LAST Thursday, about 3,000 members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC 2017 Batch A, did their passing out ceremony on completing their one year compulsory service. Yet, many of them do not have the requisite platform to explore, make or create opportunities that Nigeria is in dire need of due to high unemployment rate both in the private and public sectors. The scheme which was created by General Yakubu Gowon in 1973 in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil War, comprises four main segments in which every corps member is expected to satisfactorily participate before he/she is qualified to be issued a certificate of National Service. The four segments of the service year are: Orientation Courses; Primary Assignment; Community Development Service; and Winding–Up/Passing–out.
Creating funds for graduates However, going by the high rate of youth unemployment, especially among Nigerian graduates, some stakeholders in the educational sector have raised the question of whether the scheme should be scrapped and the yearly allocation used instead to create job opportunities for Nigerian teeming youths.
This is as some alleged that rather than spend the N70 billion, ($194 million) yearly in catering for the over 3,000 corps members, most of whom will end up unemployed, the allocation instead, should be used to create funds for graduates in small and medium enterprises, SMEs. According to Labour Statistics Report of Nigeria, Q4 of 2017, about 7.9 million Nigerian youths aged 15-34 years, are currently unemployed. There is also the report by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, released on Monday, June 5, 2017, which revealed that 58.1 per cent of youths within this age bracket were underemployed. Federal Government has failed us
— Corps members Miss Faith Nnanna, an outgoing Batch A corps member in Sokoto State said although participating in the one year NYSC scheme was fun due to the exposure it afforded her but she regretted that she would soon join the teeming youths being tagged unemployed as there is little or no employment opportunity out there. She said, “The Federal Government has failed woefully in the area of providing jobs for corps members. Year in, year out, thousands of corps members are pushed out with nothing to hold onto.”
The Imo State indigene said that she has made up her mind not to join the bandwagon of job hunters, rather, she has decided to be self-employed. “The fact is that we cannot sit and wait for what does not exist. Presently, I do not have any job opening waiting for me, however, I have decided to start up something,” explained Miss Nnanna. For Miss Ruth Oghene, also an outgoing corps member serving in Ondo State, the scheme would have been better if there were provisions for job opportunities for corps members at the end of the service year. The corps member said rather than make positive use of her monthly stipend of N19,800, she spent the money on travelling for one interview or the other in several states of the federation without headway.
Lamenting her ordeal, Miss Oghene said: “I graduated with a 2.1, Second Class Upper in Economics and Statistics from the University of Ibadan. I was posted to Ondo State for my NYSC which will be over this Thursday. However, the pains of the service year outweigh the gains. All my allowances have been spent on travelling for interviews in different states, yet no positive outcome.
This is because my CV stands out, but there are little or no vacancies. The ones available are being taken by the rich kids. The government should address this, else the scheme should be scrapped.” Is N power the way forward? At the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Npower was introduced to curb unemployment by helping young Nigerians acquire and develop life-long skills.
The scheme was divided into different parts including N-Teach, N-Tech, N-Health, N-Agro, N-Build among others, each being an area of specialisation, designed to engage the Nigerian youths in teaching, technology, agriculture, health. However, three years down the lane, many youths do not see the scheme to be an ideal tool to address the issue of unemployment due to its temporary nature and the delay in the payment of the N30,000 monthly stipend. Expressing doubt over the Federal Government’s plan to eradicate unemployment, Tolulope Oladeinde said N-Power is retrogressive in solving the issue of unemployment in Nigeria. “N-Power has not been able to address youth unemployment as up till now, the government has not released 2017 set list.”
Miss Nnanna said: “I will not apply for N-Power because it is temporary. So government should create more job opportunities, as I want something permanent.” Irked by the alleged gross mismanagement of N70 billion ($194 million) allocated to NYSC yearly by the Federal Government, Mr. Adeogun Oluwakayode, a journalist and one of the moderators of Concerned Parents & Educators Network, CPEN, in a article recently titled: Has NYSC outlived its usefulness? alleged that despite the huge allocation, the scheme was engrossed in mismanagement and corruption.
According to him, “Though the Federal Government allocates about N70 billion ($194 million) to the programme yearly, the NYSC, like many other Nigerian institutions, is riddled with mismanagement and corruption. This results in unreliable officials administering the scheme, a general lack of faith in the NYSC, and complacency among the participants. “I learned a single corps member’s official wears, jungle boots and all, costs over N70,000 on the budget although they may as well go for as low as N10,000 or even less in the real market. So three times a year, someone makes over N50,000 on the head of over a hundred thousand corps members! As if we have no more urgent national needs that require every kobo we can gather,” noted Mr Oluwakayode.
The educator, however, gave some advice to the Federal Government. His words: “The NYSC scheme has been around for decades, and I believe it has run its course. Re-inventing the whole idea, making it optional for graduates, are few options for the government to change the implementation of the scheme. Better still, I wish they (the Nigerian government) will be brave enough to pull the plug and put NYSC out of its misery.” Mrs Juliet Obi, also a member of CPEN said that NYSC should be scrapped, leaving only the three weeks orientation programme and its allocation be used instead to fund small and medium scale businesses. “I will suggest that the three weeks paramilitary training stays while each corps member be given a lump sum on discharge to start up a small scale business of their choice.”
The scheme should not be scrapped Mrs. Tosin Oluwafemi, a graduate of Rivers State University, said: “I think the programme should still continue because once it is stopped, you can’t be sure the funds will be judiciously used to create job opportunities.” Corroborating Mrs. Oluwafemi’s view, Benjamin Ugbanna, a reporter with Ripples Nigeria, noted that scrapping the scheme was not the solution to youth unemploment, rather, lack of investment is the problem. His words: “I would not move for the scrapping of NYSC. We have plenty money and resources to create jobs. That NYSC budget is not the problem with Nigeria.” According to Mrs. Igbafe Oluseye, Lead Consultant, LeadRanked Global Concepts, the scheme should not be scrapped until the Nigerian economy grows to accommodate 70 per cent of the youths.
“The NYSC scheme is the route through which some graduates get jobs, it also enables some to get basic experience and upkeep for some time. I think it’s a great way to introduce graduates into the world of work as most acquire basic competencies in that one year. I don’t think it should be scrapped yet until the economy grows to be able to accommodate at least 70 per cent of fresh graduates into the labour market every year,“ noted Oluseye.