Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s vice president has tasked the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) to promote community and rural development, while also seeking the support of Nigerians for the scheme.
The vice president, who gave this charge on Monday in Abuja during the opening ceremony to mark the celebration of NYSC’s 50th anniversary, noted that the scheme is critical not only to Nigeria’s unity, but economic development.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the minister of power, Abubakar Aliyu said promoting rural development would improve the standard of living of citizens, while reiterating that the scheme is a critical tool for overall national unity and development.
“Since its establishment, the story of the NYSC have been that of growth, progress and expansion. It has recorded numerous achievements including the promotion of national unity and integration as well as intervention on critical areas of national economy, such as education, agriculture, health, infrastructural development, science and technology, and other sectors”, he said.
“There is no doubt that since its inception 50 years ago, the NYSC has continued to play ctitucal role in unity of the nation. The community development projects have improved living standards of our rural dwellers”, Osinbajo also said.
The vice president further described the “heroic” involvement of the NYSC and corp members in particular, as ad-hoc staff, in conducting elections since 2011 as divine intervention. This, according to him, no doubt salvaged Nigeria’s electoral system which was characterized by some mal practices in the previous elections.
“The collaboration between NYSC and INEC since 2011 is a watershed in Nigeria’s electoral history, as that has so far institutionalized free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria”, he said.
He commended the “heroism” of Genral yakubu Gowon, who came up with the idea of establishing the NYSC on 22nd May 1973, specially designed to harness the potentials of young, competitive graduates towards the task of national development.
The director general of NYSC, Yusha’u Ahmed said the scheme in the last five decades distinguished itself as an effective mobiliser of graduate youths for the promotion of national unity and development in various sectors of national life, and has become a household name in the country, and a cherished global brand for youth development.
“In 50 years, the NYSC has effectively discharged its mandate, overcome operational challenges under several administrations to stand the test of time. This is better appreciated against the backdrop of the fact that some institutions that were established about the same time the NYSC birthed, or much after have gone under, being unable to weather the storms of existential threats”, he said.
He particularly expressed shish excitement on the fact that the NYSC has provided inspiration for sister African countries like Gambia which it helped establish its National Youth Service Scheme, modelled after the NYSC, but with a different structure and operational guidelines.
“In further appreciation of the pivotal role played by the Corps in national development, some other African countries, desirous of the NYSC model have visited the Scheme on a study tour to find out how they can replace a similar Scheme in their domains”, he added.
In his lecture, Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the independent National Electoral Commission and a former chairman of the NYSC governing board, said the 50th anniversary celebration is a time for sober reflection, while noting that the scheme mobilised over5 million youths between 1973 and 2020.
While commending the scheme for substantially achieving its mandate, he however noted that some challenges needs to be addressed to ensure better success of the scheme. He recommended that the Nigerian government should commit more funding and entrench accountability, improve welfare/stipends of corps members, improve their security, prioritise its objectives for optimal performance, among others.
“The future of the scheme is very bright, if the challenges are addressed, it has a prospect of playing greater role. It would also depend in the extent to which we identify the challenges and appropriately reposition it in line with global best practices”, he said.