The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has once again expressed difficulty and financial constraint in its operations. There are reports that the Directorate Headquarters of the NYSC has informed the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) of Nigerian tertiary institutions to cut down the quota of prospective corps members to be mobilized for the 2016 Batch B. With this development and several other challenges that have come with the Youth Service over time, some Nigerian youths believe the scheme has overstayed its welcome.
Today, the Kwara State University told its recent graduates who are supposed to be part of the next NYSC mobilization that not all of them will be mobilized: “This is to inform all 2015/2016 graduates who had already filled NYSC Mobilization form for the ‘2016 Batch B’ Service Year that the Directorate Headquarters of the NYSC would mobilize only 500 prospective corps members. Accordingly, you are hereby requested to apply for NYSC mobilization on [the] portal from Friday 7th to 10th October 2016. You are to note that this application will be on ‘First come, first served basis’,” the statement read.
In a similar development, a student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University shared online an internal memo issued by the Students’ Affairs Department of the school. The memo explains the reason given by the NYSC for its decision to leave out some students despite their eligibility for mobilization. “…NYSC Directorate Headquarters, Abuja has greatly slashed the number of corps members from our institution going for National Service, Batch ‘B’ 2016 from 2,314 to only 894. This they said is due to the tight budgetary allocation of the scheme.”
Lately, the management of the NYSC has been complaining a lot about a shortage of funds. In May 2016, the camping for corps members of the 2016 Batch ‘A’ Stream II was stalled for weeks because the management said there was no money to cater for the thousands of prospective corps members. In the 2016 budget, the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development was allocated N75.47 bn. NYSC alone takes the largest share of N66.83 bn. Despite the ‘huge’ allocation to the NYSC, the scheme has constantly received a lot of criticisms for not living up to expectation. The welfare and security of corps members during service year have always been in serious doubt.
In spite of several calls for the Nigerian government to review the NYSC scheme, the 43-year-old scheme has remained the same. It is no longer fashionable with modern realities. The programme was primarily created by Nigeria’s former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon to “reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil War.” Many Nigerians believe these reasons are no longer tenable, more than 40 years after the war.
“NYSC is a pure waste of time. Can you imagine how the programme negatively affects graduates? When someone graduates from the university this year, you’ll have to wait for a whole year sometimes before you are mobilized and you don’t have a choice because it is compulsory,” a prospective corps member of Obafemi Awolowo University told Ventures Africa.
The NYSC is a compulsory one-year scheme for graduates of Nigerian tertiary universities below the age of 30. It has also been made a prerequisite for graduates who want to be admitted for postgraduate programmes in Nigerian institutions. Most establishments also request for evidence of participation in the youth service programme before they are considered for employment opportunities.
As it stands now, the Nigerian government is not doing anything to address the challenges of the scheme or improve it. Apart from the fact that the N19,800 monthly stipend given to each corps member cannot cover the expenses incurred by these serving youths in a recession time like this, a scheme that makes Nigerian youths vulnerable to unfavourable circumstances can be scrapped to save money for other sustainable projects.
On Thursday, a Nigerian youth, Chuks Ichie started a petition on Change.org appealing to the Nigerian Senate to scrap the scheme because it is no longer relevant. With recent developments, it is very difficult to refute the unfavourable assessment of the NYSC scheme. This period is a perfect time for both the executive and legislative arms of Nigerian government to look into the scheme and, in fact, scrap it to save money the country can’t afford to waste right now.