The National Youth Service Corps was established by Decree No.24 of May 22, 1973, now an Act of the Parliament, quoted as NYSC CAP N84 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The Scheme year in, year out pulls together graduate Nigerian youths who are 30 years of age and below, with the objective of developing common ties among them, for the promotion of national unity and development.
Beyond that, the Scheme equally aims at instilling in Nigerian youth a tradition of Industry; the spirit of patriotism, loyalty, discipline and self-reliance which is a gateway to financial freedom.
The Corps has continued to champion this cause, among others, employing four cardinal programmes namely: Orientation course; primary assignment; community development service; winding-up/passing-out as the platforms to achieve the objective.
A critical assessment of the Scheme after 48 years indicates that it has remained a pivot of national unity and development and has left indelible imprints in the proverbial sands of time, particularly in the spheres of health, education, infrastructure development, and advocacies.
It is a truism that in some states of the federation, the primary and secondary school system is sustained by Corps members, so much so that if their services are withdrawn, there will be system collapse.
Corps members are found in the remotest parts of the villages, where even the natives dread to go, thus, imparting knowledge, catering to the health needs of the people, among so many other contributions.
There is no gainsaying the fact that in most rural communities, the only doctors the members have ever seen are Corps doctors, who function as chief medical directors, and in most instances multi-task.
The community development projects of Corps members ranging from civil construction works such as water borehole, well, bridges, culverts, classroom blocks to intangible projects such as free extra-mural lessons, campaigns against drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, dangerous driving among others have continued to deepen the relevance of the Scheme, thus making it a household name in Nigeria.
Talking about national integration, so many inter-tribal marriages have been contracted over the years, thereby building bonds and pulling down the walls of ethnic suspicions and stereotypes. Conversely, bridges of unity and lasting friendship have been erected.
The participation of Corps members in the nation’s electoral process conveys some measure of legitimacy to the outcomes, given the fact that Corps members always approach the national assignment with a great degree of patriotism and discipline.
The Scheme in 48 years has continued to make a direct positive impact on the lives of Corps members, changing their orientation which is usually utopian while in school. It is a known fact that some cultists perpetually discard their membership of the clandestine group after a life – changing encounter in the Orientation camp, which has discipline as its bedrock. Every NYSC Orientation Camp is strictly regimented.
Interestingly, in 2012, the Scheme introduced Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme (SAED) with a department dedicated to coordinate the activity. The skill programme starts during Orientation course, with in-camp training, progressing to post-camp training, after the Orientation course.
It goes without saying that SAED is one of the greatest initiatives of the Scheme that has continued to raise a crop of entrepreneurs over the years. The Scheme has not only provided them with the requisite platform to acquire or hone their skills, but equally links them with financial institutions such as Bank of Industry (BoI) that grants credit facilities to them.
Consequently, so many ex-Corps members today are entrepreneurs, running profitable businesses, mentoring and employing thousands of Nigerians.
However, just like every other organisation, the Corps has its challenges, most of which are extraneous to it. Many other challenges revolve around funds. Be that as it may, kudos to the federal government for shouldering the responsibility funding the Scheme since inception, which has not been easy in view of other national needs competing for the scarce resources.
Nonetheless, there appears a silver lining. Recently, the NYSC director-general, Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, who in two years of his administration has taken the Scheme a notch higher advocated the establishment of National Youth Service Corps Trust Fund NYSCTF). The scheme is expected to be funded from a certain percentage of the assessable profits of companies registered in Nigeria, just like TETFund. Doubtlessly, the trust fund will address the infrastructure deficits of the Scheme — the Orientation camps; skill centres, among others.
The Fund should provide credit facilities or grants to willing and qualified Corps members who have acquired skills to establish their businesses.
Indeed, in 48 years, it can safely be posited that the Scheme is on course, having been fulfilling its mandate. It has been 48 years of loyal and dedicated service to the nation.
Mgbemena, an Abuja-based public affairs analyst, writes via [email protected]