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Solomon Semaka

Renowned apartheid icon and former President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela is quoted to have said overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and decent life. This statement though made decades ago finds credence in our Nigerian situation where poverty is so rampant. In a country where youth unemployment is over 35% and rising , it is important to see efforts aimed at reducing poverty as a priority for the nation. The Nigerian situation is particularly worse because the negative effect of poverty and unemployment falls directly on the shoulders of the youth. Therefore deliberate efforts aimed at reducing poverty will have positive multiplier effects on the economy thus bringing stability in the society. The NYSC Trust Fund which seeks to neutralise poverty through youth empowerment is, therefore, a national asset and should be accorded priority attention by all stakeholders especially now that is passed into law and awaiting presidential assent.

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), a post-Nigerian Civil War institution established to reunite Nigerians and rebuild the fragile emotions and mistrust that came with the war. While the scheme did extremely well in building bridges across ethnic nationalities and uniting diverse cultures thereby fostering intermarriage and business interactions across the divides, the Board and management of the scheme have always prioritised youth empowerment and development. Over the years, the NYSC has become one of the most successful institutions exclusively saddled with the development of youth in different forms. From posting and management of corps members on primary assignment during the compulsory one-year of national service, the Scheme has evolved very ingenious programmes that seek to empower graduates passing through the scheme for employment and greater productivity. Several partnerships and training during the three weeks orientation exercise have now evolved with more concrete structures that demonstrate true commitment and dedication to equipping youths with skills aside from their academic qualifications for great output and relevance. The NYSC Trust Fund conceived solely for the betterment of the Nigerian youth deserves quick presidential assent so that more will be done for the empowerment of Nigerian youths.

Perhaps one of the greatest collective efforts by the Board and management of NYSC is the establishment of a special directorate called the Skill Acquisition and Empowerment Department (SAED). This is just one of the various self-empowerment policies undertaken by the Scheme despite a very tight budget. It is often said that a man who wants to be given a hand should first help himself or at least make some effort. The Board and management of NYSC have made frantic efforts in supporting the Nigerian youth who pass through the scheme. The scheme have coordinated trainings, partnerships with various organizations and institutions and recently midwived the bill for the establishment of the NYSC Trust Fund. The dedication of previous Director Generals, Board, management and staff of the Scheme needs to be commended for their proactiveness and fortitude in creating a fertile breeding ground for Nigerian youths to aspire and attain self-employment. In assenting to this Bill which is currently before the President, he will be leaving the greatest legacy for Nigerian youths as expected.

One of the reasons why the “Igbo” people of the south Eastern Nigeria appears prosperous in bussiness is attributable to the apprenticeship system and enterprenuership drive among their youth. This goes to mean that training people in a business is not enough, you need to provide them with start-up funds. This is exactly what the NYSC Trust Fund is intended to do. Already the Scheme has achieved great success with SAED and partnerships with multinationals like Leventis and other organizations operating within the country. What is lacking however is the seed capital or start-up funds that ex-corps members need to establish themselves and contribute to national productivity and efficiency. NYSC has by implication successfully turned all Nigerian graduates passing through its doors as eterprenuers.Nigerians strongly believe that Mr. President will complete the the good work and immediately sign this very important bill into law to reduce unemployment, increase productivity and reduce our dependence on foreign goods which weakens our currency

Aside from SAED, NYSC has introduced very ambitious and gigantic projects including the establishment of multiple skill acquisition centres across the 774 Local Government Areas in the country. This requires money and will not only serve the interest of youths passing through the scheme but will benefit all Nigerians provided there are funds to operate at the capacity envisioned by the scheme . It is on record that not even the National Directorate of Employment which is vested with the statutory responsibility of reducing unemployment in Nigeria through skill acquisition and empowerment programmes has not achieved as much as what the NYSC Trust Fund bill seeks to achieve when assented to by Mr President. However, these lofty ideas will end up in the trash if funding is not made available and the only way this can be done is through the timely assent of the NYSC Trust Fund Bill already passed by the both Chambers of the national assembly which will set into motion the mechanism for income generation for all the projects so far conceived by the scheme . For this giant feat to be achieved in our time and under the presidency of Mohammadu Buhari is something that will go down in the annals of history as an unprecedented achievement and legacy.

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In as much as we earnestly beseech the President to act on the NYSC Trust Fund Bill in safeguarding the fundamental human rights of our youths and restoring the dignity of labour in all Nigerians, we equally call on all stakeholders to be prepared to contribute to the Fund when it is eventually signed into law. Nigerians of goodwill should impress on Mr president on the need to speedily assent to the NYSC Trust Fund bill for the benefit of Nigerians. Multinationals and national corporations who employ Nigerian youths should know that they must give back to society by supporting this Bill and calling for its swift passage into law. States and Local Government Areas must not forget that they are the greatest beneficiaries of the interventions of the NYSC scheme. It is important that they begin to put into place structures that will ensure a donation of some percentages of their subventions to the Trust Fund when finally assented to by the president. Civil Society Organisations, religious bodies, and traditional institutions must lend their voice and call on the President to give this Bill urgent attention required to give it life. Above all, all ex-corps members should see the survival and sustenance of the scheme as a national priority. The National Assembly deserves our commendation for speedily passing the Bill into law but we must not tarry in calling on the President to give his assent as speedily as possible.


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