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The ban of NYSC members from oil companies


nysc-corpers-attacked-CopyTHE decision by the Federal Government to stop the deployment of National Youth Service Corps  (NYSC) members to oil companies, banks and other private organizations is totally wrong headed, counterproductive and anti youth.

The decision has shut educated youths from the mainstream of the Nigerian economy. What is left when these are removed? The Buhari administration should reverse the decision in the national interest.

Whereas, the youths of this country have been bearing the brunt of misgovernance – harsh, unconducive learning environment, no feeding in schools, high cost of education, no job after graduation, among many others; this particular one is the climax; showing that youths are not included in national development planning. Where lies the future of the country? There is no greater punishment than shutting the youths out from the oil industry, in particular, which is the mainstay of the economy.

My investigation shows that the Federal Government placed the ban sometime in November 2011. The then Minister of Youth Development, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, had announced the ban during his visit to the NYSC Orientation Camp in Paiko, Niger State. Reason being that corps members posted to the organizations are used “to provide cheap labour.”

Malam Bolaji further explained that the money paid to the corps members by the companies was not commensurate with the service they provided and insisted that no corps member will be posted to private companies unless there was an undertaking to employ them after their service year. He said the companies don’t employ them because they were getting steady supply of corps members; a situation he noted was indirectly contributing to youth unemployment. Is Nigeria as a country gaining or losing from this blanket ban?

First, let us look at the organizations concerned. They include the multinational oil companies that practically run the entire oil and gas industry while Nigeria receives royalties; the banks and all financial institutions and other organized private sector organizations. Now consider this: when you remove the oil and gas industry, the banks and other private organizations, what remains of the economy? These constitute the bedrock of the economy that you can’t do without. Once these are removed, what is left are the government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). The question is, how many corps members can government alone absorb? Why restrict space in a shrunken economy?

Looking closer at the government MDAs, among all, it is only the Ministry of Education that can take a substantial number of corps members. That means, virtually all the corps members have to be deployed to the classroom to teach. That explains why all manner of graduates are herded into the classrooms to teach, irrespective of their qualifications and the end result is mass failure of students in public examinations. Again, the question arises, can corps members who are not education graduates, who are not professionally equipped, teach effectively? The answer is capital NO. By doing this, the NYSC scheme is not adding value to the corps members.

What do you expect when mass communication graduates are forced to teach English language; engineers are compelled to teach mathematics; even medical doctors are made to teach chemistry, biology and physics. None of these people is qualified to teach because it is not their profession. Why is teaching made an all-comers affair in Nigeria while other professions are restricted to only those who studied them?

For example, my boy who is in Senior Secondary (SS2), reports that their physics youth corps teacher doesn’t know what he is teaching. He said they are always correcting the “teacher.” As a result, most of the time, he simply comes to the class to tell them stories of how he passed through the university; wastes time and leaves at the end of the lesson period. It is only in Nigeria that anyone teaches students whether or not he or she is a teacher. In other climes, you don’t teach students unless you are a certified professional teacher.

Second, talking about cheap labour, Nigeria is among the countries with the least labour cost of $1 per hour. Nigeria’s minimum wage of N18, 000, amounts to $86.5 per month (at today’s rate of N208 to $1). Members of the Youth Service Corps are paid a meagre N19, 000 ($91) per month, which is the country’s minimum wage. Wao! What then is the basis of accusing the oil companies and banks of using corps members as cheap labour when, in practical terms, government is the main culprit?

As a matter of fact, the oil companies, banks and other private organizations pay additional good money to corps members. The schools where majority of the corps members are deployed pay little or nothing in addition to the meagre allowance. Therefore, if any organization should be sanctioned for exploiting the corps members, it is the schools. The oil companies and banks are progressive partners in the NYSC scheme.

Talking of unemployment, this is due to lack of manufacturing in the country. The oil companies, banks, financial institutions and other private organizations are known to offer juicy employment to deserving corps members. I know many corps members who were employed straight from Youth Service by the organizations where they served. As a matter of fact, the MDAs are guilty of throwing corps members out after service because they receive steady supply on yearly basis.

It is misplaced to require oil companies, banks and other private organizations to sign undertaking to employ before deploying corps members to them because the NYSC scheme was not meant to offer employment, otherwise, every graduate who served would have been employed. The same private organizations open their gates to employ corps members after service.

Finally, it is a paradox that government banned corps members from serving in oil companies at a time it is promoting local content in the oil industry. How do you promote local content and at the same time shut young Nigerians out of the oil industry? It is inconsistent and contradictory.

Who will pilot the affairs of the oil sector in the future when the youths are edged out? That leaves room for foreigners to continue to dominate the oil industry at the expense of Nigerians. The NYSC, at present, is contending with many issues, one of which is whether or not to scrap the scheme. Restricting the space for the deployment of corps members when the number has quadrupled is utterly senseless. The ban should be lifted forthwith.

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