the scheme frown that corps welfare is not given a priority by corps employers, noting that employers do not provide corps members with accommodation and transportation as contained in the callup instrument.
Opponents are also angry that corps members are poorly remunerated. A corps member currently receives a beggarly federal allowance of #19,800. Some state governments augment it with as low as #3,000 for corps members in their employ. Those serving in the private sector are at the mercy of their principals, receiving little or nothing at the end of a month.
Poor remuneration has made some corps members owe their living to charity, in spite that some of them are breadwinners of their families.
People have as well argued that the scheme is a mechanism for siphoning labour from one part of the country in order to give and sustain the other at the expense of the former. In some cases, corps members are used for slave labour.
Is the government unaware of these challenges?
The former Director-General of NYSC, Brigadier-General Nnamdi Okorie-Affa had alleged that some officials of the scheme are corrupt, acknowledging that the scheme is also being confronted with a lot of other challenges ranging from astronomical increase in corps population, insecurity, corps rejection, inadequate camp facilities and dwindling welfare provision for corps members due to inadequate funding.
Some orientation camps are a sorry sight. There is absence or inadequate supply of electricity, potable water or toilet facilities.
Meagre meals are served while camp clinics are poorly stocked with drugs or lack any.
The treatment meted to corps members during orientation exercise is humiliating. Corps members are sometimes ordered to sit on the ground.
At other times, they are denied of adequate sleep and good rest.
Opponents of the scheme also contend that some corps members are posted to areas were they remain redundant during their service year because such places have nothing to do with their area of specialisation.
The issues above have compelled opponents of NYSC to baptise it “Now Your Suffering Continues.”
Aware that the suffering of corps members has continued unabated, former Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State recently urged the federal government to increase the monthly allowance of corps members to motivate them and show concern for their welfare and act of patriotism.
Are there other measures government need to take to reduce the plight of corps members?
Corps members should be paid hazard allowance in view of the risks they face almost daily while carrying out their assignments, especially now that the country has to contend with a lot of security issues.
Adequate security should be provided for them as well.
Corps employers should be compelled to take corps welfare seriously while corrupt NYSC officials should be sanctioned appropriately.
Corps members should be posted to establishments that need them or to which their discipline is relevant while more budgetary allocation should be made for the scheme.
It is my humble submission that if these suggestions are accepted, those critical of NYSC would not mind dropping the call for the scheme to be axed.
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