NYSC Trust Fund: Idea Stronger Than Any

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By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Few days back, president Muhammadu Buhari who has not less than half a dozen media assistants and a cabinet level advisor, and who ironically is not particularly media savvy, gave a rash of television interviews with channels Tv, Arise Tv and the publicly funded Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

I watched the interviews with rapt attention not just because I am a patriotic Nigerian but more importantly because it was expected that the president who has one year only to exit public office and to go into a well deserved retirement, would tell us what he intends to do upon retirement.

President Buhari did not disappoint in this aspect because he disclosed his plan to retire to his home town of Daura in Katsina State but he made a very passionate point that he will defeat terrorists before May 29th 2023 hand over date.

Strategic as those views are, the president could have added his icing on the cake by reeling out his intention to bequeath to Nigeria the first ever NYSC Youths Trust Fund which is in the works in the National Assembly.

This is because of the undeniable fact that the current President admirably made a milestone by putting in place the frame work that dovetailed into the institutionalization of a national law legalizing participation of youths at various ramifications of politics that were hitherto restricted to older persons like the National Assembly positions. The liberalisation of the political space may one day see a 30 year young girl emerging as President or Senate President. What about the prospect of seeing a 25 years old boy becoming the governor of say Lagos State or Rivers State? This indeed would be a revolution similar to what has become normal I very sophisticated societies like in Europe whereby there are young persons at less than 35 who are holding highly sensitive political positions as Prime ministers or economic affairs ministers. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are used to seeing much younger persons playing important political roles in shaping the economies of their nations in very important positions.

The not too young to run legislation will resonate for generations unborn particularly for its strategic goal of bringing fresh ideas and fresh minds into policy making offices as elected office holders and has widened the frontiers of participatory politics in line with section 14 (2) of the 1999 Constitution which stipulates that : “The participation of the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of the constitution”.

With the aforementioned in mind, good as the information relayed by president Muhammadu Buhari in those television interviews are, I suggest that the president needs to address the country soon when his administration successfully sees to the emergence of a Trust Fund to be domiciled within the National Youths Service Corps Scheme called NYSC’s Youth Trust Fund which fundamentally seeks to address the skill gap amongst the rank of young graduates who have done the National Service. As we proceed we will be presented with a frightening Statistics of unemployed youngsters so we know why insecurity is a big threat to our survival which is a key issue that the NYSC’S YOUTHS TRUST FUND is envisaged to solve.

Aside that, the truth about the campaign for the establishment of this fund is that it will deepen the implementation of community development service which is at the heart of the 48 years old NYSC.

For a fact, Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim the Director General of NYSC, alongside some academics like Ojong Echum Tangban, Ben Japhet Audu and Maryam Hamza authored a book in which they stated thus: “Community development service as a general concept, is rooted at the heart of African people and society from pre-colonial period.

Its meaning lies in the general belief and culture of the people who always come together to take action on what’s important to them and their collective progress and sustainable peace. It has sustainable peace. It has supported communities and people in the way in which decisions are made. Community development service is fundamentally based on the contemporary values of human rights, social justice, equality and respect for diversity.

The general principles that sustain and uphold the culture of community development service in Africa include: self- determination (people and communities have the right to make their own choices and decisions); empowerment (people should be able to control and use their own assets and means to influence); collective action (coming together in groups or organisations strengthens peoples’ voices) and community participation”, (See the book titled-: The National Youth Service Corps and Community Development Service in Nigeria by Shuaibu Ibrahim, Ojong Echum Tangban, Ben Japhet Audu and Maryam Hamza).

Importantly, data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1% indicating that about 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians remain unemployed.

Nigeria’s unemployment and underemployment rate (28.6%) is a combined 55.7%. This means the total number of Nigerians who are unemployed or underemployed as at 2020 Q2.

The data also reveals the worst-hit are Nigerian youths with over 13.9 million currently unemployed. In Q3 2018, the last time the report was released there were about 13.1 million Nigerian youths unemployed. Youth between the ages 15-24 have about 6.8 million Nigerians out of jobs and another 7.1 million also unemployed.

The highest unemployment rate was recorded for youths between 15 – 24 years 40.8%,

This is followed by ages 25 – 34 years at 30.7%.

