Corp members taking the oath of allegiance during their swearing-in ceremony
As the issue of backlog of prospective corps members lingers, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is again held up for scrutiny. In this piece, Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL, examines the causes, implications and solutions to backlogs of thousands of Nigerian students held in limbo on NYSC’s waiting-list to serve their fatherland
Chinedu Joel graduated two years ago. He was not called up to participate in the National Youth Service Corps’ programme until 2018. He was 27 when he graduated. During the two-year interregnum, he was able to find a job. Therefore, he did not look forward to going to serve his fatherland in the mandatory NYSC programme. His employer too will not want him to go.
Joel is fortunate. His situation contrasts with hundreds of prospective corps members who waited at home in vain to be called up for national service. For many of these ones, finding a job while they wait to be called up became ‘mission impossible’. By the time they are finally invited to serve in the scheme, some of them have exceeded the age limit set for the programme.
In 2016, a staggering number – 129,469 – of Nigerian graduates’ future were kept hanging in the balance. It is said that each year, for a decade or more, the NYSC mobilises at least 250,000 corps members.
It was little wonder then when President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the Senate requesting funds, arguing that at least 129,469 graduates could miss the NYSC mobilisation of students. According to the president, the amount of money appropriated in the 2016 budget for the mobilisation of corps members that year was inadequate.
“This request has risen due to a number of reasons including shortfalls in provisions for personnel costs…. The provision for NYSC in the 2016 budget is inadequate to cater for the number of corpers to be mobilised this year. In fact, an additional N8.5bn is required to cover the backlog of 129,469 corps members who are currently due for call-up but would otherwise be left out till next year due to funding constraints,” Buhari had stated.
From the president’s letter, it is apparent that a major cause of backlogs of prospective corps members is inadequate funding. In the fall of September that year, the NYSC had written to the University of Benin’s vice chancellor that only 715 out of the institution’s 2,000 graduates would be mobilised.
A letter from the NYSC headquarters dated September 30, 2016, with reference number NYSC/DHQ/CMD/35/267, explained: “Taking into cognisance of this situation, in relation to the number of graduates earlier forwarded by your institution, management has, after due consideration of the scheme’s 2016 budget, approved 715 graduates for your institution for mobilisation into the 2016 Batch ‘B’ service year. In view of the above, it is expected that the figure of 715 graduates will cut across all approved academic programmes run by your institution and gender balance as well.”
That year it was the same scenario at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University where only 894 graduates were accepted of the 2,314 ready for mobilisation. A couple of years back, the Kwara State university told its recent graduates who should be part of the year’s NYSC mobilisation exercise that the university has slots for only 500 despite graduating thousands.
Yet, it is interesting to know that the NYSC has increased the number of corps members it will absorb in 2018 by 53,000 graduates bringing the new figure to 350,000. The agency mobilised 297,293 corps members nationwide in 2017 and paid them N67, 383,359,602 as allowances. The corps members are spread across two batches and two streams in 2017, with each stream having about 74,000 corps members.
However, delay in mobilisation of graduates often result in frustration for parents and the students. One source of the frustration is that the students will likely have to wait at home idling away for, perhaps, another one year because without their NYSC discharge certificate, they will not be hired by any potential employers.