By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“…for us to have a country of our dreams, that we all can be proud of in the comity of nations, I hereby enjoin the Nigerian Youths to shun corruption, be more patriotic, do away with drug abuse and associated vices and above all be committed to acquiring quality education as provided at all levels of our educational system. The Nigerian Youths must always be a shining example to all youths worldwide not only in learning, but in good character, conduct, talent and skills” –Brig. Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim
At a recently annulled media briefing, we intended to interface with gentlemen of the Fourth Estate of the Realm we humbly wished to brief them together as a coalition of 24 Civil Society Organisations drawn from across Nigeria and spearheaded by a prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA). Although we shelved the media event because we decided that since we are a media affiliated NGO, it will be better to speak to the issue in an essay format rather than make it appear like a media warfront. The media are our constructive partners and colleagues.
And so, we want to first and foremost let you know that this briefing session is completely our independent initiative in our capacity as a coalition of Nigerian civil society organisations who have no political affiliations but are passionate about achieving just and equitable development in our dear country.
As you all may be aware, our coalition is a team of professionals who have come together to advance the single agenda of building a formidable and economically strong united Nigeria.
We need not belabour you with our strong collective track record within the organised civil society community in Nigeria which spans nearly two decades of an unblemished spirit of patriotism.
For some time now, the National Youth Service Corps Scheme, which remains one of the most enduring national legacies that have stood the test of time, being the bridge between school and the society has been battling cocktails of lies, half-truths and speculations orchestrated to sow seeds of doubts and anxiety in the minds and hearts of Nigerians.
The latest being the false story on high rate of drug abuse and addiction among Corps members credited to an online media, which quoted the Ondo state coordinator; Mrs. Victoria Ani as saying she “lamented that the situation calls for concern, following the large number of corps members taking illicit drugs”.
Luckily, the statement, which was purported to have been made during the 2021 Corps Employers’ Workshop held in Akure, Ondo State capital, has been debunked by the proactive managers of the NYSC, who have ably provided responses to this scandal by elements who are assiduously working behind the scenes to sacrifice NYSC to appease their instincts, describing the story as a figment of the writer’s imagination.
WHY WE ARE CONCERNED
We, the Coalition of Civil Society organizations are concerned about these criticisms directed at the management of the National Youth Service Corps over the controversy on the alleged drug addiction statement, which like one too many others, are efforts to distract the NYSC scheme.
This, in our estimation, is not in the interest of the nation because the 48-year-old institution’s mandate is to enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment, contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy, develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.
We are also worried over this purported statement, because there is clear evidence that NYSC has been collaborating with the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in the campaign against drug abuse through sensitization and education on the dangers of drug abuse, to the general public.
Gentlemen of the Press, it is a well-known fact that Community Development Service (CDS) is one of the four (4) Cardinal Programs of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) through which Corps Members contribute positively to the development of their host communities throughout the period of National service.
It is worthy of note, that over the years, the National Youth Service Corps has contributed immensely in the social, political and economic transformation of the nation. In recent times, the scheme has been in the vanguard of the nation’s drive to correct the imbalance in our rural-urban development through the various community development programs executed by corps members.
These programs have revolutionized our communities in the areas of education, health care delivery, agriculture, communication, infrastructure, technology, economic empowerment, poverty eradication, social services and above all national consciousness and socio-cultural regeneration.
Most importantly, through the Drug Free & Quality Control CDS Group in collaboration with the NDLEA, NAFDAC and SON, the NYSC has been in the vanguard for the eradication of fake and adulterated foods and drugs, awareness on dangers of drug abuse, establishment of drug free clubs in Schools and ensuring linkages with the host Communities.
Particularly and most importantly, it is an established fact that through the NYSC Drug- Free Club; the Scheme has continued to work in collaboration with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in order to ensure a drug free society.
More so, the collaboration with NYSC is evidently part of the NDLEA’s efforts at tackling drug abuse among Nigerian Youths as the NYSC scheme has been helping the NDLEA in various secondary schools in the campaign against drug abuse by educating the students on the dangers of drug abuse.
