Former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, says the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is one of the best schemes introduced by the military and should be sustained.
Jega said this on Monday in Abuja while delivering the 50th anniversary lecture of the NYSC with the theme: ”NYSC: Five Decades of Fostering National Unity and Development.”
According to him, there is no doubt that the NYSC has substantially achieved the objectives for which it was established.
He said “certainly, there have been a lot of accomplishments in the area of national integration and nation building.
“The young men and women have contributed to the Nigerian economy as professionals who have just graduated from universities or tertiary institutions and who are providing cheap labour and national service.
“Similarly, in community development, in education and in health, especially in the rural areas and through their participation in national elections.”
Jega said that he was instrumental to the fostering of relationship between INEC and NYSC to ensure greater involvement and participation of youth corps members in electoral process.
“I can testify that the contributions that these young men and women made in spite of the risk that many of them faced in discharging their duties added to lifting the integrity of our elections,” he said.
He, however, said that to sustain the scheme and reposition it for optimal performance, its challenges must be addressed.
He listed the challenges to include dwindling resources amid more enrollment of participants and the need to target the energy of the youths toward national development.
Jega, therefore, urged government at all levels to ensure there is adequate security for youth corps members, insure the lives of members and increase funding for the scheme.
In an address to declare the ceremony open, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said since its establishment 50 years ago, the story of NYSC had been that of growth, progress and expansion.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister for Power, Mr Abubakar Aliyu, said the scheme recorded numerous achievements, especially in the promotion of national unity and integration.
Osinbajo said that the scheme was conceived as a pivot of national unity and integration to accelerate the process of national healing after the unfortunate 30-month civil war which led to a divided nation yearning for unity.
He added that “there is no doubt that since its inception 50 years ago to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the civil war, the NYSC has continued to play a significant role in actualising the role of building an indivisible nation.
“I want to congratulate management, staff, board members and youth corps members nationwide and all Nigerians on the 50th anniversary celebration which I can describe as the celebration of another NYSC’s unquantifiable contributions to nation building.
“I wish to commend the heroism of the Retired Gen. Yakubu Gowon-led government that came up with the idea of establishing the NYSC in 1973.
“The NYSC was specially designed to harness the potential of young dedicated Nigerian graduates toward the path of national development.”
He pledged Federal Government’s commitment to youth development through policies and programmes that would empower them not only for economic survival, but also for future leadership roles.
The Director-General of the scheme, Brig.-Gen. Yusha’u Ahmed, said further appreciation of the pivotal role played by the scheme in national development, some other African countries, desirous of the NYSC model have visited on a study tour to find out how they could replicate a similar scheme.
He added that “conscious of the dynamism of society, and to articulate a renewed vision for the scheme, I have carefully outlined five policy thrusts, namely focusing on the welfare and security of both youth corps members and staff, research development and stakeholders’ engagement.
“Others are capacity development and deepening the impact of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development as sustainable means of addressing post-service unemployment.”
The Chairman, Governing Board of NYSC, Amb. Fatima Abubakar, said though the scheme had achieved great feats in the last 50 years, it must strive harder toward achieving greater successes as it crosses into the corresponding era.
She appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Bill seeking to establish the NYSC Trust Fund before the expiration of his tenure as president.
The NYSC was established on May 22, 1973, by Decree 24 with the core mandate to build a united, indivisible, prosperous and egalitarian nation.