Lawmakers Step Down Bill to Exempt Foreign Nigerian Students from NYSC Scheme

Udora Orizu in Abuja

Members of the House of Representatives at the plenary, yesterday  opposed and eventually stepped down a Bill seeking to amend the NYSC Act, to make provision for issuance of exemption certificate to Nigerians schooling abroad and for upward review of corp members allowances.

The proposed legislation tilted, “Bill for an Act to Amend the National Youth Service Corps Act, Cap. N84 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Review Upward the Accommodation and Transport Allowances of Corps Members in line with Current realities; and for Related Matters (HBs.716, 1305, 1657, 1922, 1945 &1674) was sponsored by Hon. Ben Igbakpa, Hon. Eta Mbora, Hon. Abass Adigun, and three other lawmakers.

Leading the debate on the general principles of the Bill which was presented for second reading, Igbakpa was of the view that with the changing times, NYSC scheme should no longer be compulsory, hence the Principal Act should be amended, to make provision for issuance of exemption certificate to Nigerians schooling abroad.

The lawmaker made reference to the case of former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun who was made to resign over allegations she used a forged certificate to avoid the country’s mandatory one-year youth service scheme.

He said: “This amendment seeks do three different cure because the law as it is today because of the changing realities of time, anybody that had passed the university and is serving as a corps member automatically has acquired a degree and it is the belief if this amendment that that should reflect in their renumeration because the 30,000 given to them as it is today is a minimum wage threshold and in line with the present reality it would not be fair if they are given something that befits a graduate, a level 8 Officer in the public service.

“The third as at the time the law was made in such a way that we did not consider our children schooling abroad. Not long ago a former Minister of Finance schooled abroad, was above thirty and came to Nigeria to help with the knowledge. But because of the stringent condition placed on the acquisition of certificate of exception there was something wrong and at the end of the day, we lost that intelligence and expertise. When the NYSC law was created Nigerians studying abroad were not considered. Nigerians schooling abroad should be issued certificate of exemption.”

Shortly after his presentation, several lawmakers took turns to oppose the Bill. While they supported remuneration increase for corp members, they opposed the exemption certificate for foreign Nigerian students.

In his contribution, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase, said the drafters the laws didn’t make mistake creating NYSC scheme, noting that it should be compulsory because it aides national integration.

Wase said: “Those who schooled abroad should comply with the bylaws we have set in the country. In several countries we have programs like this. In USA you have to serve compulsorily in the army for a year. The purpose is integration and discipline.”

Corroborating, Hon. Ahmed Jaha said while he agrees with the renumeration aspect of the Bill, he totally disagree with the optional part of the NYSC.

His words: “Substantial part of graduates recognize the importance of NYSC after having one because by the time they go out they will discover a lot of things they have not been conversant with in their area. so if you say it is optional people may think it is not serious. they would make it optional and they would be reluctant to go, but if you make it compulsory definitely everybody would go and at least discover something outside his domain.”

As more lawmakers opposed the Bill, the lead sponsor, Igbakpa opted to step it down for further consultation.

Before ruling on the stepping down on the Bill, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, suggested that the Rules and Business Committee should maybe remove the offensive parts and represent the bill.

Thereafter he put the Bill to a voice vote and it was stepped down.

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