Thursday, 11 September 2014

Paying to serve the nation: NYSC’s insensitivity….Guardian                                      


HOW much longer can Nigerians endure insensitivity and oppression by their own government? This is the pertinent question as the vicious cycle of government departments and agencies revelling in a culture of impunity continues, especially for the simple reason that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has for ever looked the other way. While the citizens are abused and dehumanised, not once has such insensitivity attracted any sanction, hence the culture reigns.
    The newly introduced policy of money-for-call-up letters imposed through a dubious biometric-enabled on-line registration of prospective corps members requesting each to pay N4,000 is the latest of such indefensible, insensitive, illogical and most irresponsible plans ever contemplated by any government. As planned by the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the scheme is the height of insensitivity to the plight of the average Nigerian youth already traumatised by a poor but rigorous education system and who even face a bleak future in the labour market. To facilitate payment, a prospective corps member is directed to use “any bank’s ATM card or the PIN vending option”. Participants have an option of online registration or collection of letter from school this current year but the enforcement of N4000 payment option starts next year with ‘Batch A’. By any logic, it cannot and should not stand. President Jonathan must today order the immediate reversal of this scam.
   In saner environments, the extortionist tendency of public officials is enough to cost a government re-election. The country is gradually inching towards an era of the youth standing up for their rights in a civilized way if the leaders are leading them as they are, on a mission to nowhere.
   Barely six months ago, the world was shocked by the avoidable death of scores of enterprising graduates across the country spearheaded by the Ministry of the Interior through a scandalous recruitment exercise credited to Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) that was hardly intended to recruit genuine applicants among the more than 700,000 candidates who reported at the suffocating centres to write tests. Many were trampled to death, many more suffocated to death. Months after, the minister and his collaborators are still on their seats. That was not the first incident of NIS job-hunting centre made a death zone. A Comptroller- General was earlier forced into retirement on similar grounds.
   What the NYSC has just embarked on is a dangerous, fraudulent journey that must be terminated immediately. The simple deduction is this: whoever initiated the scam is not fit and proper to be in the service of the Federal Government. This brazen robbery aimed at self-aggrandizement by some public officials must be the last by NYSC or any other public agency for that matter.
   It is doubly sad that the NYSC had the audacity to even advertise its bizarre, fraudulent intention to extort money from poor graduates who struggled through school and are just trying to find their feet. The on-line registration charge is a serious national embarrassment. What could be more than the ridicule the management is subjecting itself to, rationalising the plan by saying it will create opportunity to print multiple call-up letters by corps members (in case of loss or damage) and make them enjoy “accelerated camp orientation processing” at the orientation camps. What a warped thinking in the 21st century! Is this not a tacit admission of a cumbersome procedure the agency had been subjecting corps members to in all of 41 years of the scheme’s existence.
    For a scheme in which the Federal Government picks all bills, what exactly forced the NYSC management into this, or better still, what does the management plan to do with the hundreds of millions of naira to be raised every year at an average of 100,000 enlistments? It is certainly bizarre for anybody to make it mandatory for Nigeria’s sons and daughters to pay to serve their country.
  Also, from where did the NYSC management derive the legal cover to charge the fee? There is a law that established the scheme, so any alteration to the service operations ought to also follow an established due process. The NYSC is challenged to make public the due process it followed before the irrational decision. Or, is the government weary of funding the scheme and has found a convenient way to get the agency itself fill the gap? Nigerians deserve an explanation on this underhand deal.
   So much effort has been made by critics of the scheme in the past to justify the scheme’s cancellation, an argument that has often been countered by the nobility of the scheme and its original intention as a unifying power in a large and diverse nation.  Now, the NYSC is further playing into the hands of those who believe it has outlived its usefulness.
   Suffice to say that nothing, absolutely, nothing must be done to derail the lofty dreams of the founding fathers to promote unity and cultural unification enforced through Decree No. 24 of May 22, 1973. The scheme has served and is still serving a useful purpose. If there are gaps in its operations now, all stakeholders can meet and consider a review. Turning it into a commercial venture, even an exploitative one that feeds off the vulnerability of innocent Nigerian children, however, is unacceptable.

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