There is no need to reinvent the wheel at NYSC

After two years as Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Johnson Olawumi was recently redeployed by the military authorities. All factors considered, Olawumi will be remembered as a man who made the scheme more relevant by introducing a slew of innovations and while he will be a tough act to follow, his successor, Brigadier-General Sule Kazaure, should see that as a challenge, rather than as a reason for despair.

Kazaure, the 17th Director General of NYSC at a time the nation is facing serious economic challenges, has already promised to prioritise the welfare of corps members and staff and has started well, despite the financial constraints that led to the postponement of the 2016 Batch ‘A’ (Stream 2) orientation course earlier scheduled to commence last Saturday. “I know that the tasks ahead are enormous and the road is rough, but with unity of purpose we will make progress,” he said. While we wish him well on his new assignment, Kazaure will do well to continue with some of the programmes started by his immediate predecessor.

When Olawumi was deployed to NYSC in January 2014, he announced a vision to increase the impact of the scheme and expand its value to critical stakeholders. The four-point agenda he unfolded to drive that vision included improving the service content of the scheme; enhancing the welfare and safety of corps members and staff; expanding partnerships for greater impact, funding and support; and increasing the visibility and relevance of the scheme.

A major intervention of Olawumi was the Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers (HIRD) programme, which was designed for communities where access to healthcare facilities remains a mirage. Under the initiative, corps members in the medical field now render healthcare services to some of them on assigned Saturdays, in addition to their primary assignments at the teaching hospitals.

Considering that only those who are safe and healthy can serve the nation effectively, Olawumi also demonstrated sufficient commitment to the safety and welfare of corps members. For instance, while 11 NYSC members were lost to the election crisis of 2011, there were no fatalities during the 2015 general election and the only unfortunate death recorded was in the course of the Rivers State rerun elections early this year. That was because, on the eve of the election, Olawumi embarked on advocacy visits to identified hot-spots where he and his management team engaged with the leadership of security agencies, political parties and traditional institutions on the need to provide protection for corps members.

Perhaps the most controversial intervention under Olawumi’s watch was the introduction of online processing of call-up letters for prospective corps members at a fee of N4,000. But the issue petered out when it became clear that online-registration fee was optional and those interested in the status quo of picking up their call-up letters physically from their schools were still free to do so.

Olawumi also sustained or resuscitated interventions aimed at improving the capacities of corps members for job creation. Such included the War Against Poverty programme, undertaken with support from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Office and the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development Programme (SAED) on which the scheme collaborated with the Bank of Industry. With that, enterprising corps members could access concessionary loans, using their NYSC certificates as collateral while the Hope Alive Initiative, another Olawumi intervention, accorded recognition, grants and automatic employment for corps members who incurred permanent disability during their service year.

What the foregoing shows very clearly is that there is no need for the new DG to reinvent the wheel at NYSC. The structure to build upon is already there. We wish Kazaure all the best in his new assignment.