The National Youth Service Corps has come under heavy scrutiny from young Nigerians, especially in these times of rising insecurity. It would appear that the one-year program is losing value in the eyes of young Nigerians faced with fear for their lives and safety, rising unemployment and the diminishing prospects of kickstarting a real career through the program.
Recently, the Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku, may have added more to the disillusionment after he stated that members of the National Youth Service Corps should be allowed to undergo military training to learn how to handle guns for self-defence under a 2-year scheme.
“When the security can’t protect you, then something in the alternative must come in, we must be practical. Train people, give them practical induction, let them know what to do.
The NYSC I will say should be two years. One year for compulsory military training and the other year for the social works that they are doing now so that anybody who graduates as an NYSC person can know how to handle the gun and defend himself just as it is done in Israel, Lebanon and other places. You must engage your citizens to be proactive. When you cannot provide security, you must allow the people to protect themselves,” Governor Ishaku said.
With this proposal, the governor is simply outsourcing the burden of fighting insecurity in Nigeria to the youths. But is simply arming youths with guns the panacea to Nigeria’s economic and insecurity challenges?
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Nigeria’s economic downturn is a result of multiple factors that have led to staggering levels of underproductivity and unemployment. Along with the loud calls for restructuring to return the nation to a path of prosperity, the National Youth Service Corps program can be hacked for skill development in the areas of mineral resources development, manufacturing, Information technology, arts and crafts and innovative agri-business practices among others.
The government can work out incentives to encourage organisations and states to take on this task to fast-track the development of the nation’s next generation of leaders and retool them for the challenges of the modern world.
After the one year program, youths should not be “thrown out” into economic uncertainty but should have become sufficiently empowered to take on various sectors of the economy, providing the much-needed energy and creativity to foster development in these sectors.
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Saving the NYSC requires a triangular and synergistic effort between the government (states and federal), academia and the private sector. Working in tandem, these three arms can use the one-year period to equip youths with the skills that they require not only to function optimally as employees but also to start and run businesses that create employment opportunities for others.