By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Socrates remains a fascinating thinker and one of the original fathers of philosophy – a course which implicitly is defined as the love of wisdom. And so, a remarkable and momentous affirmation for which Socrates is associated with is that which states that: “Man know thyself for an unexamined life is not worth living”.
As students of philosophy, we are informed that the first philosophers had focused their attention upon nature, but the sophists and Socrates shifted the concerns of philosophy to the study of man. Instead of asking the large cosmic questions about the ultimate principles of things, we learnt however that philosophy became preoccupied with the questions relating more directly to man’s behavior.
These narratives about how the dimensions of the study of philosophy unfolded in the phenomenal epochs that the study of philosophy had undergone, brings us to the theme of our reflection today which is about the fundamental approach towards the implementation of the core objectives of the National Youth Service Corp and the reform-mindedness which seems to have defined the worldview of the current Director General of the NYSC – Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim. These reforms have started yielding results with the forensic discovery of some participants of the NYSC scheme who parade fake qualifying certificates. At the last count, nearly 100 of such dubious persons have been fished out.
As it were, the new order in the NYSC is focused towards achieving holistic law reforms and to attain a pragmatic purification of the processes leading up to the enlistment of participants in the yearlong national service under the National Youth Service scheme.
Reforming the law setting up the NYSC has always formed the major fulcrum of discuss amongst analysts but for the first time in the history of the NYSC, here comes a head of the institution who has indeed Kick-started the intellectual and practical approaches towards realizing the aspirations of a better focused NYSC.
Basically, as is universally known, reforming an existing law and advocating and implementing changes in a legal statute such as the enabling Act that set up the NYSC is aimed at enhancing better service delivery and improve the efficiency of the institution.
To underscore the essence of the well-conceived stakeholders forum on the Act, the nationalist behind the enactment of the enabling Act and former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon (GCFR) as he then was, applauded the current management of NYSC for embarking on this journey of actualizing legal reforms of the institutional legal framework.
Gowon who was represented at the event stated that: “I commend the NYSC management for its foresight in taking this step of educating Nigerians on the enabling Act. I have no doubt in my mind that this initiative will go a long way in providing appropriate guidance to all relevant stakeholders on their role expectations.”
It would be recalled that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) which was established in 1973 by then Federal Military Government to unite and integrate Nigerians following the experience of a three-year civil war in the country has left no stone unturned to achieve its mandate and other associated national objectives.
It is evidently manifest that the youths were considered the veritable drivers of the Scheme due to their vibrancy, vitality and resilience.
In the light of the above intention therefore, fresh Nigerian graduates within ages thirty (30) and below who have obtained Degree or HND Certificates are mobilized for the compulsory one-year National service.
The National Youth Service Corps Act CAP N84 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 encompasses the objectives and goals of the NYSC. The law evolved from the original statute called decree number 24 of 22nd May, 1973. The law makes it mandatory as it were for all eligible graduates to undertake one year national service just as the law specifies sanctions for evasions and illegal participation.
It can be stated that the current Director General who assumed duties barely few months ago, has embarked on series of capacity building activities that have been anchored on the necessity of law reforms as aforementioned, sanitizing the mechanisms and processes of producing quality graduates from institutions situated within and outside of the shores of Nigeria and to maintain the time honored and tested goals of the scheme.
Another high profile event that has taken place in the past couple of months that the current director general assumed office is the forum that took place during which participants brainstormed on the core objectives of the NYSC in total compliance with the enabling Act that set it up and to work on modalities for reforming the enabling Act to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
The Honorable Philip Cummin, the President of the Commonwealth Association of Law reform agencies gave us a summary of the goals of any universally accepted legal reforms like the type that the new management of NYSC is currently fine tuning.
He said: “to sustain the rule of law, law reform needs to be principled, based on sound methods, and to take full account of the views of the civil society and of experts. It should be respected, reliable, rigorous and responsive”.
These strategic events by the NYSC management are in compliance with the above standards of best global practices desirable for actualizing a credible process of reform and the workshops have come at the very right time because as Professor Chinua Achebe of the blessed memory stated that “in the final analysis a leader’s no-nonsense reputation might induce a favorable climate but in order to effect lasting change it must be followed up with a radical programme of social and economic re-organization or at least a well-conceived and consistent agenda of reform which Nigeria stood, and stands in the dire need of”.
The hosting of these series of brainstorming sessions by the helmsman at the NYSC is seen as well-conceived and can indeed be contextualized as a strategic and consistent pattern of an emerging agenda of reforms that would define the tenure of the new leadership. The parleys have indeed advocated implementable recommendations aimed at achieving better results along the lines of the necessity of law reform of the NYSC Act and to uproot all anomalies experienced in the enlistment of participants of the NYSC.
The same professor Achebe had stated that: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land and climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership”.
As a manifestation of the new zeal within the hierarchy of NYSC, one amongst the double meetings was held with corps producing institutions in Africa and other stakeholders with a focus on how best to ensure that participants of the NYSC are assisted to evolve into sound and effective citizens.
The hierarchy of the NYSC summed up the reasons for the forum which had in attendance the heads of producing institutions in Africa alongside other strategic partners.
The Director General affirmed that: “We have observed in recent years that the quality of some of the graduates presenting themselves for mobilization for National Service from foreign institutions, especially in Africa, did not meet the needed manpower quality to actualize our national dream”.
He argues more persuasively thus: “This development constitutes risks and increases the vulnerability of the economy and our social wellbeing. I wish to place on record that in recent times there have been an upsurge in the number of graduates who cannot defend their degree certificates. Some of them can barely read, write or speak English language which is Nigeria’s official language. This situation is negating government’s efforts at managing the economy and addressing other multiple threats to the development of the country”.
