Emmanuel Onwubiko: Lockdown and unlocking the youths skill by NYSC

When a comprehensive record of the political legacies of President Muhammed Buhari would be written, a chapter would inevitably be devoted to his illustrious efforts in sustaining the National youth service Corp (NYSC) scheme by his exceptional lucidity in selecting the director General of that vital sector of the Nation’s economy.

It would seem that the choices the President has had to make in both the hierarchies of the NYSC and youths/sports ministry in the last one year can be rated as one of his best decisions which could be anchored on his belief in the principle enunciated by the onetime Secretary-General of the United Nations Who stated thus: “No one is born a good citizen; no Nation is born a democracy.

Rather, both are process that continues to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline; it is condemned to bleed to death”.

It is generally believed that the choices of Mr Sunday Dare, the youngest minister in the present federal executive council as the minister of Youths/Sports and the selection of a consummate educationist and a doctorate degree holder who is a Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army, Shuaibu Ibrahim, to head the NYSC were exceptionally praiseworthy.

General Ibrahim Came to the NYSC straight from the ivory tower whereby he worked as the registrar, Nigerian Army University, BIU, Borno state. The current chief of Army Staff LIEUTENANT General Yusuf Tukur Buratai is credited for establishment of that foremost military University located in the Northeast of Nigeria.

Now, here is the reason for my evaluation aforementioned.

There is a local proverb in Igbo land that says “Things which occur suddenly may overwhelm the strongest of men, but it is that which comes suddenly and how the situation is handled, that is the hallmark of a great man or woman.”

So when in early March 2020, the world became gripped by the CORONAVIRUS pandemic and the health emergency landed in our own shores, one of the areas of concern was the youths sector specifically the NYSC.

Millions of Nigerian families became apprehensive about the fate of their children who were then in the camps of the NYSC preparing for their eventual deployment to their places of primary assignments.

However, the hierarchy of the NYSC was visionary in the sense that it worked out effective ways to keep the Corpers Safe from coming to harm by suspending the camps and by implementing the World health organization’s protocols and the Nigeria Center for disease control guidelines to beat Covid-19. These efforts paid off.

This is because, not a single participant of the NYSC was affected by the COVID-19 just as those who were asked to proceed home where mobilized to ensure their safe passage to their families.

The participants who were already deployed in the different states of the federation used the period of nation-wide lockdown to engage constructively in activities that are aimed at partnering with the state governments in their locations to manage and contain the COVID-19 ailment.

The lockdown as it were was used by the leadership of the NYSC to unlock the skills and innate talents of the youths participating in the scheme in line with the mandates of the NYSC. Hitherto, the Director-General of the NYSC had emphasised that teaching the youth entrepreneurial skills and development of their innate talents for productivity would be amongst his salient agenda in the agency. This perspective aligns with the vision, mission, mandates and objectives of the NYSC.

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The objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme are clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June 1993 as follows: To inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves; To raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement; To develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training. which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest; To enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment; To contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy; To develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration; To remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups; To develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria.

The vision as envisioned by the fathers of the NYSC ARE to ensure: The equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilisation of their skills in area of national needs; That as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in States other than their States of origin; That such group of youths assigned to work together is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible; That the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria; That the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences; That members of the service corps are encouraged to seek at the end of their one year national service, career employment all over Nigeria, thus promoting the free movement of labour and That employers are induced partly through their experience with members of the service corps to employ more readily and on a permanent basis, qualified Nigerians, irrespective of their States of origin

It must be recalled that Youth development efforts have been a major focus of successive Nigerian governments.

Factually speaking, the Federal Government created a full-fledged Ministry of Youth Development in 2007 as part of that effort, with the statutory responsibility for advancing the youth development agenda nationally.

Historically, in addition to spearheading policy development and advocacy efforts, the Ministry has also been engaged in major efforts to monitor the status of youths and facilitate youth development programmes, among others. The Ministry has now been renamed the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development under the current national government with Sports Development merged into it.

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In 2008 the then Federal Ministry of Youth Development developed, for the first time, a Youth Development Index for Nigeria aimed at providing measures for understanding the well-being of the Nigerian youth. The Index assessed the status and needs of the Nigerian youth, and thereby generated empirical data to inform policy decisions and guide implementation, as well as provide evidence-based advocacy tool on youth development issues.

Also in 2008 the Federal Ministry of Youth Development also developed a Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP).