NCE/OND and Nursing recorded an unemployment rate of 30.8%

The unemployment rate amongst second-degree holders (M.Sc/MS/MAdm) stood at 22.9%

Unemployment rate as classified by Doctorate degree holders is 23.3%

What this means: The NBS also reports Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 40 million out of which only 14.7 million are fully employed and another 11.2 million are unemployed. A high youth unemployment rate is synonymous with increased insecurity and poverty a situation that is also seen as a ticking time bomb.

To put things into context, Nigeria’s unemployed youth of 13.1 million is more than the population of Rwanda and several other African countries. Youth Population is also about 64% of total unemployed Nigerians suggesting that the most agile working-class population in the country remains unemployed.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also worsened the economic condition in the country making it even harder for employers to create more jobs. The private sector has relied on cutting jobs in the guise of downsizing and right sizing to reduce overheads and stay afloat.

The recent data also buttresses the high rate of Nigerians seeking greener pastures outside the country with most of them highly skilled and looking for jobs of the future. According to most recent data, in 2019 about 12,600 Nigerians gained permanent residency in Canada last year helping the country to become the fourth-leading source country of new immigrants to Canada, behind India, China, and the Philippines.

Noteworthy is the fact that Last year, the Government of Canada revealed Nigeria ranks third in the rating of the countries with the highest number of Express Entry invitations to Canada in 2018. This is revealed in the 2018 report released by the Canada Government. According to the report, a total number of 6,025 Citizens of Nigeria received invitations to apply (ITAs) for Canadian Express Entry in 2018. It was further revealed that Nigeria is just behind China who recorded 6,248 ITAs in 2018.

This is why the NYSC’s Youths Trust Fund is a necessity and constitute a central idea stronger than any Army in the World.

The World Bank group last year’s July highlighted the goals of youth’s skills empowerment. The NYSC’S YOUTH TRUST FUND is fundamentally structured to promote and mainstream skills and empowerment of the Young graduates.

I will give an extensive citation of that World Bank’s report for the purposes of emphasis so readers understand why it is time to practically set out a viable Trust Fund to enhance the skills and productivity of the Nigerian young persons who have graduated from higher institutions.

The Work Bank found out that: “Low skills perpetuate poverty and inequality. When done right, skills development can reduce un- and underemployment, increase productivity, and improve standards of living. Helping people develop and update their skills makes economic sense.”

Global mega trends such as the rising role of technology, climate change, demographic shifts, urbanization, and the globalization of value chains are changing the nature of work and skills demands. To succeed in the 21st century labor market, one needs a comprehensive skill set composed of:

Cognitive skills, which encompass the ability to understand complex ideas, adapt effectively to the environment, learn from experience, and reason. Foundational literacy and numeracy as well as creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving are cognitive skills.

Socio-emotional skills, which describe the ability to navigate interpersonal and social situations effectively, and include leadership, teamwork, self-control, and grit.

Technical skills, which refer to the acquired knowledge, expertise, and interactions needed to perform a specific task, including the mastery of required materials, tools, or technologies.

Digital skills, which are cross-cutting and draw on all of the above skills, and describe the ability to access, manage, understand, integrate, communicate, evaluate, and create information safely and appropriately.

The development of skills can contribute to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and labor productivity and helping countries to become more competitive. Investment in a high-quality workforce can create a virtuous cycle, where relevant and quality skills enable productivity growth and foreign direct investment, which result in more and better jobs for the current workforce and more public and private investment in the education and training system. This, in turn, increases the employability and productivity for both the current and future workforce.

On what the World Bank termed as the key issues countries need to tackle for skills development, we are told as follows:

“Access and completion. Across the world, investments in education and skills development—from preschool through post-secondary education to vocational training—have high returns. The wage penalty for low literacy is nine percentage points in Colombia, Georgia and Ukraine, and 19 percentage points in Ghana. And the opposite is also true: in Brazil, graduates of vocational programs earn wages about 10 percent higher than those with a general secondary school education. Still, provision of equitable access is a challenge in many low-income and middle-income countries. Furthermore, many students who manage to enrol in education or training programs do not complete their studies and miss out on obtaining formal qualifications, which can dramatically reduce the return on the educational investments in terms of lifetime earning potential.”

