I’ve always maintained that the NYSC programme should be completely scrapped. It has failed to keep on achieving its purpose. After spending 7–years in a University for a normal 5–year course, because of incessant strikes from time to time, then graduates begin to fast and pray for their own University to successfully submit their names to the NYSC, then the long wait for the almighty ‘call up letter’ to arrive, and then the 1–whole year wasted in the life of an over-aged Nigerian University graduate.
I knew the value of CALL-UP-LETTER on the day I went to collect my call up letter in Abuja. A girl fainted and immediately started foaming in her mouth after hearing that her name wasn’t submitted by her University for the third straight year. NYSC would say her name wasn’t submitted, and her University would say that they submitted it but ‘something happened’. thereby making her name not to reflect in the list. What could be worse. Even her mother burst into uncontrollable tears, as we tried rushing the lady to the hospital.
Worse, after the 1–wasted year, corpers are not retained at their NYSC place of deployment, they are back in the job-market and then companies begin to look for 3–years work experience. What could be worse.
Crisis hits NYSC programme as employers reject corps members
By Roseline Okere & Adeyemi Adepetun
THE National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in 1973 by the then military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. The programme was scripted to mobilise Nigerian youths graduating from tertiary institutions for national development through sustained mobility of middle level manpower, promotion of social integration and national unity, among others.
Essentially, the scheme, has over the years, provided succor for university and polytechnic graduates, most of whom could have otherwise experienced immediate pangs of joblessness on graduation, due to current dwindling prospects in the nation’s labour market.
Thirty years after, the NYSC scheme has joined some other of lofty programme that have metamorphosed into nightmares for Nigerian youths. Not only are the perks being paid in terms of the allowances not realistically indexed to realities of today’s living, securing a slot for primary assignments has become a tall dream.
The Guardian investigation around the country showed that no fever than 40 per cent of those currently deployed for the programme are roaming the streets, without placements, due to their rejections by employers, under a gale of excuses, that has upturned the main objectives of the program.
The current batch ‘B’ Corps members, hit by the rejection syndrome, may be periscoping the future with gloom, as the discharge certificate of the programme is a primary requirement needed for presentation, while seeking for jobs, after the NYSC service year.
Commenting on the issue, Ms. Ann Okorie, an out-going corps member with the 2007/2008 batch ‘B’ members deployed to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, said the authorities should tackle the rejection syndrome that had become the lot of the scheme.
“Some of us went through rejection at our places of primary assignment, sometimes they look down on us thinking we are less privileged for the fact that we are corps members. “If a private organization should reject corps members, how about government ministries and parastatals agencies, which are our common asset?” she asked.
She, however, appealed to the Federal Government to encourage public and private organizations to absorb corps members that served with them. “Sincerely, it has not been easy, transportation and feeding are so expensive and the allowance is quite small, I just pray that a good job will come my way,” said Chiamaka Odum, who was among those who passed out.
Another corps member who just passed out in Lagos State, Mr. Roland Ojiefor told The Guardian that it took him several months to be able to get a place for his primary assignment.
According to him, he was subjected to serious screenings and aptitude text in order to be selected for the job. “I was initially posted to a bank for my service. But the bank insisted that I must be tested before allowing me to work with them. Unfortunately, I failed and I was not taken. It took my going to several places with my posting letter, before I was able to secure a place in a private Nursery and Primary School”.
He noted that the issue of writing aptitude text would not have arrived if actually the employers were serious about absorbing him into the organization.
“I just passed out of school. I am even yet the gain any experience. The one-year service was supposed to be period the corps member to gain some experience. But these organizations prefer experienced hands” he added.
He therefore, called on government to ensure that no organization has the right to reject any corps members posted to their organizations.
Speaking recently on the issue, Ekiti State Directorate of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), declared their intention to henceforth, blacklist any employer that either directly or indirectly influenced the rejection of corps members posted to their establishments for primary assignments.
The state government had, through a directive, warned ministries, departments and agencies in the state against the rejection of corps members.
According to the state coordinator of the NYSC, Mrs. Obiageli Erokwu, blacklisting such employer became imperative following the rejection of corps members by some private organizations in the state.
Lamenting that most employers were in the habit of collaborating with corps members by inducing their rejection, Erokwu warned that apart from blacklisting such employers, any corps members who influenced rejection would be disciplined by the directorate.
She commended the state government for its directive to ministries and agencies not to reject corps members in the state.
On possible causes of rejection of corps members by organizations, according to Mr. Asimu Oladeji, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Business Administration, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, the absorptive capacities of most organizations are too low for the teeming corps members the nation is turning out yearly.
Oladeji stressed that most corps members are not equipped enough for the increasing challenges in most of the organizations, adding that anybody who is not developing his or her self for the future challenge will not be able to compete among the best globally.
The Senior lecturer also raised the issue of negative attitude of corpers. He said based on experiences of most organizations in the past from fraud that must have been perpetrated in the past by some corpers and the issue of absenteeism of corps member from work are factors any organization will consider before taking in any corper into their organization.
Also speaking in the same vein, a Senior official of the Ogun state NYSC, who preffered anonymity said organizations are rejecting corps members because of so many reasons, ranging from incompetencies from the corps members themselves, payments of allowances to corps members and complains from corps members seeking for rejection because they found a better place to work.
She said most crop of graduates coming to the labour markets nowadays seriously lack the capability to seriously fit into what the labour market require in the 21st century, stressing that just 30 per cent of those who are coming to the labour markets are efficient
She however, said that the tertiary institutions still need to do more in the area of ensuring that what they are impacting on the students are what can really make them fit into the labour market, so that there won’t be reason for brain drains of have a situation where those coming into the market will not be useful.
