Opinion: Purging the hypocritical NYSC scheme of its remaining sharp practices

by Jotalo Samuel

In the third quarter of 2015, August to be precise, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FG) announced the Treasury Single Account, TSA. The TSA was not a new strategic concept. It was just not implemented under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

This noble policy was a fiscal strategy aimed at blocking financial leakages, promoting transparency and preventing further mismanagement of public till, as widely witnessed in Jonathan’s haphazard government. This no doubt, was one message of intent syndicated through the President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.

The TSA, as we all know, has yielded undeniable results in many Nigerian institutions that had been perforated with corruption in the past. This is evident in institutions like the NNPC-if you prefer- call it, the four towers of corruption- with the military, police and other para-military agencies, federal ministries and government parastatals and even the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme at the opportunity cost of Nigeria’s youth.

It is wicked that the NYSC scheme is still impregnated with a variety of sharp practices. These sharp practices are common knowledge but this writer would reveal them (some if not all) for emphasis. This time, unlike before, I expect that urgent attention be given by the FG to rebrand, redefine and reposition or perhaps even remove the mess and waste that is the bungling NYSC scheme.

It is in record that between 1967 to 1970, Nigeria witnessed a bloody civil war. In that war, millions of innocent Nigerians received the hard knocks of death in an utterly gruesome manner. The traumatic after-effects of that 30-months-old war led to mass illiteracy, acute shortage of manpower (a national delinquent that the NYSC scheme was poised to address), inadequate socio-economic infrastructural facilities, and many more.

However, at the end of that civil war, there was a dire need for thorough rehabilitation, reconciliation and reconstruction programmes because of the after war effects aforementioned. Goals and objectives were set as a roadmap to ensure a dynamic economy, a democratic society and a united, strong and self-reliant nation.

There and then, as a way of looking beyond the trauma of the time and focusing on a future which would largely depend on the youth, the mobilization of a certain category of the youth through the NYSC Scheme started.

The NYSC was then established by a Decree No 24 of May 22, 1973 by General Yakubu Gowon (which now repealed is replaced by the National Youth Service Corps Act, Cap. N84 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004). The scheme at its inception had some sorts of pros and prestige, I must say.

Now, it is a total deviation from the memorable past. Of course, many Nigerians as observed know and believe the NYSC has evidently exceeded its erstwhile usefulness.

The NYSC scheme is wont of boasting four cardinal programmes. They are: Orientation Course, Primary Assignment, Community Development Service (CDS) and Winding-Up or Passing Out Ceremony. The NYSC expects every corps member to participate in all these programmes mentioned before they are NYSC certified.

That said, entering the main issues. Corps members’ welfare in Orientation Camps are nothing to write home about. Many of the NYSC Orientation Camps across the country are not equipped with necessary and sufficient camping facilities. Some of Nigeria’s NYSC camps have no potable water.

Hostels are in dilapidated or dilapidating state. Health care facilities are not properly funded. It should administer first aid treatment but sorry to say, still grapple with inadequate first aid materials. Yet still, camp clinics lack clinical materials or equipment to meet up with camp casualty demands.

Rest rooms and bathrooms, most times are not convenient and conducive for use. They are for many months left in a state of smell and litter for prospective corps members to clean up for use.

In fact, due to the unhealthy state of some of the toilet facilities, ladies are mostly (guys inclusive) susceptible to toilet infections. Going by the state of the NYSC Orientation Camps and the body language of some of the State Governors to the scheme, one is compelled to ask why a State of Emergency has not been declared on the NYSC scheme in general?

According to credible sources in the NYSC and most importantly, serving corp members, the feeding of Corps members (confirmed graduates from various academes) which is part of their welfare package is nothing of worth. It is equivalent and such as that given to condemned prisoners in their prison cells.

It is public knowledge- I think-that the feeding cost per corps member is 1,500 naira per day. By design or default, every corps member is entitled to 3 full square meals per day at the money rate of 500 naira per one-meal.

This meal ratio directive was obeyed on camp but with some level of impunity and corruption. It is quite unfortunate that no corps member ate an aggregate meal of 1,500 naira per day or a fractional meal of 500 naira. Don’t many of us eat in all these local restaurants and eateries and spend less than 500 naira for a satisfying dish?

This is another case of wickedness and corruption, which those that perpetrate such will pay with their future generations.

They make the corps members not even half satisfied with food under the sun and in the rain, making them depend on the camp market for more food at higher costs. Why must they reduce the estimated food ration (especially during this 2016 Batch A, Stream I camp programme)? Why must Nigerians steal all the time?

Doesn’t the conscience prick Nigerians sometimes? Why must Nigerians continue to be the only clog in the wheel of our national progress? Why should we continue to undermine the effort of the FG so that it could be subjected to public scrutiny for an offence it didn’t commit?

