The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in 1973 to foster national unity and cohesion among Nigerian youth. Passing through this one-year scheme is mandatory for all Nigerian graduates below the age of 30. However, given the insecurity in some parts of the country, parents get so worried and concerned about the safety of their wards when going for the youth service.
Moreover, considering the apparent cracks on the walls of our unity as a country, some Nigerians believe that NYSC has lost its relevance and should be scrapped. Some, mainly the youth, consider it a waste of time; others view it from an economic angle, as the scrapping of the scheme will save the country billions of naira budgeted for the scheme every year.
As a matter of fact, in May 2021, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante opined that NYSC has failed to achieve its intended purpose. He sponsored a bill seeking to scrap the scheme; it seeks to repeal section (5)(a) of the 1999 constitution, which establishes the NYSC and its enabling Act. This bill passed the first reading.
In the middle of this, Hon. Samuel Akinfolarin sponsored a bill for an Act to establish the National Youth Service Corps Trust Fund to promote the spirit of self-reliance in corps members. On how the fund will be used, Hon Akinfolarin said:
the trust fund will provide a sustainable source of funding for NYSC, skill acquisition training and provision of startup capital to corps members, train and retrain the personnel of the NYSC, develop camps, NYSC formations and provide facilities therein.Hon. Samuel Akinfolarin
This Trust Fund will be financed with a levy of 1% of the net profit of companies and organized private sectors in the country, 0.2% of the total revenue accruing to the federation account; money appropriated to meet the objective of this Act by the National Assembly in the budget, bequests, and gifts, grants and assistance from international bilateral and multilateral agencies and money derived from the investment made by the Trust Fund.
If NYSC could equip corps members with skills and empower them with startup capital, it will absolutely make many people calling for the scrapping of the scheme have a rethink. This bill is not just timely coming when the relevance of NYSC is being questioned but also at a time when the rate of unemployed graduates in the country is a major concern.
NYSC presently teaches corps members the basics of some skills under the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Department (SAED), largely done in the form of lectures. If mere expansion and not total overhauling of activities of SAED is the intention of the scheme, it will amount to having old wine in a new bottle because real empowerment should be more of hands-on training and less of boring lectures.
Furthermore, in financing the Trust Fund, the requirement for the private businesses that will be levied 1% of their net profit should be more explicit in terms of profit after tax value so as not to stifle small and medium scale businesses.
If NYSC is fully supported, it can be a transformational point for many youths. We don’t have to throw the baby away with the bathwater; NYSC should be restructured and not scrapped.