NYSC reform is necessary 

The Minister of Youth Development, Dr. Jamila Ibrahim, on Monday revealed that: “the Federal Government is set to embark on a comprehensive review, restructuring, and reform of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to meet the demand of the future. She added that the reforms will be centered on sensitising participants with entrepreneurship mindset and making skills development the core of the programme. As part of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund programme for 2024, I’m also pleased to announce that at least 5,000 corps members will have their entrepreneurial ventures funded with up to N10 million passing out”.

The NYSC is a compulsory scheme for graduates of the universities and polytechnics of not above 30 years of age as at the time of graduation. The scheme was established on May 22, 1973. It was initiated at a time when the country’s peaceful co-existence was very “fragile” after the 30 months old civil war (1967-1970). The aftermath of the Nigerian civil war led to “distrust”, “immobility”, “grief”, “anger” and “bitterness” across Nigeria.

However, the scheme has so many objectives, but its primary objective is to facilitate national unity among Nigerians. Fifty years after its creation, there are at least three categories of Nigerians with different opinions on the scheme. There are those who want it scrapped. There are those who want it to be optional, and those who want a reform in global best practice.

I belong to the category of those who seek its reform. Permit me to state that it is long overdue that we need a reform of the scheme. For us to get it right we must look at our modern day challenges, including graduate unemployment. Graduate unemployment is on the rise in our dear country due to the fact that about 300,000 graduates or even more from NYSC are on annual basis being added to the already saturated labour market. 

It is sad to note that there are no jobs for our graduates in Nigeria for commiting no offence. There are equally no jobs for non-graduates in the country. Is this not a time bomb for the country? Something urgently needs to be done to address the looming danger in the country. There is a popular saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. For us to get it right, the government must be alive to its responsibility.

The bitter truth is that successive governments have done little or nothing on the issue of joblessness. The government has failed in its responsibility to create the enabling environment for the private sector driven jobs to be provided to the people. For us to get it right, it is high time the government lived up to its responsibility. Government must create the enabling environment for the growth and development of private sector investments in order to create jobs for the teeming jobless youth in the country.

In my observation, in reforming the scheme, government has a very big problem to deal with. A greater number of our graduates and their parents consider government jobs as the only real jobs. Many Nigerians do not believe in self-reliance or private sector driven jobs. However, it appears that the government is always interested in helping the graduates to be self-reliant. This has not worked, so far!

There were several initiatives on how to solve the problem of graduate unemployment through the NYSC scheme by successive governments. These included: (1) NYSC’s Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme, (2) Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES), an initiative targeted at empowering graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities with entrepreneurial skills for entrepreneurship development, economic development and job creation, (3) Bank of Industry (BoI) interest-free loan scheme for members of NYSC under its Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund (GEF) programme, (4) NYSC Foundation, a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit and private sector-driven organisation founded by former corps members. It provides soft loans to entrepreneurs who are both former and serving corps members, and (5) Commercial Banks Loan for Entrepreneurship Development, etc.

For government to solve the problem of graduate unemployment through self-reliance, it must make the graduates to first believe in and accept self-reliance as a means of livelihood. It is a question of ideology, and or psychology. Government must device strategies that will change the national psyche from the endless search for non-existent government jobs to embracing self-reliance. 

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other relevant government agencies must embark on national orientation programmes that will change the perception of Nigerian youth in order to move away from their continuous anticipation of non-existent government jobs to embracing self-reliance.

The reform should also involve the private sector. If government is sincere it must work very hard in creating enabling environment for both local and foreign direct investments for private sector driven jobs. We must get our economic, energy ,trade, and investment policies right. 

However, the scheme is still very useful for the following reasons:(1) The bulk of the adhoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of elections at both national and state levels; (2) NYSC members fill in the shortages of teachers in secondary schools, polytechnics and colleges of education; (3) NYSC members who are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, etc fill in the shortages or lack of medical personnel in rural hospitals and (4) NYSC members mobilise funds for community projects in rural areas, etc.

Finally, our dear servicing corps members are facing the following challenges which need to be addressed: (1) Poor welfare; (2) Security concerns; (3) Lack of health insurance; (4) Accomodations problem; (5) Life after service, etc.

May God bless Nigeria!

Nurudeen Dauda,

Kaduna, Kaduna state