In a nation grappling with decrepitating insecurity, Awaji Inombek Abiante, a member of the House of Representatives, recently introduced a bill proposing the scrapping of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) as one of the solutions to the unrelenting attacks of terrorism, banditry and other crimes.
According to the lawmaker, “The bill seeks to repeal Section 315(5) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended) on the following grounds:
“Incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence.
“Public and private agencies/departments are no longer recruiting able and qualified Nigerian youths.
“They rely heavily on the availability of corps members who are not being well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year, without any hope of being gainfully employed.
“Due to insecurity across the country, the National Youth Service Corps management now gives consideration to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone.’’
NYSC was established in 1973 after the Nigerian Civil War and was designed to promote Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation towards bridging the ethnic and religious divisions in the country and to foster the spirit of nationalism.
Initially, it was mandatory for all Nigerian graduates of tertiary institutions – universities, polytechnics and Colleges of Education. Later, it was restricted to only those below the age of 30. Also, holders of the National Certificate in Education (NCE) were subsequently excluded.
Its implementation formula designed by the government of General Yakubu Gowon in 1973 was to move corps members to various parts of the country outside their base to understand and appreciate other peoples’ culture and religion. In doing so, this fosters national unity and national integration.
In addition, the scheme provides a smooth transition from school to the job market. It helps participants to learn about the work environment before seeking actual jobs.
Whichever side of the argument one is, it is very clear that the NYSC has achieved its major objective of promoting national unity as young men and women travel to different states and regions other than their own, interacting and living with people they may never have met in life.
It has helped Nigerians to understand other Nigerians’ ways of doing things, increasing inter-ethnic bonds and even marriages.
Despite the obvious positive sides of NYSC, it is unfortunate that some Nigerians like Abiante and his colleagues think it should be scrapped. Meanwhile, the new bill does not cover instituting another scheme where Nigerians congregate together from different religious, ethnic and regional backgrounds.
If at all the scheme is facing challenges as claimed by the lawmaker, what he and his colleagues should do is seek ways of addressing those challenges. If we throw away things just because of some challenges, very soon, every scheme in the country will be scrapped. It is incomprehensible that at a time like this where anything that can unite citizens should be promoted, a lawmaker is asking that we should scrap one of the things that has helped move Nigerians across the country and foster relationships. By allowing this bill to pass the second reading, it is obvious that the lawmakers are only interested in taking the easy way out of problems. They are merely chasing the symptoms of insecurity and not the fundamentals and have left undone what they ought to be doing and pursuing things that are unnecessary.
The NYSC did not create the insecurity and it is part of the responsibility of the National Assembly to create the enabling environment for it to thrive. Insecurity, at the moment, affects all parts of the country and sectors, do we then scrap the House of Representatives because of that?
Calling for the scrap of the NYSC which has been here for 48 years is a joke taken too far on a scheme that has in no small measure united Nigerians. If anything, the scheme should be reviewed based on the current realities. The NYSC orientation camp should be extended to incorporate the training of participants on self-defence, vocational skills and entrepreneurship.
As much as we recognise the role of legislators in law making, they must focus on issues that will unite the country and formulate laws that will help tackle insecurity and promote good governance.