NYSC at Twenty- By Yushau A. Shuaib
One, two, three, four, five…twenty years. The National Youth Service Corps scheme is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It has truly matured to a dreamy youth-age being the only youth scheme in the history of this country. It has not been easy threading the path of success and weathering the storm of those hectic years.
Established in 1973 by the Yakubu Gowon administration to heal the scars of the bloody civil war, the National Youth Service Corps has come a long way to be recognized as an instrument for national integration, unity and a reservoir of manpower to sustain our battered economy. Today, the success story of the NYSC scheme would not be complete without mentioning those at the helm of its affairs who are also determining factors in its success. They are the various national directors of the NYSC who piloted the scheme at different periods. They all contributed immensely in realizing the lofty objectives of the scheme which, among others, include inculcating discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work and of patriotic and loyal service to the nation in any situation they may find themselves and raising their moral tone by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievements and social and cultural improvement.
One still remains very outstanding in the list of national directors of the scheme. He is Col. Hafiz Momoh. Within two years of his appointment, many commendable changes were recorded.
Before him were five national directors, all colonels in the army. They are Col. A.A. Ali 1973-1975; Col. S.A. Omojokun (now Major General) 1975-1979; Col. P.K. Obasa 1975-1984; Col. Edet Akpan 1984-1988; Col. Animashaun Braimoh 1988-1991. Then came the present indefatigable Col. Momoh whose appointment in 1991 brought radical changes in the scheme. Hafiz Momoh was the first National Director to involve the National Directorate of Employment in imparting entrepreneurial skills in corps members through lectures and short-term soft loans. He was instrumental to the recent upward revision of corps members’ monthly allowance by 100 percent. Even when the federal and state civil servants, academic and non academic staff, were clamouring for an increase in their pays, none of them received up to a hundred per cent increase.
Col. Hafiz Momoh is the first to negotiate with the Technical Aids corps (TAC) in areas where corps members who excel in their various assignments could benefit from the scheme. It is another plus to the unique initiative of the director in making corps members self-reliant. And plans are underway to exhibit outstanding works, inventions and projects of youth corpers throughout the federation, for the first time. The exhibition aims at drawing public attention to the mass consumption and appreciation of the scheme’s efforts in revamping our economy.
Though corpers’ allowance has been increased to N700, corpers remain the lowest-paid federal civil servants. You wonder in the present economic reality what N700 could do to a graduate in catering for his major problems like accommodation, feeding, transportation and clothing. And you still wonder if the corper could save enough for buying petty electronic gadgets, television and even wrist watches
It would be unreasonable to call on the responsive director to once again persuade the federal government to increase the recently lifted allowance by another 100 per cent but there is the need to appeal to him to consider the insurance scheme he introduced last year which provides that in the event of the death of a corper during the service year, the next of kin of the deceased would receive N10, 000 to N20, 000 from the NYSC as compensation.
Though some youth corpers die annually, the death toll does not justify the huge sum of money to be spent on the insurance coverage for each and every serving corper throughout the federation when the equivalent of the amount could sufficiently solve the major problems youth corpers encounter during the service year and what they undergo after their sacrifice to the nation. Why would the scheme not pay the amount as parting gift after the service to enable them to establish a new business or serve as severance gratuity?
At 20, members of NYSC should be encouraged to strive harder with pride in serving their fatherland by improving welfare incentives.
*This article was first published by Triumph May 28, Democrat May 30 1993