By Franca Ofili, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) established on May 22, 1973 has served as a platform for national cohesion and offered young Nigerians opportunity to know and appreciate Nigeria’s diversities.
There is usually a lot of anticipation for youths preparing to participate in the one-year voluntary service, which offers many a first-time opportunity to leave home to confront the world.
Over time, the scheme has faced numerous challenges, which have led many to query its continued existence.
Among the challenges are decayed infrastructure, poor funding, crisis of deployment, lack of engagement during the service period and low expectations after service against the background of shrinking job opportunities.
All of these and more have compelled the managers of the scheme to introduce reforms to enable it deliver on its mandate of preparing Nigeria’s tertiary education young graduates for the world of work.
When Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, the Director-General of NYSC, was appointed on May, 10, 2019, he faced challenges that his predecessors had to deal with and more. The first challenge was the issue of mobilisation of unqualified persons with fake or questionable degree certificates.
First, he identified the sources of such certificates and convened a meeting with the registrars of some African Corps Producing Institutions to decide on strategies to deal with the problem. The meeting revealed that many of those with fake credentials were graduates of illegal institutions, mostly in the West African sub-region.
Sixty-five fake prospective NYSC members were apprehended during the 2019 Batch ‘B’ Stream Two Orientation Course and handed over to the security agencies for prosecution. Similarly, out of over 20,000 foreign-trained prospective corps members invited for verification of the documents they uploaded for the 2019 Batch ‘C’ mobilisation, only 3,321 appeared for the exercise.
Prior to the screening, Ibrahim had warned persons with dubious intentions of compromising the integrity of the NYSC mobilisation process to stay away to avoid the consequences.
“Under my watch, no unqualified person will be allowed to participate in the NYSC,” he warned.
As a way of boosting its funding base, NYSC over the years established projects but many of them remained inactive and instead drained the resources of the scheme. Determined to realise the goals of such projects, the Ibrahim-led management reinvigorated NYSC Ventures and Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme to improve the resources of the scheme and give corps members opportunity to harness their innate abilities.
The goals led to increased stakeholders’ involvement in the implementation of the programme through engagements with many existing collaborating partners and potential partners.
The effort has made some gains, including the collaboration with Unity Bank PLC on funding of Business Plan Development programmes for NYSC members, partnership. It also led to collaboration with British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation for empowerment of corps members with agricultural skills and business trainings, farm internship, mentoring and farm input supplies.
Also, there is a research-based collaboration between NYSC and National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM), OAU, Ile-Ife, (OAU-NACETEM) sponsored by a Canadian agency, International Development Research Centre, which seeks to evaluate the impact of the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme with a view to reinvigorating it for more results.
The Ibrahim Administration, determined to improve the financial base of NYSC, sought alternative ways of realising the goal by accelerating the upgrading and repositioning of NYSC Ventures initiatives.
It acquired new tractors and implements for the NYSC rice farm in Ezillo, Ebonyi, for mass production and processing of rice at the NYSC rice mill in the state. It also established a new rice mill for the NYSC rice farm in Saminaka and equipment for the mill are currently being installed. It also resuscitated the NYSC Bakery and Water Factory at the FCT Orientation Camp, Kubwa, with their products made available to consumers in the FCT and Nasarawa State.
The administration plans to replicate the ventures in NYSC Orientation Camps across the country to serve the needs of the camps and generate revenue for the scheme. The administration has also sustained the deployment of ICT solutions to drive the operations of the scheme for greater efficiency.
Recruited from an equally challenging role as Registrar at the newly-established Nigerian Army University, Biu, Borno, Ibrahim returned to the NYSC after 20 years when he served as Military Assistant to a former Chief Executive of the organisation.
On assumption of office as Director-General, Ibrahim had declared: “I see my second coming as a privilege and honour. I am determined to sustain what my predecessors started, improve on what they have also done and move the scheme to a higher pedestal.”
With enviable academic laurels and vast experience in administration, he brought to the job an impressive profile that put him in good stead to steer the NYSC to higher heights which exactly is what he has been doing. Ibrahim is a man of many parts; he is a teacher, researcher and author.
In spite of being a Brigadier-General in the Nigerian Army, Ibrahim holds a PhD in Philosophy and has been an astute administrator, which came as a result of his numerous postings in the military.
He displayed a rare ability to adapt and this made it possible for him to fit easily into the role of managing an organisation whose main clients are vibrant graduate youths of institutions of higher learning.
Ibrahim already had his job cut out before arriving at the NYSC headquarters, as he had to contend with the perennial widespread infrastructure deficits in many NYSC Orientation Camps, exponential explosion in corps population, paucity of funds, post service unemployment, among others.
With the knowledge of these challenges, Ibrahim realised he had to hit the ground running and so relied on his knowledge of the scheme in articulating his mission even before setting foot at the National Directorate Headquarters.
On the day he took over the mantle of leadership of the NYSC, Ibrahim unfolded his agenda which included: sustained effective utilisation of the potential of corps members for optimal benefit.
He also resolved to pursue a technologically driven organisation to deepen effective service delivery; improve the welfare and security of corps members and staff and strengthen existing collaboration with stakeholders. He also expressed a determinations to revive existing NYSC projects to achieve desired impacts.
In addition to harnessing the NYSC Integrated System online platform to enthrone a culture of integrity and efficiency in the Scheme’s operations, the administration is looking forward to leveraging on the gains from the advancement of ICT operations in order to raise the revenue of the organisation.
The administration has given priority attention to the security of corps members across the country; promoted communication among corps members and the society through the establishment of NYSC Radio; ensured that staff welfare was not compromised and maintained regular engagements with state governors on the need to develop NYSC facilities in their state as well as involved NYSC members in the fight against COVID-19. (NAN)