The Ogun NYSC official said another factor that must also be considered is the ability of the organizations to pay corps members.
“The economy is bad. Most companies have not finished paying their main staff not to talk of accommodating outsiders. The situation is that bad, some are even owing months of salaries including arrears, so it is not going to be easy for them to meet up with extra payments”, he added.
She also raised the issue where corps members themselves seek for rejection where they are posted.
To her, this is because, they (corps members) want better pay, and so they go for companies that will pay them more. There are situations where the corps members too project into the future, in the sense that they would want to go to organizations they probably think can retain them after the service year.
Also a corper serving in Lagos in one of the multinational companies, Toyin Adenekan, to her corpers want better pay after spending so many years in the universities with all stress here and there, couple with strikes and the rest, so for organization to reject us is worrisome.
She however said that here is no gain saying the fact that most graduates coming out today cannot fit properly into the labour market because they lack the capabilities.
“I am sorry to say this, we need serious people that will take this country to the next level, we are still behind in human capital development, so it is not surprising when we are being turned down or rejected by these so call organizations, but I believe we would get there”. She stated
She also listed frauds, absenteeism, indiscipline as some of the factors that can stand between corpers and their being taken in organizations, based on their past experiences.
In his contribution, the managing director of System Technology, Mr. Bernard Agu said that he decided not to be accepting corps members due to the low quality of some of the graduates who usually come for the yearly service.
He said that it was unfortunate that some graduates find it difficult to communicate with the English Language with which they were thought in school.
His words: “It is sad to see some graduate of nowadays who can only show that they are graduate through the certificate they carry about with a single reflection of what they actually went to the university to study. I cannot afford to spend my hard earned money to begin to re-train corps members who will leave for greener pasture at the end of their service year. I think it will be better to just use the money to train my existing staff or recruit new staff and send them for training”.
He added that he read in the news recently of how some corps members were caught with fake call up letters.
This is hinted, may be one of the reasons many employers are no enthusiastic about employing corps members into their companies.
Speaking in the same vein, Director of the Lagos Business School, Prof. Pat Utomi, described the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme as moribund, saying the scheme does not serve the present needs of the country.
He made the observation while speaking with The Guardian in Lagos.
Utomi argued that the scheme as it currently operates has lost its importance, as it does not take cognizance of the manpower and industrial development of the country and urged the federal government to overhaul it.
He advocated the merging of vocational training with other leadership courses offered in the three weeks camping for the corps members.
“There is need to extend the camping to about three months, during which the corps member would be trained in vocational trades that would make them self reliant after service” he said.
After the three months training in organized business, the government would send them out as business agents so they can assist others in expansion of knowledge and skills,” Utomi advised.
He blamed the high level of youth unemployment in the country on the lack of vocational skills, noting that the economic stagnation experienced in the country cannot be disconnected from the lack of skills in specialized areas.
Speaking on why some organizations rejects corps member, Utomi stated: “These companies rejects the NYSC members because, they don’t need them. May be government need to restructure the scheme to meet its objective. I have suggested several ways to re-direct the scheme. It is not just enough to send people to companies to keep them busy for one year. We have to have a clear purpose for the scheme.
“Government should established an entrepreneurial training for corps members for a couple of months. Government should attach them to small businesses, like working with carpenters, making sure that their business are operated well. They will be able to add value to those business and they too can develop and later go and become entrepreneur of their own. So something like that will add a lot more value to what we are currently doing”.
Speaking on the goals of the NYSC programme, the Director General of the scheme, Brig. Gen. Yusuf Bomoi, stated that the ultimate objective of the Scheme is to achieve national unity through mobilization of the Youths of this country for service in the N’YSC Scheme.
He said Corps members are to be exposed to life in other parts of the country and to learn at first hand the many similarities and diversities of culture and traditions of the various ethnic groups in the country with a view to eliminating any inherent prejudices.
Speaking on the rate of unemployment in the Nigeria, the NYSC boss said that it was fast becoming a security threat.
He stated that it was the statutory responsibility of the various state governments to provide orientation camps with ideal facilities for corps members.
He added that the spate of graduate unemployment was fast becoming the biggest challenge for the scheme because of its security implication.
Bomoi said that the situation was very worrisome and had forced his establishment to begin to look inwards to see where it could tackle the problem.
He stated: “One of the major problems we also face in the NYSC has to do with the state of graduate unemployment. This is fast becoming a security threat in this country.
We are concerned that all the corps members we turn out at the end of the day keep on roaming the streets for non-existent white-collar jobs.
“So, on our part, we are looking inwards, especially, to enhance our skills acquisition program. We also have cooperative ventures and loans scheme where corps members are given loans to help them do business of their choice.
“Most of them have established a businesses in their places of primary assignment rather than in their home states and are virtually on their own without having to roam the streets”.
OBJECTIVES OF THE NYSC SCHEME
_(i) The objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme are clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June 1973 as follows:
(a) to inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves. _(b) to raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement; _(c) to develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training. which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest; _(d) To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment, _(e) to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy; _(f) to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration; _(g) to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups; and _(h) to develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria. _(ii) In order to achieve the objectives in subsection (3) of this section, the service corps shall ensure:
(a) the equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilisation of their skills in area of national needs; _(b) that as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in States other than their States of origin; _(c) that such group of youths assigned to work together is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible; _(d) that the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria; _(e) that the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences; _(f) that members of the service corps are encouraged to seek at the end of their one year national service, career employment all over Nigeria, thus promoting the free movement of labour; _(g) that employers are induced partly through their experience with members of the service corps to employ more readily and on a permanent basis, qualified Nigerians, irrespective of their States of origin.