NYSC, YOUTH’S TRUST FUND AND EMPOWERMENT
“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward a good end”.
-Mary Mcleod Bethune
As I was driving out of the house in the morning to the office, a call out of the over 12 came in.
The calls were persistent to an extent that I had to wait to receive it and for twenty four minutes, the caller from the other end spoke to the issues of the unprecedented levels of societal crimes by the youths and what can be done about this menace.
This concerned caller happens to be my long time friend, a Nigerian from my Imo State but who spent sometimes in Abuja after her National Youth Service Corps scheme to read for her post-graduate.
She would later migrate to the United States of America about a decade and half ago when she got married to a Nigerian/American who is doing one of the top security jobs in the United State of America. So she called me from the United States of America just to exchange ideas of what can be done to minimize the involvement of young Nigerians in different crimes such as advance fee fraud; Drug and Human trafficking, terrorism, banditry, armed robberies, political thuggery and outright hooliganism.
Although Chinyere has been outside of our shores but she kept herself abreast of happenings because her family live in Abuja with her parents now retired and back to Owerri, the Imo State capital.
One thing she said to me which inspired this reflection was the huge potentials that the National Youths Service Corps scheme holds in the area of economic and skill empowerment if the initiative by the NYSC is adequately funded and transparently managed. Her thinking tallied with the import and the lesson in my opening quotation aforementioned.
She then referred me to a great interview that was done by This Day newspaper with a senior Director in the NYSC who is in charge of the department on skills acquisition. I will very shortly recall what was said by the senior management staff which as someone with interest about developments around the NYSC can state categorically to be factually accurate.
But first, this good friend of mine recalled with nostalgia how the then president Olusegun Obasanjo set up a presidential agency for economic empowerment known as the National Poverty Eradication Project or NAPEP. She then said the collapse of that noble initiative due to a lot of bureaucratic bottlenecks and managerial Ineptitude/Corruption, was regrettable and expressed anxiety whether the proposed National Youth Service Corps youth’s trust fund won’t go the way of NAPEP and if administrative bottlenecks would not be activated by public servants that could cripple the initiative.
Well, I told her that I can not guarantee that there would be no teething challenges but one thing that is certain is that the National Youth Service Corp youth trust fund is an idea whose time has come. I remember one of the thinkers in the Western World who said “No ARMY in the World can defeat an IDEA whose time has come”. In the same vein the necessity for the setting up on a solid footing of a Trust Fund for youths under the auspices of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme has come.
Aside the positive, transformational and constructive social impacts the youth trust fund would bring, the initiative is about the surest panacea to youths involvement in social crimes because “the IDLE MIND IS THE DEVIL’S WORKSHOP”.
Just like my caller from the state of Texas in the USA said about the social menace of Youth’s involvement in Yahoo Yahoo, and a multitude of other organised crimes, I do also think that the Nigerian State is not handling and tackling this social crisis from the root cause and the fact is that the government is treating the malignant tumour of social crimes from the secondary manifestations but at the same time the government is not rational enough to uproot the cause of the problem which is mass hunger, mass joblessness, public sector corruption and the excesses of the operatives of law enforcement agents who go as far as arresting many innocent youths just so that they can be extorted and their human dignity denied by crude force. The EFCC and the Nigerians Police Force have come under increasing scrutiny for their use of torture to force accused persons to admit crimes they actually never committed. However the frightening possibility of many youngsters getting involved in sophisticated crimes can’t be discountenanced and seeing the number of youths illegally paraded by EFCC as suspects makes me think that the Federal government needed to declare and implement a MARSHALL PLAN FOR ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF YOUTHS. One of such should be the establishment of the NYSC’S YOUTH’S TRUST FUND.
Both I and my caller concluded by endorsing the proposal put forward by the Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim- led NYSC which is the establishment of the NYSC Youth Trust Fund.
Now here are what the key officer in NYSC said about the National Youth Trust Fund to be managed by the NYSC when established through a legal framework which millions of Nigerians are clamouring for.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) justified its proposal to set up a trust fund for all corps members nationwide, arguing that the fund, if eventually established, will help actualize President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of unemployment before the next decade.
NYSC, a scheme established in 1973 to promote national cohesion and integration, disclosed that it had trained over 500,000 corps members in different agro-allied, skill development and vocational programmes and facilitated N1.184 billion for those who applied in the last decade.
NYSC’s Director Special Duties, Alhaji Musa Abdullahi said this at a session with THISDAY at the weekend, revealed that no fewer corps members had trained and empowered under its Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED).
Explaining its centrality to the fight against poverty and unemployment, Abdullahi said the Director-General of NYSC, Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim Shuaibu had proposed the establishment to a Trust Fund as a strategy to help actualise Buhari’s vision of lifting 100 million out of poverty cycle.
Despite huge achievements the scheme had recorded under 48 years of its establishment, the NYSC had its diversified its approach from career advisory to entrepreneurship development with the high rate of poverty and unemployment nation.
