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Just a couple of years ago, a court of competent jurisdiction, in its wisdom ruled that Nigerians do no longer need the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate for appointment into ministerial and, ipso facto, other public offices at the federal, state and other levels. The implication of that judgement which many Nigerians have refused to come to terms with is that the NYSC scheme has outlived its usefulness and relevance to the lives of the youth and elderly of contemporary Nigeria besides being a mandatory clog that sadly denies qualified citizens job opportunities.
It will be recalled that the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided by Honourable Justice Taiwo Taiwo in the case of Folakemi Adeosun v The Attorney General of the Federation (FHC/ABJ/CS/303/2021) ruled on Wednesday, the 7th of July that the applicant does not need the NYSC certificate for appointment into public office at both state and federal levels.
For those who have some basic understanding of how the law works, the judgement was clearly at variance with the NYSC law, which stipulates that the one-year-long service is compulsory for all Nigerians who graduate from universities or equivalent institutions before their 30th birthday.
This situation sheds more light on how confused, lawless, and tactless the Nigerian society is and this has continued to worsen.
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To further buttress this, a look at Section 13 of the NYSC Law is quite interesting because it stipulates that eligible Nigerians who skipped the service are liable to a sentence of twelve months imprisonment and/or N2,000 fine. Given the fact that the certificate is a mandatory requirement to secure public and private jobs, it is therefore considerably irrational that it is not necessary for a public office appointment.
The NYSC scheme was put in place by the Yakubu Gowon junta after the ill-fated bloody genocide against Biafrans who were from Eastern Nigeria. Through his machinations, the country needed to unite, and the scheme was promulgated to achieve that. However, recent developments in the polity have clearly shown that over 50 years after the genocidal war, the country is still at crossroads as far as genuine peace and journey to nationhood is concerned.
Since then, the scheme has remained a useless time waster that adds little or no value to its partakers and the truth remains that it will serve the Nigerian masses better to scrap it for something else.
Given the level of insecurity in the country today, any individual with a conscience will agree that allowing the scheme to continue to exist is certainly going to remain counter-productive. When one factor in how ‘youth corpers’ have recently become the targets of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, assassins, robbers and election riggers’ and other desperate non-state actors, in recent times, it will only be wise of the federal government to immediately scrap the NYSC and cancel its mandatory requirement for securing public and private jobs. The big question however remains, is the federal government wise?
The fact that till today, the government is yet to review the scheme despite the level of volatility that has engulfed the country leaves so much to be desired.
It is not debatable that the conditions that warranted the establishment of the NYSC no longer exist. It is only for selfish reasons that the scheme is allowed to run because some top government officials are reaping huge benefits from it on the grave of those being killed. This aptly explains how insensitive and unpatriotic Nigerians can be.
At some point, the national youth service used to be relatively fun notwithstanding the shortcomings, however, that is no longer the same today. The story of how insecure Nigeria is has made parents and guardians reconsider allowing their wards to accept the national danger call which used to be a national call to duty before now. Many youths are no longer eager to go for the service for fear of dying. For some that even accept the challenge, they simply go to camps in states that are considered unsafe and redeploy to states of their choice. What purpose is the scheme then serving?
Having suffered to go through the rigours of obtaining education in Nigeria which saw them train up to tertiary education, one cannot just embark on a mission that may end in death. The spate of deaths has made corps members become endangered species and that is unacceptable. Many stories have been told about how families lost their only child after they invested all their life raising that child. Such families are perpetually devastated and ruined all thanks to the NYSC scheme.
Across the country, death is lurking everywhere – on the highways, orientation camps, corps member’ quarters, on the streets, etc. It is so bad that lately, corps members are made target of political thuggery. There are kidnappers, ritual killers, and rapists, among other violent groups that target corps members.
Whereas Nigerians live with insecurity daily, the case of corps members is worsened by the fact that they are in an unfamiliar environment where they are easily identified and targeted. It is very serious. This lamentation is based on the hundreds of corps members that have lost their lives. Why then should the scheme continue?
The question is how many more innocent NYSC members would have to die before something is done to stop this morbid turn of events? In all of the deaths, the NYSC is economical with the truth of what happened or how the corps member died. Parents are always left in the dark as to what exactly happened. For how long will this absurdity continue?
The uselessness of the scheme is so obvious that even the so-called NYSC orientation camps are like blighted ghettos that have nothing good for human comfort. There are no good facilities; no water, no electricity, and no good toilets. In a 21st-century Nigeria, virtually all the NYSC camps in the country use pit latrines.
The NYSC scheme has failed to tap into the dynamism and creativity of Nigerian youths despite its many years of existence. At the expiration of their two weeks stay in detention centres they refer to as camps, many of the participants when posted, are simply posted to teach in secondary and primary schools.
It is shockingly amazing how Nigerians have failed to see the dangerous error in allowing youth corpers to teach in their classrooms where their leaders are raised instead of insisting on professionally trained teachers who are in the profession because they want to. Well, the truth that many people must come to terms with is that it is one thing to know Maths, Economics, Biology or Literature, and yet it is another thing to know how to teach it. The fact that administrators in the educational sector do not consider this simple fact is a grave indictment as far as the consideration for education is concerned. Little wonder why one of the strong reasons why the educational system in the country is failing.
Again, rather than making itself a vehicle to redistribute trained manpower, what the NYSC is doing is that it is worsening the unemployment situation as those who would have offered them employment shut the doors because they get free cheap labour every year. With millions of graduates bursting the labour market in Nigeria, there is no need to talk about redistributing manpower as was the case in 1973.
Today, there are millions of graduates all over the country to the extent that every state has enough trained manpower to carry out its economic activities. Despite the rich natural and human endowments the country has, the country is still very unproductive, yet corps members are sent to camps yearly.
What must be emphatically stated is that those still using the situation of the country in 1973 to perpetuate the NYSC scheme are dishonest people. Today, the NYSC has become a conduit for corrupt self-enrichment by those managing it and this is exactly why they are insisting on retaining the unproductive scheme.
Finally, the scheme should be scrapped because it has outlived its usefulness. The purpose that gave rise to it has changed. Government should come up with a more proactive scheme for the youth. Government must endeavour to pay compensation for all the lives that have been lost, even though, no amount paid will replace the colossal loss of a child whose life was cut short.
It is high time Nigerians ended the circus and focus on important things. The NYSC as a matter of national urgency should be scrapped. This will remove its many injustices and vices from the plethora of ills in the Nigerian body politic and give the country a clear chance to start thinking out of the box. The right time is today not tomorrow.