Recently, Management of the National Youth Service Corps, under the leadership of Maj Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim, an Associate Professor of Military History and Fellow, Historical Society of Nigeria, who has shown uncommon passion and refreshing candour in the discharge of the functions of his office advocated the establishment of the National Youth Sevice Corps Trust Fund ( NYSCTF).
The trust fund is expected to among others, address the infrastructural deficits besetting the Scheme, as well as provide start-up capitals for interested Corps Members to drive their business initiatives under the Scheme’s Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme, in addition to expanding the quality and scope of the training.
It is trite to rehash the whole philosophy behind the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps, an interventionist agency that came as a child of necessity to fast track the healing of a nation just recovering from the throes of an unnecessary civil war.
In almost 49 years, the Scheme has remained a beacon of national unity — one of the objectives behind its birthing, as so many inter-tribal marriages have been contracted, while a good number of ex – Corps Members have continued to settle down after service in ther respective communities and states of deployment, thus, fostering national unity and integration.
Gratifyingly, successive batches of Corps Members have continued to leave indelible imprints in the spheres of Education, Health, Agriculture, national assignments such as: conduct of general elections, census, immunisation among others.
I hasten to posit that education will go comatose in many states of the federation if the services of Corps Members are withdrawn from secondary schools. Likewise, in some rural communities, Corps doctors are the only doctors the rural populaces have ever known.
Unarguably, the centrality of the Scheme in overall national development cannot be over-emphasised, which demands an all round protection of this important national asset.
Indeed, one of the greatest achievements of the Scheme in recent times is the prioritisation of the skill acquisition programme, with a department established to coordinate its activities.
There is no gainsaying the fact that this programme which has been well driven and coordinated by NYSC Management has become a veritable gateway to self – reliance for Corps Members.
Interestingly, Bank of Industry, Central Bank of Nigeria, Access Bank, Unity Bank, NYSC Foundation, in addition to others are in collaboration with the Scheme, providing start-up grants, as well as loans to interested Corps Members that meet the requisite criteria to fund their businesses.
It is very heartening to note that the skill acquisition programme has become an integral part of NYSC Orientation course content. It comprises both in-camp and post – camp training. Evidently, so many Corps Members that keyed into the activity are today business owners, employing other Nigerians, thereby, contributing to the country’s GDP.
However, the number of Corps Members that receive grants and loans from the financial bodies as start-up capitals is infinitesimal compared with the number of youth mobilised every year for service.
The proposed trust fund, which has gained traction, while addressing the challenges of infrastructure will provide start-up capitals to a broader spectrum of Corps entrepreneurs to drive their businesses.
NYSC mobilises an average of 350000 youths yearly for service; even if just 30% of them get funded by the Trust Fund yearly, the multiplier effects the establishment of cottage industries by the Corps Members will have on our economy cannot be over-stated.
Doubtlessly, millions of Nigerians will be lifted from poverty; with a concomitant mitigating effects on youth restiveness and other unwholesome practices.
Without fear of contradiction the NYSC holds a stake in the march towards economic diversification, if given the requisite support by government. Indeed, the NYSC Trust Fund holds so much hope for the youth.
In conclusion, as the House of Representatives holds public hearing on the bill to establish the trust fund, Thursday, 24th February, it behoves all stakeholders and patriotic Nigerians to rally support for the fund, given the fact that it is a critical need that will not only empower the youth, but also accelerate economic growth and diversification.
*_Mgbemena is an Abuja-based public Affairs Analyst