Since its inception in Nigeria 27 years ago, the National Youth Service Corps has been confronted with a plethora of problems. Some of these problems are traceable to the initial hurried birth and hasty implementation of the scheme; some arose out of political developments totally extraneous to the programme, while others are the inevitable products of the economic recession and the attendant review of budgetary priorities as enumerated hereunder:
Monitoring and Evaluation of Corps Members Performances: The State Secretariats are charged, not only with posting the Corps members to their respective primary assignment places, but also with monitoring their performance and ensuring that the core objectives of the scheme are attained.
The Staff at State Secretariats are therefore expected to make sure that the Corps members are given tasks related to their academic training, and that they report conscientiously for work every day, and that they carry out their duties in a manner satisfactory to both their employers and the NYSC Secretariat.
This responsibility has not been effectively carried out due to the unsatisfactory Secretariat Staff/Corps members ratio and the inadequate number of vehicles and other logistic aids available to State Secretariats. While the introduction of the zonal system and the growing utilisation of Corps liaison officers have somewhat ameliorated the situation, the problem has yet to be decisively addressed and resolved.
Underutilisation and or Nonutilisation of Corps Members: The underutilisation and/or nonutilisation of Corps members in their primary duty stations has been a perennial problem. In many establishments, corps members are reduced to glorified clerks and office assistants, untrusted with the real duties for which they have been posted and therefore unable to contribute meaning fully to national development.
In other cases, the Corps members are assigned tasks which are either far below their qualifications or are totally irrelevant to their training. The end result is that Corps members are unable to acquire the experience which was supposed to form a main component of their service year. In addition, many of them are frustrated and unenthusiastic, forced into truancy and idleness, failing to imbibe the necessary work ethics, while one of the key objectives of the scheme accelerating socioeconomic develop ment is left unattained.
Problems of Organising Community Development Services (CDS): The CDS programme, though it has proved to be one of the more successful aspects of the scheme, has also had its share of problems. These problems have been induced by the absence of logistic aids, the inadequacy of field supervision, the uncooperative attitude of some communities, and the lack of the needed continuity in some states and local governments.
Corps mem bers have often been sent to build roads without shovels, axes, lorries and other tools and equipment. Some of them have been left completely to themselves and given no task to perform. Such lack of supervision by the state secretariats has led to embarrassing discontinuity in the execution of some projects, so that roads which are uncompleted by an out going set of Corps members are not necessarily taken over by the incoming set which, more often than not, prefers to embark on a totally new project.
Expanding Corps Population: When the scheme started in 1973, there were twelve states in the country, with only six universities and a total graduating population of less than 2,500 per academic year. The situation is vastly different today. Over the past 27 years since the inception of NYSC, the country has been divided into 36 states, plus the Federal Capital Territory. In addition, the number of accredited Corpsproducing institutions has risen to 162, thus churninq out an average of 100,000 qraduates on yearly basis.
This remarkable expansion has posed some very serious problems for the organisers of the NYSC, the most debilitating of which has been that its limited facilities, skills and other resources have been stretched to breaking point. The herculean problem of organisation, coordination and management have been severally compounded by the now grievous underfunding of the scheme to the extent that many states yet lack permanent orientation camps.
It is indeed ironic that, while the scope and responsibilities of NYSC have grown tremendously since its inception, its allocation as a percentage of federal and state budgets has drastically gone down. The states have been particularly guilty in this regard, as many of them choose to see the NYSC as a federal initiative which the federal government must fully provide for.
It is true that many of the newer states are still battling to erect the minimum infrastructure essential for modern government, and still regard the scheme as something of a luxury which they can illafford. But it is again ironic that it is these new states which depend disproportionately on the manpower services of the NYSC. The reality of the situation is that the NYSC can not con tinue to provide these essential services to the states, and the more intangible but no less essential benefit of fostering national unity, unless all the tiers of government are willing to bear their share of the financial responsibility for the scheme.