One of the most common accusations leveled against Nigerian politicians is that they act as if laws, rules and regulations apply to everyone else except themselves. This is highlighted not only by their serial unconstitutionality and illegalities, but also by their attitude towards the National Youth Service Corps scheme.
Although successful participation in the scheme, and discharge certificate are supposed to be a pre-requisite for any graduate to be employed by government at any level, several Nigerians have reached the pinnacle of government employment having failed to participate in the scheme.
The acronym NYSC is supposed to stand for National Youth Service corps, the mandatory national service scheme for all Nigerians who graduated from university before they were thirty years of age. The rising mortality rate of Youth Corp members has become alarming and youths have renamed it “Now Your Suffering Continues!” Lamentably the entire nation has become a demise arena in which many corps members have lost their lives.
As they travel far from home death appears to lurk around so many corners as they become victims of kidnappers, ritualists, political thugs, highway robbers and road accidents. Indeed in 2018 NYSC authorities said that 95 percent of deaths recorded by serving corps members were due to road accidents. They claimed that fifty-two Corps members were killed in road accidents over the past four years and pleaded that they should cease undertaking “unnecessary” journeys.
Even if they survive their travels, their orientation camps are sub-standard. The poor living facilities include lack of electricity, portable water or standard toilet facilities! Penalties for avoiding service are negligible, in recent memory both Kemi Adeosun and Adebayo Shittu became “Honourable” Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having not participated in the scheme.
Adeosun was later forced to resign, but Shittu stayed put. Previous to this, other Ministers who didn’t present or submit any NYSC certificates were exempted either by the date of their graduation, or lack of a University Degree. Nigerians are concerned to learn that the newly appointed and screened Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy Hannatu Musawa is currently undergoing her service year! Authorities in the NYSC have confirmed that the Minister is a serving corps member whose place of primary assignment is an Abuja Law firm.
Paradoxically as both a Minister and corps member Hannatu is will be paid by government for working between the hours of 8am to 4pm from Monday to Friday at two different locations! This will require her to possess superhuman abilities! Previously Youth Corps members were strictly banned from engaging in other activities.
Even though Nigerians are good at multi-tasking it’s a bit too much to expect that any individual can be serving their nation effectively as a youth and, at the same time, be in full time employment. Reports suggest that President Tinubu may have “altered” sections of the NYSC, to allow youth corps members to take up second employment, and the changes have been implemented immediately thereby making Minister Hannatu Musawa the first beneficiary. Many legal experts consider the appointment to be an illegality which should be rectified immediately.
They point out quite correctly that nobody can be legislated to be in two different locations at the same time! Furthermore, the NYSC laws can only be amended by an act of the National Assembly and not by Presidential fiat. The incorporated Trustees of Concerned Nigeria Chief Eholor and Thomas Markus have filed a suit against President Tinubu seeking a Court Order to nullify Mrs Musawa’s appointment as minister.
They claim it contravenes the provisions of the NYSC Act and Bye-Laws, and seek an injunction setting aside all official action she may have carried out in the capacity of Minister. The plaintiffs are concerned that the Minister’s appointment sets a precedent for all manner of public servants to exercise a right to take up a second full-time employment at a time when there is massive unemployment.
The case brings to the fore the credibility of pre-appointment screening processes by both the security agencies and the Senate. It also begs the question as to the continuing relevance of the NYSC scheme which initially arose out of the necessity to implement schemes designed to enhance unity in the nation after the civil war. The NYSC isn’t national military service. It was expected to inculcate patriotism and the spirit of selfless service in the nation’s youth. Regrettably, today some fifty years after the scheme commenced, Nigerians are less united than they were way back in 1973.
The NYSC has lost focus, is overstretched and been reduced to a conduit for corrupt enrichment in which the welfare of participants is not of primary concern. The initial NYSC ideals have eroded to the extent that these days politicians feel comfortable hiding behind technicalities to cover what is clearly a crime in avoiding serving NYSC at the appropriate time.
They are having their cake and eating it! In the future NYSC dodging is predicted to increase with the burgeoning number of Nigerian youths graduating from overseas universities, who are required to voluntarily present themselves for service rather than being called up like Nigerian university graduates. Such “diaspora” Nigerian youths will eventually represent some of the nation’s best brains and if they are allowed to be appointed without NYSC then in all fairness the scheme should be scrapped because it has outlived its relevance and usefulness.