By Anas Uba Ibrahim
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a scheme set up by Nigerian Government to involve the nation’s graduates in the development of the country in 1973. Some of the objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme, as clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June, 1993 include: To 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 raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement; to develop in the Nigerian youths,good attitude and sound mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest; to enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment; to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy; to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration; to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand, the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups etc.
The Nigerian government pays a monthly allowance of N19, 800 to each servingcorp member for a complete year meant for the scheme. However, the amount paid by the Federal Government is not enough to sustain corps members till the end of month.
What triggers me to write this article is the little amount of money that the government pays as allowance which cannot cover the various expenses of corps members.
I would like to start with the orientation camp which marks the beginning of the NYSC scheme. A prospective corp member spends nothing less than an average amount of N20, 000 – N30, 000 to prepare for the camping exercise. On getting to the camp, you would discover that the sockets in the lodges are disconnected from power supply and it is prohibited to charge their phones with the use of any of the available sockets and as such the corps members have to go to the Mami market where they are extorted. The meal provided for the corp member at the camp kitchen cannot satisfy a year-old baby coupled with the fact that the food is always of poor quality while food and other items at the market within the camp is also sold at exorbitant rates. An average expenditure in the camp is about N30, 000,aside the N3, 000 plus corps members pay during registration. You would be given N2, 500 in the camp as if it was enough to cover your transport expenses regardless of the distance of your state.
The real game begins when corps members are given their posting letters. They pay for the vehicles provided by the LGAs to convey them to the LGA Secretariat. Thanks to the religious associations that sometimes save them from another lodging expense. On getting to their Place of Primary Assignments (PPAs), for those who were not rejected, they would be welcomed with a very interested slogan, “NO PAY, NO ACCOMMODATION”. Not considering that the state does not pay as well. To the best of my knowledge, only about 20 percent of the 36 states, including the FCT pay corp members. For those posted to cities, towns, rural areas and remote villages,they spend between N100,000 and N200,000, N70,000 and N80,000, N30,000 and N65,000 and N10,000 – N20,000 respectively on accommodation,excluding household items. Yes, some of the employers provide accommodation but it is only about five percent of them. I observe that no supervision is carried out when private establishments request for corp members, because I have seen corp members sent to small firms that cannot even pay their employees talk more of caring for a corp member. Corp members are being treated unjustly in their PPAs and when they complain, they are being threatened with a query by the employer or extension of service by our coordinators.
In all these, they are expected to survive with N19, 800. They are really suffering, we cannot continue to be quiet and let them die while serving a country that does not care for their well-being. All we keep on hearing is “think of what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you” and as one corps member said,“They forget that when you visit home on three consecutive occasions without biscuits for the children, then you will need to count yourself as an unwanted visitor”.
Days have gone when corp members were respected and given most things free of charge. Nowadays, they do not identify themselves as corp members in the marketplace or bus stops. Just make a mistake and go to the market with your fez cap, you will buy a pepper of N50 at the rate of N200, all in the name of N19, 800 and we are also expected to save for the future.
In conclusion, all the constituted authorities should work towards the increment of the monthly allowance which will make the corps members to be self-reliant and in turn make the objective of the scheme to be achieved; the government should rehabilitate, renovate as well as reconstruct,as the case may be,all orientation camps that are ruined. In order to provide a conducive atmosphere for proper running of the orientation camping across the country; the government should also emphasise on the skill acquisition programme which was also incorporated in the camping activities which will reduce overdependence on government by the teeming graduates to provide white collar jobs; and lastly, the government should provide corps members with the needed welfares for them to be able to serve their fatherland with a greater determination, dedication and perseverance.
– Ibrahim is a student of the Bayero University, Kano.