The Director General then made a very shocking disclosure that some tertiary institutions simply sell their Degree/HND Certificates to unscrupulous persons who never underwent the rigours that the standard academic environment demands to merit ownership of the certificate.
Hear him: “We have evidences of persons who possess original of such Degree/HND Certificates and Transcripts from some universities that are represented here today. Some of these persons have equally confessed that their data are in the Database of such institutions. We are reliably informed that such Certificates and Transcripts cost between #300,000.00 and #500,000.00.”
He announced that one of the measures to check this anomaly and the ugly trend of certificate racketeering, is the recommendation to the Federal Ministry of Education to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that all Degree and HND Certificates obtained outside the shores of Nigeria are authenticated at the Nigerian Consulate in the country of study.
And then proceeded to pronounce as follows: “Therefore, with effect from the 2019 Batch ‘C’ service year, only academic certificates authenticated by Nigerian Consulates in countries of study will be accepted for National Service. Furthermore, all institutions found culpable in the sale of Degree Certificates will be blacklisted”, the Director General stressed.
One other issue is that certain institutions are said to be in the bad practice of issuing certificates to their would-be graduates in the field that they never studied just to enable these graduates participate in the scheme because they apply with their original fields of study which are unaccredited, they would not be allowed to serve.
At that event, foreign institutions were asked in their own interest to stick only to accredited courses just as the NYSC is working on implementing an idea whereby qualification and course of study would be included in the NYSC Certificates to be issued to participants. This is a noble idea if implemented.
The management warned foreign institutions to desist from extorting their graduates through the illegal collection of processing fees ranging from $100 to $300.
The NYSC has therefore deemed this as an illegal activity. The management of the NYSC has also asked the foreign institutions to appoint contact persons in Nigeria who would work in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education on issues relating to their institutions and graduates.
Two other critical issues came up in the presentation made by the Director General of the NYSC.
These are the issue of running illegal satellite campuses in Nigeria by foreign universities who issue to their students certificates as if they studied in their home institutions. The other matter relates to the parading of fake certificates which was frowned against.
The Director General stated clearly that the parading of fake certificates by persons seeking to serve in NYSC scheme amounts to a crime in line with section 13(2) of the NYSC Act, cap N84, laws of the Federation of Nigeria of 2004. It is expected that subsequently the law enforcement agencies would effectively combat these cases as aforementioned.
Similarly, the NYSC met at another brainstorming session on the National Youth Service Corps Act, N84 laws of the Federation of Nigeria of 2004 with a view to amongst others; highlight the operational framework of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Act to enhance clearer understanding by all stakeholders and the general public.
At the end of the deliberations, the participants resolved that it is mandatory for all graduates trained within and outside the country to undertake the national service as prescribed by the NYSC Act.
Conversely, parents/guardians, employers of Labour and all Nigerians were tasked to acquaint themselves with the provisions of the NYSC Act to stem the numerous infractions that is currently impairing the effective and efficient operation of the NYSC Scheme, particularly as it relates to deployment to states and posting of Primary Assignment.
There was also the compelling need to draw the attention of States and Local Governments to sections 6(2), 7(3) and 8(3) & (4) of the NYSC Act which highlighted their statutory obligations to the NYSC, especially with regards to the provision and maintenance of orientation camps, office accommodation as well as Corps members’ lodges and other welfare provisions for Corp members.
The need to address through enforcement of relevant disciplinary sanctions as enshrined in the enabling Act the challenges of willful infraction of the NYSC Act by various stakeholders, including mutilation of NYSC Uniform by Corps members, use of the Uniform by unauthorized persons, evasion of service by qualified graduates as well as attempts by unqualified persons to be mobilized for service was forcefully made.
On the essence of beginning the process of fundamentally reforming the Act it was rightly observed thus: “The time lag between 1973 when the Scheme was established to today reveal the need to reform some provisions of both the NYSC Act and Bye-Laws even which obviously have become obsolete.
It was the unanimous position of the quality audiences and participants at that forum on the enabling Act of NYSC that the NYSC Management should institute appropriate legislative procedure for the amendment of the NYSC Act to improve Corps welfare, enhance the general operations of the Scheme and properly align the Act to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Observing also that the NYSC Bye-Laws is a subsidiary legislation of the NYSC Act, and also that since the last review in 1993, most of the provisions of the Bye-Laws have become obsolete, rendering prescribed sanctions inconsequential, the NYSC Management were powerfully urged to without further delay set in motion process to update the Bye-Laws to make its provisions more relevant to current day realities just as it was observed that some areas of the Bye-Laws conflict with the NYSC Act, and agreed that NYSC Management needs to address such inconsistencies to facilitate the implementation of both essential operational instruments.
The sum total of these loaded practical brainstorming events shows that there would be light at the end of the tunnel. There is also the need for the NYSC management to sustain these efforts of getting the buy in and ownership of the processes of law reform by all the relevant stakeholders, credible organized civil society community and youth based groups.
Finally, the role of the media in sensitizing and carrying out effective enlightenment of the general public on the objectives of the NYSC and the relevant sections of the NYSC Act cannot be overemphasized. The Director General himself stated this unambiguously thus: “Given the current realities and the continuing relevance of the NYSC, we have recognized the need to provide avenue for enlightenment of Nigerians on the enabling Act and the various aspects of our operations. This is based on our firm belief that the roles of stakeholders are better played if the provisions of the enabling law are clearly understood.”
The phenomenal policy that led to the successful procurement from the Federal government of a radio licence by the NYSC is one amongst the positively constructive steps to empower the youth through quality information dissemination and enlightenment. It is therefore the expectation of some of us professionals in the media that competent media practitioners are hired to administer the broadcasting station of the NYSC.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.com, www.huriwa.blogspot.com,www.thenigerianinsidermews.com