BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
At a recent star-studded symposium in Abuja in which there was an array of about six professors who delivered well researched and empirically verifiable lectures on the desirability and functional necessity of what is called NYSC’ Youth Trust Fund, I was ever the more convinced that the idea if it materializes will provide succour to hundreds of thousands of unemployed youths.
Some of these University teachers who spoke on different but interconnected topic of the fundamental objectives for Nigeria putting up a sustainable platform from which creative minded and entrepreneurial youngsters that have had their one year compulsory National Service (NYSC) include Professors Ukerto Gabriel Moti, C.B.N Ogbogbo, Mutiu Matiu Adejo, Okpeh Ochayi Okpeh and Godwin Abu.
As a philosopher, the specific lecture that tickled my fancy was the one delivered by Professor Okpeh in which he summed up the overview of the imperatives of an NYSC Trust Fund.
Professor Okpeh itemized eight solid and rational reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly should bring to life a legal framework for the establishment of the NYSC Youth Trust Fund.
Professor Okpeh’s eight Professorial and empirical reasons backing the establishment of the Trust Fund for Youth doing the NYSC are as follows: Rapid increase in the population of the country since the decades of the decades after the Nigerian Civil War. From about 60 million in the early 1970s, the nation’s population is today above 200million; There has been a steady rise in the demand for formal education across all zones of the country.
He argued that as at September 2021, the country have 170 universities (43 Federal Universities, 48 State Universities, 79 private universities); In addition, the country has 43 polytechnics (17 Federal and 26 state owned). Of course these figures exclude those illegally operating across the country.
In consequence, there has been a steady rise in the population of the youths, considered to be the future of the country, he submitted.
This, he said, has remained a constant factor in the proliferation of institutions of higher learning in the country in the last three to four decades.
Besides, the learned mind affirmed that the number of corps members have also tremendously increased over the decades; From a mere 2,364 at inception, the scheme now mobilizes 350, 000 qualified Nigerian graduates, making it the largest youth social institution in Africa”.
Professor Armstrong Mattie particularly thrilled the audience with his presentation which spoke to the issue of necessity to recalibrate the NYSC for the 21st Century nation building challenges just as he justified the call for the establishment of an NYSC’s Youth Trust Fund by President Buhari.
Hear him: The idea of a national service has global roots but every nation creates its own national values and institutions in which its core national interests are reflected and to which its citizens are committed. The idea of national service is (thus) a critical component of citizens’ expressive solidarity with national goals.
It has been largely associated with the military service in its primary purpose of defending the nation.
Okpeh Okpeh identifies three main typologies of national services globally and these include: compulsory military service/conscription, mandatory national service scheme and voluntary national service. The mandatory national service is the type in which youths are required to serve the nation for a definite period of time and they are trained to acquire requisite skills for future challenges. This is the typology in which the Nigeria scheme falls.
The NYSC scheme, he asserted is also an instrument of credible motivation of the nation’s youth to patriotic duties, as well as encouraging the movement of labour. Consequently, the Corps members have had the opportunity of living and interacting with fellow Nigerians of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, at least for a period of one year.
A second major contribution of the Scheme is in the area of labour mobility just as he noted that through its development policy, the Scheme has been able to reasonably reverse the trend of uneven distribution of high-level quality manpower in Nigeria as the members served in various sectors, especially in the rural areas.
Thirdly, by implication and arising from the training programmes, the Scheme has done reasonable well in instilling discipline, focus and high sense of purpose use in the nation’s youth, he affirmed.
The Professor then states that ordinarily, a Trust Fund is a legal entity that holds property or assets on behalf of another person, group or organization.26 It can hold a variety of assets such as money, real property, stocks and bonds, a business or a combination of many different types of properties or assets. The primary motivation for establishing a Trust Fund is for an individual or entity to create a vehicle that sets terms for the way assets are to be held, gathered or distributed in the future.
He said given the need to recalibrate the NYSC scheme within the intention of keeping to the dictates of the 21st century, and to assuage some the problems challenging the Scheme’s vision and mandate, especially to re-activate the NYSC investment platform and uphold and modernize the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) Programme, the idea of a Trust Fund is a necessity.
It will create partial or full financial autonomy for the scheme in funding its operations and providing window for drawing capital for the entrepreneurial exploits after the service year.
Also, he stated that the benefits of the fund will include unburdening the government of being the sole financier as presently obtained; reduce the menace of unemployment; curb the increasing rate of crime by meaningfully engaging youths after the service.
The good news is that there appears to be a favourable disposition of the federal government to this proposal, especially the President who is passionate about youth engagement and empowerment, he emphasized.
