SEQUEL to the review of minimum wage in the country, the age-long and exasperating calls for a substantial review of the monthly stipend given to members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was reviewed upwards to N30,000.
While it is modest to commend the federal government for hearkening to the clarion calls for many years by concerned Nigerians who deplore the peanut stipend to the fresh graduates, going by the ever changing cost of living that occasion unimaginable privation and trauma they face in making the mandatory one year service to their father land, it has really become necessary and germane to call a spade a spade.
It should be borne in mind that the prospective NYSC members are graduates and the salary scale of fresh graduates employed in the federal, state, and local government council is Grade Levl 08, step 1. The curious thing that had bordered well-meaning Nigerians is the rationale behind the stipend paid to NYSC members which is equivalent to the salary of Grade Level 01 of messengers, labourers, cleaners and watchmen.
It is very sad that injustice which has been a hallmark of governance in Nigeria in virtually all the segments of the national life has not shown any sign of abatement, hence the cries of marginalization by many segments of the country which in unbearable cases, had triggered restiveness, insurgency and militancy. It has been expected that such peanut stipend was meant for a testing period to be reviewed going by the feedbacks from the participants and cursory and observations of well-meaning Nigerians on the national programme.
Perceptive Nigerians had expected that such apparently well-intentioned programme initiated by General Yakubu Gowon’s military regime immediately after the civil war, was designed to make the fresh graduates from institutions of higher learning to be aware of the need for national integration by making the proverbial leaders of tomorrow appreciate the social, cultural and religious colorations, diversities, value system and the imperative for accommodation and forbearance.
With the unfortunate attitude of successive military and civilian governments towards good governance and populist policies and programmes, sufficient thought was not given to NYSC with a view to improving on the infrastructural facilities and basic amenities to making the programme conducive. For instance, there is basic need for living quarters incorporated in the federal government’s apparently disjointed housing programme. In the absence of government’s living quarters in the places where they are deployed for the one year mandatory service, they encounter unspeakable privations. Because of lack of official housing programme for the NYSC members, many of them in the northern part of the country became victims of electoral banditry and were slaughtered in cold blood during the protest of alleged election rigging that made Buhari lose his presidential ambition.
It has become apposite to suggest that (NYSC be scrapped) since seemingly the federal government cannot sufficiently provide basic necessities in making NYSC human-oriented since it was establishment in 1973, Like the Nigeria Police being in the exclusive legislative list, the federal government has employed coercion and cajoling to state governors to be providing some logistics and sundry facilities and finances to the police formations and NYSC which eat deep in the funds of the state government, thus affecting the recurrent and capital expenditures.
It amounts to a blatant insult on these fresh graduates to be on the remuneration with messengers, watchmen, cleaners in the public service which is salary Grade Level 08, step one and when the new national minimum wage of N30,000 was promulgated, well-meaning Nigerians expected that the NYSC stipend should be substantially reviewed to be at par with GL 08 step 1 in the public service.
If the federal government cannot afford to pay the salary, let the programme be scraped or let it be optional to allow those who believe that it is a waste of their time to scout and venture into meaningful sources of livelihood. The supposed increase in the stipend of N30,000 cannot pay house rent, transport and feeding for the month. It is a farce since it amounts to engaging Nigerians to slavery and forced labour; a yoke which is abhorable and abominable in this modern day and age. People are different in orientation and perception of life; and thus, there can be prospective NYSC members from home and in the diaspora who can manage the peanut pending the time they have viable alternative sources of livelihood. But let those who cannot be giving exemption certificate because the pittance is not worth the privation in the one year national service which the federal government and some capacity challenged states value.