There is empirical evidence to show that since coming on board about a year ago the current Director-General of the NYSC has escalated development-focused programmes aimed at building up the participants of the scheme to become employers of labour through the imbibing and acquisitions of vocational skills to become productive members of the Nigerian society. This approach of making the youth self reliant and developed has yielded dividends in such a way that from all across the length and breadth of Nigeria there are reports of the distinctive roles that Youth Corps members have played in leading campaign against pandemic. Business Day had on April 14th 2020 reported that Corps Medical personnel across States of the federation and FCT Abuja do not only engage themselves in various activities in Hospitals designated for this purpose, they have also been involved in organised enlightenment campaigns through Radio, Television and other online media platforms to sensitise Nigerians on the adverse effects of the disease and the need to adhere to safety measures outlined by relevant health bodies to stem the tides of the Pandemic. These youngsters have also displayed distinguishing characteristics as talented builders of facilities to augment government’s efforts to combat the CORONAVIRUS challenge in Nigeria. Around May a group of corps members serving in Akwa Ibom State successfully built an automated disinfection chamber that is able to sanitise the whole body against coronavirus infection in three seconds.

The corps members, led by Mr Adetifa Omoyemi and Mr Okoye Chisom, who presented their work to the NYSC State Coordinator, Mr Julius Amusan, said the chamber was the idea of corps members who are engineers and scientists.

Omoyemi, an Electrical Electronics Engineering graduate from Ekiti State University, explained that the automated disinfection chamber operates with electricity and can function as long as there is power supply. The youngsters serving the nation in Kano State were not left behind. Around the same May 2020, Members of the National Youth Service Corps have produced handwashing machines in Kano, Oyo and Kwara states, as part of their contributions to ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the COVID -19 pandemic nationwide.

The NYSC said that a corps member serving in Kano, Mr Abdullahi Sani, fabricated an automated hand-washing machine that dispensed water and liquid soap, while a group of corps members in Oyo also produced a hand -washing machine.

The corps members are Adeyanju Adeyemi, Afolabi Victor and Ogunmoye Victor.
The NYSC also noted that in Kwara, two corps members, Abdulsalam Abubakar and Obiefuna Ebuka , constructed a dual-faced hand – washing dispenser .

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In a release issued by a press officer, Mr Christopher Lot, the NYSC added that corps members in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja , Gombe and Delta states had been requested by the respective state governments to “ produce face masks in large quantities to meet the growing demand by the people . ”

The impressive records continued with some members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in Nasarawa State who went on to donate 1,000 locally made face masks to the state government as part of their contribution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

The media recall that A 2019 batch B corps member serving in the state Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning, Miss Deborah Oladeji, led other corps members to make the donation to the state government in Lafia, the state capital.

The Deputy Governor of the state, Emmanuel Akabe, received the face masks for the state on behalf of the state Governor, Abdullahi Sule.

Similarly, a corps member in Anambra State, Mr. Ifere Samuel made a cash donation of his April allowance to the state government in support of the fight against coronavirus pandemic.

Ifere, a graduate of Sociology from Ebonyi state University made the donation alongside other corps members from Dunukofia and Aguata Local Government Areas who also presented sanitizers, handwash and 1,500 facemasks to the state.

Presenting the cash to the Commissioner for Youth Empowerment and Creative Economy, Afam Mbanefo, the corps member said the gesture was informed by the motivation from the federal lawmakers’ donation of part of their monthly allowance towards fighting the scourge. FROM the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari comes the cheering news that a blind Corps Member, Gambo Dahiru serving in Katsina State has produced 1000 NYSC customized Face Masks and donated to members of the public.

Dahiru, who is from the 2019 Batch B Stream 2 Gambo Dahiru serving with Companion FM Radio in Katsina said, the gesture was part of his Community Development Service (CDS) to fight the spread of the novel COVID-19 pandemic in Katsina State.

And as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the dreaded coronavirus in Rivers State, management of the Rivers State National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) donated home-made kits to the state government.
Receiving the gifts in Port Harcourt, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo thanked the corps members for their magnanimity in supporting the government and ingenuity to produce the hand sanitisers, liquid soap and face masks.

These are pragmatic Testament to the excellent work ethics of the management of the NYSC and it is the hope of millions of Nigerians that these great steps would become permanent features long after the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC IN NIGERIA has been defeated.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.huriwanigeria.com, www.thenigerianinsidernewsmcom, www.huriwa@blogspot.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com

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