National Youth Service Corps’ repeal bill: To be or not?
There has been mixed reaction over the recent bid by the National Assembly to repeal the law setting-up the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). This followed the bill sponsored by Hon. Awayi-Inombek Abiante, who argued that the Scheme should be scrapped. Abiante listed insecurity, incessant killings of corps members as well as the inability of firms to absolve corps members after one year service due to the failing economy, as some of the reasons NYSC should be scrapped.
This proposal has generated controversy among Nigerians. While some agree with him, others think it is a futile effort to victimise an agency as a result of societal ills it didn’t create. The Scheme is a creation of the law and so, must also be scrapped through the process of the law. To successfully do that, its enabling Act will have to be repealed.
According to Section 19 of the NYSC Act, any person aggrieved by any decision of the Directorate or by the exercise of its power under this Act shall have the right of appeal to the Presidency in the first instance and the Presidency may, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act and subject to the approval of the National Defence and Security Council, confirm or reverse the decision of the Directorate or take such further measures in relation to the appeal as he may think just before any action may be commenced in any court of law in Nigeria.
The Act reads: “Notwithstanding subsection (I) of this section all the amendments to the repealed enactment and all the subsidiary instruments made thereunder shall be deemed to have been made under this Act; and any call up letter, register kept, registration effected, certificate issued, notice given, return made or thing done under the repealed enactment, which immediately before the date of commencement of this Act was in force or effect shall continue in force and have effect as if made, kept, effected, issued, given, made or done under the corresponding provisions of this Act; and any form used and the requirement as to the particulars to be entered in any form for the purposes of the repealed enactment, which was in force or effect immediately before the date of commencement of this Act shall continue in force and have effect as things prescribed under this Act with forms or particulars so prescribed.”
For purposes of clarification, Nigerian government in 1973 under the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon set up the NYSC. The aim was to involve Nigerian graduates in nation building and the development of the country.
The scheme, which was established after the Nigerian civil war, was designed to promote reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation.
It was also set up to bridge ethnic and religious divisions in the country and to foster the spirit of nationalism. The scheme was established based on decree No.24, which states that ‘the programme was created with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the Youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.
NYSC was mandatory at the initial stage for all graduates of tertiary institutions, but the age was later pegged at 30 years, while holders of National Certificate in Education (NCE) were excluded. Those above 30 are given exemption certificated by the Corps.
Reacting to the bill to repeal the Scheme, the Director General of NYSC, Brigadier Shuaibu Ibrahim, insisted that the scheme is critical to the unity of the country. According to him, the Scheme is not a waste of time. He added that its relevance in integration and national cohesion must not be underestimated.
Ibrahim said NYSC has been a useful tool for the socio-economic development of the country through the deployment of Corps members to states outside their base, adding that Corps members contribute in many ways to the lives of residents of their host communities.
Also, some members of the National Assembly have opposed the scrapping of NYSC, saying they would not support the move. The Chairman, House Committee on Youth, Yemi Adaramodu, insisted that the lawmakers would not outlaw the programme. According to him, the NYSC is the most successful national programme.
“Anybody is free to sponsor a bill, but the Speaker and the rest of the House believe that the scheme has come to stay. The Scheme is going nowhere and it is not the plan of the National Assembly to scrap it. I want to let you know that we are with you and for you. We are together,” he told supporters of the Scheme.
Lawyers have also kicked against scrapping the scheme. In the opinion of Ayo Ademiluyi, NYSC can’t be scrapped just like that. “It takes serious legal process to repeal the NYSC Act, which is the enactment of the National Assembly, incorporating the scheme through a Decree made by the Federal Military government that initiated the NYSC,” he said.
He explained that the process of repealing the NYSC Act is to introduce a Repeal Bill by a member of the House of Representatives or a senator; an executive Bill or a private Bill by a citizen of Nigeria. “The Bill will pass through all the stages of passage of Bill into law by the National Assembly. The legal effect of repealing the Act is that there won’t be National Youth Service Corps for graduates. The relevant provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, providing for compulsory National Service would need to be repealed also,” he said.
In his opinion, he said, the Scheme shouldn’t be repealed, but should be upgraded to make it flexible for corps members to get places of primary assignment, increase their pay and ensure access to jobs when they are done with their national service.
An Abia based lawyer, Mike Ibeneme, said abrogating NYSC would be legal if the National Assembly adheres to due process. “In effect, if the National Assembly feels that the aims and objectives of NYSC as provided in the Act that established it have been defeated, they have the right to amend or repeal the said Act. And this will involve the two chambers of the National Assembly voting in favour of scrapping the scheme and it must be supported by two-third of the majority,” Ibeneme explained.
Daniel Asomugha, also a lawyer, said part of the economic view for establishing NYSC was to take the one year service period as a buffer period for those who can’t get job quickly. He added that the Federal Government takes care of them for that one year, while they adapt and prepare to get a job afterwards.
Asomugha noted that the 1993 NYSC Act modified the earlier Decree, adding that the legal consequence of scrapping the NYSC Act is that it must be repealed. He explained the legal means of repealing the Act is to enact another Act repealing the same Act.
Asomugha said: “NYSC should not be scrapped. What I think should be done with NYSC is to modify it, as it serves as an economic reprieve to families who have sent their children to school and they wont get jobs immediately after graduation. It is like a buffer for young graduates to adapt before job hunting. It is a worthy experience that the NYSC Scheme allows people go where they won’t have ordinarily got to, by applying for job placements. It brings about national cohesion and importantly, it gives a proper perspective other people’s culture.
“With the pervading state of insecurity, particularly in the north east, which is quickly spreading to the south east, I think that corps members should not be posted to those areas for now, until the insecurity is solved.”
A Lagos based lawyer, Hyginus Orioha said: “The NYSC is a scheme created by an act of parliament, therefore, to scrap or repeal it must also go through an Act of parliament through the process of originating a bill to that effect.
“It could be an executive bill or parliamentary bill. The bill will be debated and made to pass through the statutory stages before it is assented to by the President or two-third majority of the parliament, if the President withholds his accent without cogent reason(s).”
He expressed optimism that the lawmakers will not be able to muster the needed numbers to scrap the Scheme, which in his opinion is still very vital to national cohesion and co-existence.
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