The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), created in May 1973, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To commemorate this, Citizen spoke to former and serving corps members. They shared their thoughts on whether the scheme should stay on or be scrapped.
Opinions were mainly divided among three camps. The “let it stay” guys argued that the NYSC remained relevant in fostering unity and job creation for Nigerians. The “let’s get it scrapped” folks said they didn’t benefit from the scheme and that it doesn’t serve the purpose it was created for. A third group, the “chill first” guys, said the NYSC should be revamped and given a fresh look.
In any case, Twitter gave us many smashing photos of young Nigerians who reminisced about their time in service. To feast your eyes, type “NYSC50” or “NYSCat50” in the search box. That said, I’d later stumble on an interesting tweet. I also had a conversation with a friend, both of which inspired today’s Navigating Nigeria topic. First, the tweet:
I spoke with a friend last night, and it occurred to me that she didn’t join in the WhatsApp frenzy of folks sharing photos of themselves dressed in Khaki. That was interesting to me because, knowing her, she’d be the first to jump on trendy stuff. So I asked why, and she told me like she was pleading her innocence, that she didn’t do it.
“Why, what’s the story there”? I asked. “Nothing”, she said. My journalistic instinct wanted to keep pressing her on the matter. Given her staccato responses, however, my head told me I was beginning to irritate her and would enter her block list if I continued. But she did manage to add, “I’ve always said I wouldn’t serve Nigeria.”
Now that we have some context let’s delve right in. What if I’m not interested in serving Nigeria? So what?
What the law says about NYSC
The National Youth Service Corps Act of 1993 specifies the Corps’ objectives and the service conditions for corps members under the Corps. Here’s what it says about the calling up of corps members:
This passage says that every Nigerian citizen must serve in the NYSC for one year unless exempted. The requirements for mandatory service include graduating from a university in Nigeria, graduating from a university outside Nigeria, obtaining a Higher National Diploma or other professional qualification as prescribed, or obtaining a National Certificate of Education. The service must be completed within one year from the date specified in the call-up instrument.
So what are the conditions for being exempted?
The section above says that starting August 1, 1985, certain people won’t be required to serve in the NYSC even if they meet the requirements stated in subsection (l) of the Act. These people include those over 30 years old, those who have served in the Nigerian Armed Forces or Nigeria Police Force for more than nine months, those who are staff members of certain security agencies, and those who have received national honours.
But I don’t want to serve; is it by force?
There are different arguments to consider here. The most important is the argument for patriotism and why serving is a civic responsibility as specified by law. It’s like paying taxes. You don’t have to like it, but you’re expected to do it. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.
Another is that there are penalties for not taking part in NYSC. Just because they’re not strictly enforced doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Failure to report for service or refusal to make oneself available for service carries a fine of ₦2,000, imprisonment for 12 months, or both. Two thousand naira might be chicken change, but how does a one-year jail term sound? Think about it.
Before you retort that it’s not that serious and no one will arrest you, consider that if we want our leaders to uphold laws, we too must be willing to abide by those same laws, or else we’re only paying lip service.
Lastly, the law says that employers must demand either an NYSC certificate or a certificate of exemption from anyone who has obtained a first degree.
And as is common knowledge these days, aspiring to public office without an NYSC certificate—or worse, a forged one—can land you in soup. Someone like former finance minister Kemi Adeosun would tell you it’s a bad idea to do such a thing.
With these few points of mine, I hope I’ve made a case for why you should participate in the NYSC scheme. All that’s left is to forward this article to my friend while I wait with bated breath.