For him, the objectives of a Proposed Bill for an Act to establish the NYSC Trust Fund (NYSCTF) among other things, provides insight into what is expected as it harps on sustainable source of funds for the NYSC for some of the following: Skill acquisition training and provision of startup capital for corps members; Train and retrain the personnel of the NYSC; Develop camps and NYSC formations and provide facilities; Improve the general welfare of corps members and personnel of the scheme. On the mandate of NYSC when viewed side by side with the proposal for a youth trust fund, the professor said: A core mandate of the National Youth Service Corp scheme as enshrined in the NYSC Act is to: S. 1(2)(c)The development of the Nigerian Youth and Nigeria into a great and dynamic economy; S.1(3)(d) to enable Nigerian youths to acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment; S.1(3)(e) contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy; S1(4)(f) to induce employers, partly through their experience with members of the service corps, to employ more readily qualified Nigerians irrespective of their states of origin. He then stressed that a reading of these sub-sections indicate that they are most germane to the theme of this symposium which seeks to “consolidate the gains of youth empowerment for national development. It is against this background of her mandate that we seek to locate the need for a Trust and then proceed to interrogate the legal framework for setting up a Trust Fund.
Professor Godwin Abu listed the gains to be derived from the NYSC Youth Trust Fund as follows: • Aside the positive, transformational and constructive social impacts the youth trust fund would bring, the initiative is about the surest panacea to youths involvement in social crimes because “the IDLE MIND IS THE DEVIL’S WORKSHOP”.• The Federal government needed to declare and implement a Marshall Plan For Economic Empowerment Of Youths. One of such should be the establishment of the NYSC TRUST FUND; • The National Population Commission (NPC, 2013) states about half of the population is made of youth, defined as individuals between 18 and 35 years of age;• Any funding/investment in the youth translate automatically into national development; and lastly • The fund, when established, will help actualize President vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of unemployment before the next decade. Reading through a recent research work on youths unemployment in Nigeria conducted by the USA based BROOKING INSTITUTE published in Brooking.Edu, it is no longer a child’s play to restate that the NYSC Youths Trust Fund would tackle this grave developmental challenges associated with massive youths unemployment. On the State of Youth Unemployment in Nigeria, Brookings submits that Nigeria’s population is said to have reached about 167 million people in 2012 (National Bureau of Statistics). The National Population Commission (NPoC, 2013) states about half of the population is made up of youth, defined as individuals between 15 and 34 years of age. Unfortunately, as the youth population grows, so does the unemployment rate. In fact, unemployed youth numbered about 11.1 million in 2012. Here we explore a number of trends in youth unemployment in Nigeria and discuss various government programs attempting to address the problem. First, in terms of age, younger youth struggle even more to find jobs: At least two-thirds of unemployed youth are between 15 and 24 years of age. And, in terms of gender, available statistics show that a majority of unemployed youth are female. As shown in Table 1, women accounted for more than 50 percent of unemployed youth between 2008 and 2012. Brookings presented an analysis of youth unemployment by geographical/settlement location (rural and urban areas) indicates that youth unemployment is mostly in rural areas and rapidly growing: From 2010 to 2011, the share of unemployed youth in rural areas increased from 47.59 percent to 59.95 percent. The population of unemployed youth in rural areas rose from 2.9 million in 2008 to about 5.9 million in 2012.
Brooking.Edu also undertook a study of economic programmes and policies adopted in Nigeria to tackle youth unemployment and then says: “Ascertaining policies that have worked in addressing unemployment in Nigeria is rather difficult in light of the incredibly high and rising unemployment rate—and at least around 1.8 million youth are entering the labor market every year (Falusi, 2014). Since it is unclear to what extent any given intervention may have reduced the youth unemployment rate in aggregate, it may be more helpful to think of effective policies as those which have delivered on their stated objectives. The sustainability of a program could also be considered an indicator of success.” “Different programs have been introduced by various administrations over time to address youth unemployment, which has been an issue of significant public concern since the days of SAP. In fact, youth unemployment became the focus of the social policy of the military government that ruled Nigeria for much of its years as an independent nation. The initial reaction of the government was to draft unemployed youth to public programs such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) and the Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DIFRRI), which provided immediate and direct jobs to participants interested in agriculture.”
However, we now stand at a threshold of history that would see millions of youths getting involved in wealth creation if the NYSC’S YOUTHS TRUST FUND is established and transparently administered. The audience at that academic summit acknowledge the fact that the Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim led management of NYSC has performed creditably and could therefore be entrusted with the administration of the much sought after NYSC’S YOUTHS TRUST FUND.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www. theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.