A bill to amend the 1999 constitution, permanently scrapping the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has passed its first reading. The bill was proposed by Rivers State house representative, Awaji-Inimbek Abiante. His reasons for proposing this bill include widespread nationwide insecurity, exploitation of youth corpers and the several failed attempts to reform the programme. To pass into law, the bill will have to undergo two more readings and afterwards receive presidential approval.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established on the 22nd of May, 1973 by the military government of Yakubu Gowon. It was post civil war, and the creation of NYSC was a means for the country’s core population to reintegrate. The expected outcome of this integration was to be national unity, in order to foster nation building. It was established based on decree No. 24 which states that NYSC was created with “a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.”
In his argument for the bill, Awaji-Inimbek said that the scheme was no longer fulfilling the objectives it set out to. Majority of Nigerians agree with the legislator. However, not all believe that the programme should be scrapped as a solution. Several perspectives emerged in online conversations after the news made headlines. Some proposed more radical reformations, including making the programme optional, while others highlighted its benefits. Well, let’s take a look at some of the merits and demerits of the scheme.
Merits of NYSC
- One of the most mentioned benefits of the NYSC scheme is how it expands ones geographical and social horizons. Essentially, it is supposed to take you out of an environment you’re used to. Therefore, a lot of young people see the one year programme as an opportunity to explore never before seen parts of the country. There are many others who use the chance to broaden and mix up their social connections, by meeting new people and learning about other cultures.
- With the employment options dwindling and becoming more disadvantageous, the NYSC programme levels the playing field just a little. Those in the programme can gain work experience straight out of a tertiary institution. Some may even transition into permanent positions after their service is over.
- On the same branch, the unemployment issues we have in the country mean that most graduates will be without jobs/sources of income for a while. The programme therefore attracts many with its provision of a monthly allowance, as well as pay from their PPA. For many Nigerian youths, this provides a much needed safety net.
- The one year mandatory service gives many the space to find their feet. For people like this, it’s like a breath of fresh air as they make other plans for their future.
Demerits of NYSC
- At the very top of the list is insecurity. Cases of insurgency and incessant kidnappings are now commonplace in the country. Take into consideration that some of these killings are as a result of ethnic wars/clashes and religious differences. These are problems the scheme was created to minimize, and now it has become unfeasible. The adventure of going to unknown places has long been eroded by issues of insecurity. This is especially since there are no special security measures taken to protect those in service.
- Although one of the purposes of the scheme is to provide gainful employment, it has since become exploited. Many employers either don’t pay or pay peanuts, in addition to a huge workload. Employers like this would rather have inexperienced Corpers they can underpay, to experienced people. The chances of being retained as a permanent staff is also lower now, as Corpers are seen as dispensable.
- There have been several reforms of the programme, yet none of it has taken us closer to the initial objective. Instead, it seems like a waste of national resources. It also often seems like the youth gain the least from the entire scheme. So, who really is benefitting?
The NYSC programme has become a national paradox. It was created to bring about national unity, but it’s being torn apart by the growing disunity in the country. While reformations may seem an ideal option for the hopeful, we need to examine the root cause of this failure first: Why isn’t the programme working as intended? Perhaps we should address the mechanics of the whole operation to see where it has gone obsolete. Or we could do away with the whole thing and begin something new and more in tune with the times. Either way, we can only wait for the lawmakers to decide what fate the NYSC programme will have.