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NYSC how relevant, how irrelevant?

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THE 2019 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Batch A orientation course resumed in orientation camps across states in Nigeria yesterday. The three weeks exercise mobilises prospective corps members in preparation for the mandatory one-year national service scheme, after which a certificate is awarded.

The NYSC certificate is vital for employment, political office and as necessity may demand for those that met the criteria.

Recently, Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade–Ekehinde reacted to the plight of youth corps members posted to different parts of the country on service to fatherland. She queried the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the plight of corps members mobilised as ad hoc staff for the just concluded general elections in some states.

The popular actress irked by the maltreatment and misfortunes that befell corps members took to her twitter handle to vent her anger on the scheme. She lamented her disappointment over the unconducive atmosphere of which the corps members pass through to serve, using the 2019 general elections to paint the programme in general. Hence, she considers the scheme a waste of time and resources.

National Youth Council of Nigeria, (NYCN) Anambra State Chapter, weeks before the elections, trained youths in the state on patriotism. The nonprofit organization was established among other things to deep-root the culture of nation building and leadership building in our youths. Increase their participation in the society, as well as in the decision-making process. Besides, mobilise, organise, groom young people to be patriotic citizens, and help put them back on track with focus on what they can give back to the society.

The event was held in Awka to sensitise the youth and their task in nation building with the theme “Actualising a Violence-Free Election In 2019; The Role of Youths.” The NYCN holds a similar objective with NYSC and believes in sustaining the scheme.

In the 2019 general elections, some corps members deployed as ad hoc staff in Anambra State were attacked. Gunmen invaded the collation centre in Obosi, where some corps members were waiting to submit result from their polling units and injured them, with one of them sustaining serious inquiries. Another corps member on election duty in Orumba North Local Government Area of the state. was abducted.

In Rivers State, a corps member was killed during the election. Hoodlums who tried to frustrate the conduct of the election in Abonnema area of the state gunned him down.

In a related development, a corps member on election duty in Arogbo Ward 11 in Ese-Odo Local Government of Ondo State lost his life. He died when the boat transporting him and other electoral officers capsized, the corps member did not survive the accident as he drowned, as six others were rescued.

There was also the incidence of corps members killed during the 2015 general elections, besides those injured. In 2016, a corps member was killed during the Rivers State rerun election in Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state. Back in 2011, about 10 corps members NYSC serving as INEC ad hoc staff also reportedly lost their lives to violence.

Outside election related incidence, gunmen stormed the residence of a private school proprietor in Swali, a suburb of the Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital shooting corps members. Suspected cultists stormed their lodge at night and shot two of the three corps members dead, the third sustained serious injury. The corps members, it was gathered, were attached to the private school.

Stories abound of countless corps members who never returned after the scheme. Some people argued that their children, wards and loved ones wouldn’t have died, sustained various degrees of injuries nor misfortunes had they not gone for the NYSC programme.

Corps members are posted from the orientation camps to their place of primary assignment for duration of the scheme. In many instances, they find themselves as cheap source of labour for organisations that pays them peanuts. Just before the orientation camps exercise the call up of prospective corps members is wrath favouritism for people from some parts of the country.

Since the inception of the programme the NYSC headquarters don’t post some prospective corps members beyond their state or zone, General Yakubu Gowon established the National Youth Service Corps scheme by decree No. 24 of 22 May 1973 to involve Nigerian graduates in nation building and the development of the country. The programme was part of measure to heal the scars of the civil war, involving graduates of universities and polytechnics of Nigerian nationals.

The scheme has objectives such as inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves.

To expose them to modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria. Besides raising moral tone of the youth by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement and to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups, among others.

Over the years, the scheme has spurred cultural integration and helped banished the stereotype youths have over other ethnic nationalities in the country, thus, cementing relationship that sometimes culminated into marriages.

Before the war, distrust and suspicion of one ethnic nationality by another thrives, with most youths hardly leaving their areas of birth. Many participants of the scheme have used the programme to build long friendship across the nation.

The programme has filled the gap where some skilled manpower lacks in some organisations and communities. For each posting, more than half of the corps members serve in the educational institutions and as well provided health services in their place of primary assignment.

Through their primary assignments, many corps members have gained better knowledge of the country’s problems by fostering rural development. Many corps members have built projects for various communities which the host communities benefited from.

With these contributions and other laudable inputs by corps members via the NYSC scheme, do we say the killings, maltreatment, and difficulties faced by the corps members calls for the scrap of the programme by the federal government?

A public affairs commentator, Echezonachukwu Emejulu views the scheme as a good initiative but the system in the country not helping matters, “We have heard of corps members used for electoral purposes. The death rate and ill treatment of corps members casts a bad look on the programme. The programme is fraught many other anomalies.

Have you seen a core Muslims, particular ladies, go beyond their states or zones in the name of youth service. The scheme is lopsided just as every other thing in Nigeria is lopsided. The programme needs reviewing.”

A media practitioner, Vivian Onwuka, wants the scheme sustained. She argued that it has launched many corps members into their career paths. “The programme has helped graduates find their passion and as well serve as working experience. Besides, some corps members were retained after their service year in their place of primary assignment. The scheme shouldn’t be scrapped,” she said.

 

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