Why can’t we for once do things the way it should be done, spend money appropriately and accordingly-without any form of thieving- for the designated use? Shall we continue to toe this immoral and debauched path and claim all is well with the NYSC scheme?

Primary assignment, just like I noted earlier is one of the four cardinal programmes of the NYSC. In fact, Primary assignment + CDS = 19,800 naira. This goes to show the importance of Place of Primary Assignment, PPA. Yet, the NYSC concerning PPAs is very insensitive, corrupt and dishonest ab initio. Primary assignment is the major task of corps members after their orientation course.

This is a period during which corps members are posted to work in various government establishments and private organizations to render service to the nation. After all, the motto of NYSC is service and humility.

Nevertheless, the service guide had stated clearly that: “at the close of the orientation course, corps members are posted to places of primary assignments relevant to their discipline”. Let me add a euphemistic phrase for emphasis. Corps member are posted to the places “relevant to their specific discipline and training.” The clause is: “where their services are mostly needed.” The catchphrase, “relevant to their discipline” should be the precondition for posting or reposting.

Why should some Corp members be posted to a non-existent establishment? Also, for instance, what business do engineering graduates have with teaching in schools when there are enough trained graduate teachers? What business do first-class graduates have to do with secondary schools or technical colleges when their domain should be a university or other higher institutions of learning?

Inappropriately, some second class upper graduates are posted to universities at the expense of first class graduates from reputable and accredited institutions. To do what? It is a big time dismay that the recently erstwhile NYSC Director General, DG lied to the face of Nigerians in reputable national dailies that all first-class graduates will surely be posted to institutions of higher learning in 2015.

Well, from my interview with many that have passed through the scheme in recent years and are at present corpers, the NYSC is an organization full of dishonest and hypocritical officials at all levels.

Let me put the records straight for clarity. The NYSC scheme does not encourage career development and it is killing the national sense of self-employment, the imperative to curbing unemployment. Entrepreneurial development and career development are not the same.

This is one thing the NYSC scheme has failed to understand like dummies. Take or leave, not all corps members can be entrepreneurs and vice-versa. Some are better-placed as career persons and vice-versa. The NYSC scheme must as a matter of urgency be redefined.

This is the time we purge the NYSC scheme of its corrupt practices like doublemindedness, cheating, prejudicial justice, lobbying, bribery, etc. These sharp practices are gradually subjecting the scheme to a fuss. At this critical juncture, I crave the indulgence of readers to cross the threshold for a short take.

Professional bodies are organisations whose members are individual professionals. They have roles even though not all has regulatory functions. One of the roles of professional bodies is to provide career support and opportunities for students, graduates and other working class citizens.

The posting of the recent corps members (Batch A, Stream I, 2016) has showed that many professional bodies are dead to the world. Take for instance, the Nigeria Society of Engineers, NSE which is the professional body of engineers in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, it is chief amongst the slumbering professional agents we have in Nigeria. What is the essence of a professional body if the interest of registered members or potential members can no longer be protected under any circumstance?

I strongly recommend that the NSE tender an unreserved apology to all its student and graduate members who were “unfortunate” in these NYSC deliberate postings. However, they must not stop at that. They must enter a legal social contract with NYSC (it is not in place yet) and complete modalities that will ultimately ensure that engineers are posted to places relevant “only” to their discipline and their career development.

Even so, discretion in line with professional ethics could be applied as deemed fit depending on the circumstance.
Going back to the main discourse. President Muhammadu Buhari once said, “I firmly believe in (the) NYSC and I think it should remain a national programme to promote integration.”

The honourable president must therefore know that the present state of the NYSC scheme cannot bring his desired results to fruition. The president must radically change the status-quo of the NYSC if he truly believes in this youth scheme. What good does a nation derive from celebrating mediocrity at the expense of excellence? As it stands, we must collectively stand against the unfair activities of some higly hypocritical NYSC state coordinators, zonal and local officials.

In the light of the above, it is imperative that the NYSC scheme (before it is scrapped, if further events prove it so) must be purged of its remaining sharp practices. For this alone, has made a mockery of the scheme both at local and international levels.

However, we still entrust the daunting task of cleaning up the NYSC messes to President Buhari, the Federal Executive Council and the inept National Assembly. The president and they must therefore know that history prefers legends to men. It prefers nobility to cruelty.

It prefers soaring speeches to quiet deeds. President Muhammadu Buhari must also know that this present NYSC scheme intended to drive his administration’s change mantra is terribly sick and a terribly-sick-driver is vulnerable to accidents anytime of the day.

In view of this, necessary actions must (sooner rather than later) be quickly taken to sustain the programme which according to the President Buhari is still relevant for national integration and unity.

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Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Jotalo, Samuel O. is a graduate Engineer writes from Kwara State. He can be reached via [email protected]

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