Again, several evidence of admonitions from the proactive management of the scheme on corps members as graduates to avoid all social vices especially drug abuse, which is one of the leading causes of problems in the society today as well as Lead other youth in shunning the menace and other anti-social behaviour for a better country abound.
Perhaps it would be pertinent to recall that in August, 2019, the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) agreed to partner the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to use corps members in the fight against drug abuse across the country.
During the courtesy visit to the NYSC Director-General; Brigadier Shuaibu Ibrahim, the NAFDAC Director-General Prof. Mojisola Adedeye commended the invaluable contributions of Corps Members to NAFDAC activities, while her NYSC counterpart noted that one of his policy thrusts is to maximize the potentials of Corps Members for optimal performance adding that they are passionate about contributing their quota to the development of the country.
Therefore, it is totally incredible to us that an institution that has been adjudged a beacon of hope and has worked so hard in assisting with sensitization and enlightenment in order to stem the tide of youth’s exposure to hard drugs could be subjected to an unsubstantiated allegation.
The NYSC deserves the gratitude and commendation of the nation, not constant attacks. In fact, from today we hereby undertake to advocate for NYSC to earn the highest National Productivity Merit Award in Nigeria.
Again, the sponsors of this campaign of falsehood and calumny must not be allowed to achieve their evil plans. If we sit back and fold our arms whilst this evil is allowed to fester, then we will be shooting ourselves in the foot destroying a unique creation of Nigeria which is presently an envy of other countries in Africa and beyond.
Gentlemen of the Press, we are by this statement lauding the NYSC management for debunking the report as it is one of the antics of naysayers who are bent on sowing discord among Nigerians.
Beyond this, educational institutions and certificate-awarding professional bodies such as the NYSC have been platforms some persons manipulate to forge certificates.
This is the mystery and credibility of NYSC which dubious characters today are finding it extremely difficult to penetrate or manipulate to their favour. Incidentally, the incumbent NYSC Director-General; Brigadier Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim is determined in fighting the menace of fake NYSC certificates. Finally, we wish to state that it is indeed, very curious that the writers of the fake story did not even spare a sentence to mention the essence of the Corps Employers’ Workshop, which was primarily organized by the NYSC to seek better working conditions for the Corps Members.
He actually started fighting this forgery syndicate about two years back by blocking fake results holders from being called too orientation camps, after flushing out internal collaborators.
Hence, we urge the media not to be deceived by this evil campaign directed at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), because those making these baseless allegations are working hard to scuttle the government’s agenda for youth capacity development and national integration.
The undeniable fact is that the management of NYSC has a strong partnership with the NDLEA to wage effective anti-hard drug crusade because NYSC participants are critical drivers of development in many socio-economic fields and so can’t possibly achieve the objectives if they do not shun drug abuse and addiction.
An interesting point was made in a newly published book as follows: “Immediately after establishment, the NYSC became an operational vehicle for harnessing and showcasing the collective capabilities of Nigerian youths for Nigeria’s national development drive through its youth development strategy into key sectors of the economy.”
The key fields to which corps members were to be deployed as mentioned in the enabling decree included hospitals, farms, water-schemes, road construction, surveying and mapping, social and economic services, schools, food storage and pest eradication, rehabilitation centres, sports development, government departments and statutory corporations, development projects of local councils and the private sector of the economy.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the economy after the Nigerian Civil War.
NYSC was established by decree No. 24 of 22nd May, 1973 which stated that it is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of National Unity, Poverty eradication, mass literacy, shortage of infrastructural facilities, disunity, conditions that plagued the country which necessitated the then Yakubu Gowon administration to rethink.
The NYSC Community skilled manpower development are other Development Service (CDS) is a year-round affair. It is one of the four (4) cardinal points of NYSC.
Through the CDS, members of the Service Corps work with the local communities to promote self-reliance by systematically prospecting and executing development projects and positively on which impact the socio-economic programme/development of the host communities. These are from the book titled; “The National Youth Service Corps and Nigeria’s Health Sector by Shuaibu Ibrahim, Patrick Ukase, Bem Japhet Audu, Maryam Hamza and Rufai Aliyu”.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and one time National commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.