“Quality. Many young people attend schools without acquiring basic literacy skills, leaving them unable to compete in the job market. More than 80 percent of the entire working age population in Ghana and more than 60 percent in Kenya cannot infer simple information from relatively easy texts. For those who access technical and vocational training at secondary and post-secondary levels, returns can vary substantially by specialization and institution. In particular, technical and vocational training (TVET) systems in many countries face challenges related to quality assurance, resulting in perceptions of the vocational track being a second-best option compared to general secondary or tertiary education.

Relevance. Technical and vocational education and training —which can last anywhere from six months to three years— can give young people, especially women, the skills to compete for better paying jobs. Nevertheless, more needs to be done in terms of engaging local employers to ensure that the curriculum and delivery of these programs responds to labor market needs.

Efficiency. Challenges related to governance, financing, and quality assurance also impact the efficiency of skills development programs. The resulting unnecessarily high costs can limit opportunities for disadvantaged youth and adults to access these programs.

The good news is that the evidence on what works and what does not in skills development, and for whom, is growing. At the World Bank Group (WBG), we support governments around the world in designing, implementing, and learning from reforms and programs aimed at addressing the most fundamental challenges of skills development. Click on the “Solutions” tab to learn more about our solutions to skills development challenges.”

To wrap up, it is self evident that the establishment of the Trust fund will positively enable the NYSC to contribute massively to the wealth of the Federation. Who would have thought that Nigeria will one day have an agency like NYSC meant for processing graduates for their mandatory one year national service now become almost self sustaining through investments and productivity harnessed by the able management headed by the fine gentleman from Nasarawa State Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim. The NYSC’S YOUTH TRUST FUND when operational will bake bigger National cake to benefit hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youths.

DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Shuaibu Ibrahim, a brigadier-general, says the scheme remitted over N1 billion into the federation account between 2020 and 2021.

Ibrahim said the money was generated from different business initiatives established by the NYSC.

He disclosed this at the weekend when Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Tijjani Bande paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.

“…in an unprecedented feat, the Scheme remitted over one billion Naira generated as revenue from its various ventures to the federal account between 2020 and 2021,” he said in a statement issued by the scheme’s Deputy Director Press and Public Relations Emeka Mgbemena.

Findings show that the NYSC Ventures were created in 2012 as training and mentoring platforms for corps members interested in entrepreneurship development. Initiatives and funds generated through the ventures are expected to contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Ventures Department also produces corps members’ kits and other supplies to orientation camps nationwide. They include NYSC Garment Factories located in Minna, Niger State; and Mgbaku, Anambra State.

The NYSC Rice Mill in Ezillo; NYSC Bakery and Water Factory, Kubwa, Abuja; NYSC Feed Mill in lpaja, Lagos State; NYSC Entertainment Company Limited, which comprises the NYSC Nationa! Band, NYSC National Troupe and the NYSC Movie, are all registered.

Also, there are also NYSC Farms in Kwali, FCT, and Saminaka, Kebbi State.

Meanwhile, in a bid to enhance credibility of the mobilisation process and safeguard the nation’s education system, the DG announced it held separate meetings with corps producing institutions based in some African countries, including relevant Nigerian regulatory and professional bodies.

Through public sensitisation, production and distribution of face masks, hand sanitisers and liquid soap, Ibrahim also identified some COVID-19 preventive intervention measures deployed by the corps members.

Other achievements listed by the DG were the completion of NYSC North-West and South-West zonal skill acquisition centres, the commencement of work on the centre for the North-Central; publication of nine books on the achievements of the scheme; the establishment of a museum; the process of establishing the NYSC Radio, and the construction of NYSC Printing Press in Kaduna State.

Earlier, Bande had applauded the scheme, describing it as a well-thought-out initiative for youth engagement in the nation.

He stressed that matters of youth development were central to the progress of any country, adding that Nigeria had, through the NYSC, demonstrated recognition of youths as critical assets.

The diplomat, who noted that the scheme had broadened the knowledge of youths about the country and instilled patriotic zeal in them, also expressed delight at its current focus on the empowerment of corps members for self-employment.

He commended Ibrahim for his achievements since taking office as chief executive of the scheme.

As can be seen, studies and statements from the World Bank and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations show how important the NYSC’S YOUTHS TRUST FUND is and the time to see that come into fruition is now.

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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