Of the 25 NYSC secretariats that set up post-camp mini training centres nationwide, for instance, Abdullahi noted that the scheme was recording low patronage perhaps due to lack of training tools or lack of awareness among graduates.
Abdullahi explained the centrality of the ongoing establishment of Skills
Acquisition Centre in all geo-political zones to raising an entrepreneurs, who he argued, would deploy their entrepreneurial potential for national development.
He, therefore, noted that it was on this ground that the NYSC had proposed to establish a trust fund to equip corps members with requisite skills they need for value addition and financially empower as they are completing their national services.
When established, according to NYSC’S director, the trust fund will also provide resources for the training and empowerment of corps members, especially on skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development. It is a strategy to end poverty as the president has envisaged to lift 100 million out of poverty by 2030.
since its creation in 2012, NYSC’s director listed SAED’s achievements to include the establishment of a full-pledged department that would be saddled with the responsibility of streamlining the skills and entrepreneurial activities of the Corps members.
Under the Department of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development, Abdullahi disclosed that it had received support from the Access Bank Plc to construct and equip a mega skills acquisition centre for in Gombe for the North-east states
Besides, according to the director, we are building a similar one in Jigawa for the Northwest states and in Nasarawa for the North-central states. the construction of the Southwest skill acquisition centre located in Ekiti State is already at completion stage.
Abdullahi disclosed ongoing collaboration with Unity Bank Plc, which according to him, focused on funding business plan development programmes for corps members.
He, also, disclosed successful partnership initiatives with such funding institutions as the Bank of Industry (BOI) and the CBN, which he said, would start-up capital for corps entrepreneurs.
To realise these plans, Abdullahi noted that General Electric and Cognity Advisory Nigeria, among others had trained 40 SAED officers on entrepreneurship.
He explained that the SAED, which empowered corps members with the support of its partners, had helped set the corps members on the path to prosperity.
“In the process, more entrepreneurs have been created in the country. Since we started the SAED a decade ago, 20,000 trained corps members have been linked with various government agencies and non-governmental organisations.
“They have been able to access N1.184 billion credit facilities. At the end of the training, the corps members are given interest-free loans ranging from N200, O00 to N300, 000) to start their own businesses in their areas of choice or interests.”
Under the War against Poverty (WAP), an initiative designed to actualise President Muhammadu Buhari’s aspiration of lifting 100 million people in 10 years, the director explained that NYSC has been able to train and empower close to at least 500,000 corps members to be entrepreneurs and employers of labour rather than looking for jobs.
Abdullahi explained that the WAP initiative started primarily “as a career advisory unit. Since corps members were face with numerous job opportunities or job offers, the unit was set up to help them make good decision”.
In the early years of its establishment, corps members had difficulties in choosing where to work due to the numerous job offers they received even before the completion of their national service, This spurred the NYSC to establish a unit called Job Advisory and Counseling Unit (JAC),” he explained.
When the job opportunities began to dwindle due to the increasing population of graduates, the NYSC introduced various policies and collaborated with government and non-governmental agencies, which gave birth to SAED as a strategy to check the spiraling rate of unemployment in the federation.
He, therefore, noted that government agencies “have been very supportive o
the scheme’s SAED. Office of the Special Adviser to the President on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), now Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs) sponsored the WAP initiative, one of the programmes aimed at raising entrepreneurs.
The WAP is usually organised to empower corps members with skill and startup loans to professionalize in agro-allied enterprises. It is in line with the Vision of the NYSC to respond to current realities of unemployment by shifting the attention of the corps members from the unrealistic quest for white-collar jobs to that of becoming self-employed after their national service.
Specifically, Abdullahi said corps members “are empowered requisite skills in such agro-allied skills as animal husbandry snail breeding, bee keeping, fish farming, grass cutter farming, plantain/ banana sucker multiplication and poultry farming.”
NYSC’s director said the NYSC had forged collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which had promoted the spirit of entrepreneurship and self-reliance since it commenced in 2008 with the training of 600 corps members annually.
Through collaboration with the CBN, according to Abdullahi, over 2000 corps members have been reached. We are sustaining partnership to ensure that at least 600 complete their national service with mindset to establish their businesses.
Abdullahi disclosed that the WAP had been used “to facilitate conduct of advanced entrepreneurial training of seven WAP entrepreneurs at Barry University, Miami, Florida.
Under the initiative, NYSC’s director disclosed that the National Economic Reconstruction Funds (NERF) gave the corps entrepreneurs credit facilities between N1.8 million and N3 million to expand their enterprises and employ more workers.
We think the NYSC’S YOUTH’S TRUST FUND should be expeditiously established to cut down on the phenomenal rate of Youth’s involvement in sophisticated and mind boggling crimes. The media and the civil rights movements need to key in into this national movement in support of the NYSC’S YOUTH’S TRUST FUND now.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.