Prof. Athahiru Jega, former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has recommended that the one-year National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) should not be made mandatory.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the NYSC 50th anniversary celebration in Abuja on Monday, he said if any activity should be mandatory, then it should be only with the military.
He said the youth service corps ought to be voluntary for youths with proper qualifications and high CGPAs.
According to him, the best graduates who indicate interest should be selected for the exercise hence, adequate provisions should be made such as funding and facilities to enable them function well during the service programme.
Jega noted that the selected ones should also be mentored so that they are trained to occupy special positions in the country.
However, he insisted that if it must be mandatory for the massive number graduates that turn out from higher institutions for the programme, then all the resources and facilities to make it effective and impactful must be provided.
Jega noted that the remunerations of Corp members were poor, hence it was because a huge number of corps members were mobilised into youth service amidst dwindling and inadequacy of resources.
He said the security of corps members should be taken seriously so as to end the agitation for scrap the scheme.
Amongst other challenges he mentioned which the scheme suffered was lack of coporation by some state and local governments who have refused to lend their statutory support to the scheme.
Jega also noted that the fraudulent enlistment of unqualified and/or fake graduates by tertiary institutions in Nigeria were part of the challenges faced by the scheme.
“I recommend that NYSC should be made voluntary but with qualifications. Take the best graduates who want to participate who are interested in participating for the exercise and adequate provisions should be made such as funding, facilities, mentorship so that they are trained to occupy special positions in the country.”
“If the must provide mandatory, then provide all the resources and facilities to make it effective and impactful.”
“If any activity doesn’t have to do with the military, then it should not be mandatory especially if it is supposed to have value to the country and for it to achieve it’s effective purpose,” he said.
On the contrary, Deputy Governor, Oyo State, Adebayo Lawal opined that the one year service scheme should remain mandatory.
He said the existence of the scheme has helped to inculcate discipline in the youths who have passed through the as well as help to promote unity and development in the country.
He also noted that the scheme has helped to validate the degrees which a lot of dignitaries claimed to have had, stating that most politicians have to be verified by NYSC to ascertain if they actually graduated and served.
Speaking at the event, Minister for Youths and Sports, Mr Sunday Dare acknowledged that part of the achievements of the scheme was seen during the lock-down when corps members engaged in production of preventive materials such as face masks, hand sanitizers, automated hand washing equipment and disinfectants among others and distributed them free to complement government effort in the fight against the virus.
He also stated that “it was a replication of what the NYSC did in rolling back the menace of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the Ebola virus through awareness campaigns which saved our dear country from the ugly experience of other developing countries.”
Delivering his welcome address, Director General of the scheme, Brigadier General Yushau Dogara Ahmed mandate and objectives of the scheme was admired by
some other African countries such as Gambia, hence, the scheme helped to establish a “National Youth Service Scheme, modeled after the NYSC, but with a different structure and operational guidelines for them.”
He said, “Conscious of the dynamism of society, and in order to articulate a renewed vision for the Scheme, I have carefully outlined five policy thrusts, focusing on the welfare and security of both Corps Members and staff, research development, stakeholders’ engagement, capacity development and deepening the impact of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development as a sustainable means of addressing post-service unemployment.”