NYSC: Shopping for support via youth trust fund
When the National Youth Service Scheme was established in 1973, it was not envisaged that a country that just survived a civil war was going to experience population explosion in the nearest future.
Also, considering the immense job opportunities available for graduates at the time, none ever dreamt that graduate unemployment will assume its present proportion.
But almost 48 years down the line, the scheme, established to unite the people through socio-cultural instruments has broadened in scope and vision.
As youth unemployment continues to soar, the scheme, which, in recent times, has been churning out over 350,000 corps members annually, is equally confronted with designing strategies for mitigating youth unemployment and its attendant consequences.
One of such introductions is Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED), aimed at preparing corps members for post-service life.
As lofty as the initiative is however, provision of start-up fund for small businesses is crucial to its success. So, for proper funding of activities of the scheme, Director General of the scheme, Brig General Shuaibu Ibrahim, proposed an establishment of a trust fund to be called NYSC Youths Trust Fund. In view of the prevailing socio-economic challenges confronting the country, Nigerians have come to embrace the idea.
To kick-start debate and awareness on the imperative of the proposed fund, the service organised a two-day symposium with the theme, “Consolidating the gains of NYSC in youth empowerment and national development in the face of current economic realities: The imperatives of a trust fund.”
At the forum were traditional rulers, government functionaries, parents and corps members. Ibrahim noted that the essence was to engender greater appreciation of the imperative of the trust fund and to generate ideas that will facilitate its actualisation. He decried heavy financial burden, which the Federal Government grapple with to sustain the scheme.
“It may interest you to know that the Federal Government bears the heavy cost of running the scheme through feeding, medical services for corps members and course officials during orientation course; provision of other logistics for orientation and post-orientation operations; payment of corps members’ monthly personal allowances; payment of transport allowances, provision of corps members’ kit items; Insurance of corps members as well as staff welfare and training.”
According to him, the exponential rise in corps population has brought with it, the demand for commensurate allocation of resources.
“While State and local governments have demonstrated commitment to the discharge of their statutory obligations to the scheme, other equally pressing needs seem to make the resource allocation inadequate.
“Consequently, the scheme contends with problems militating against its smooth operations, especially in the area of provision of start-up capital for corps members trained during the SAED, inadequate orientation camp facilities, inadequate accommodation for corps members, non-release of subvention by some state governments and dwindling support for community development service.”
“The fund is expected to strengthen the operations of the scheme in the same manner the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, the Police Equipment Trust Fund and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund aid the operations of tertiary educational institutions, the Nigeria Police and the oil and gas industry respectively.
“The ripple effects of this will be such that the benefitting Corps members will in turn, create jobs for millions of other Nigerians through either step-down of vocational training or direct employment of youths of the host communities. This will surely help to accelerate the growth of the nation’s economy as well as drastically reduce restiveness, violence and criminal tendencies amongst the youths.”
He therefore appealed for the support of all stakeholders towards actualising the Fund.
“This will be one of the most valuable gifts of the nation to its youths in whose enormous potentials the hope of a greater Nigeria rests. As managers of the Scheme, we wish to assure the federal government and indeed, the generality of Nigerians that such a laudable initiative will be justified through greater commitment to the success of NYSC mandate”, he stated.
The Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammadu Bello, who was represented by the Director, Youths and Social Development, Asabe Umaru, said the time is apt for the establishment of the Fund, and urged Nigerians to support it.
For the chairman, House Committee on Youths and Sport, Adaramodu Yemi, the bill establishing the fund will receive speedy attention whenever it is brought before the House. Describing NYSC as catalyst for Nigeria’s unity, he called for its sustenance in the face of daunting socio-economic challenges.
National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, described the fund as an idea, which time has come. Expressing the need for a transparently administered trust fund, Onwubiko said the idea will definitely change the fortunes of the scheme and its participants dramatically.
Noting that graduate unemployment has remained one of Nigeria’s greatest challenges, he stated that a Trust Fund with legislative backing and draws its funding from a stipulated percentage of profits of corporate organisations in Nigeria will address the problem of endless search for white-collar jobs.
He said: “The NYSC Trust Fund is designed to assist them with seed capital based on the stipulations of the Act establishing it, to try their entrepreneurial skills and possibly, transform into employers of labour. It is a foundation to self-reliance and financial independence.
“Truly, the moments of joblessness after graduation and the mandatory service year are frustrating and quite traumatic. It stains the joy and pride of citizenship. So, an effectively managed NYSC Youth Trust Fund will be another method of tackling massive youth employment in the country.”
A representative of the traditional ruler of Abaji described the scheme as one of the best things to happen to Nigeria. Aside helping youths to appreciate people from other cultures, it helps in reducing crimes.
On the trust fund, the traditional ruler stated that 10 per cent of what government spends in curbing insurgency would be enough to establish the fund.
“The insecurity situation in the country is being caused by the youths. If the government can give 10 per cent of the money spent in curbing insurgency to establish the trust fund, it will go a long way in reducing crime. Nobody should think of scrapping NYSC. For us to move from where we are, the scheme should be properly funded. I am proud of the scheme and that is the reason we are here. If it is something that is negative, we will not like to be associated with it.”
Corps members at the event applauded the scheme for providing opportunity for practical training.
“The scheme is highly beneficial to youths, especially with the introduction of SAED. I am training in ICT and I hope to obtain certificate at the end of my training. I don’t see any reason for scrapping NYSC. Rather, I am joining in appealing to government to establish the fund so that a lot of youths will be taken off the streets”, a corps member named Sambo Isaac said.
Akinrinmola Vincent, who graduated from Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) said until his posting to Abuja, he had not been to the FCT.
Aside enjoying NYSC scheme, he also sees the proposed trust fund as a good step in the right direction. “Many of us are engaged in different skills and if funds are made available at the end of the training, we can start our own businesses.”
Also, Alfa Salamatu, who graduated from University of Abuja is also engaged in the SAED programme. “I have learnt a lot of handwork. I am proud of our DG for all he is doing to help us.