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ADMINISTRATIVE CHALLENGES OF THE NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE CORPS SCHEME IN IMO STATE NIGERIA FROM 2003 TO 2011

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1     Background to the Study

The history of a country is crucial to the understanding of its institutions. This is even more so with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme that was established in 1973, three years after the Nigerian civil war, and thirteen (13) years after Nigerian Independence. The establishment of the National Youth Service Corps scheme was mostly in response to both pressing national needs and the developmental challenges in the country. Unity they say, is strength, united we stand, divided we fall. There was need to unite and integrate over two hundred and fifty ethnic linguistic groups in Nigeria, through the National Youth Service Corps scheme (Onwuejeogwu, 1995). During the Nigerian Biafran civil war which was fought to unite the country, the slogan that was used by the Nigerian side was ‘to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be accomplished’. Following the end of the civil war in 1970, the need for national integration and promotion of national unity then arose.

 

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established by the government of General Yakubu Gowon for the encouragement and development of common ties and the promotion of national unity, integration and development. The rationale for the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme by Decree No. 24 of May 22, 1973 was primarily to imbue Nigerian youths with the spirit of selfless service to the community and emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerian irrespective of their cultural or social backgrounds (NYSC Handbook, 1998; Ojo, 2009). This was because the history of Nigeria since independence in 1960 had clearly indicated the need for unity amongst all segments and that no cultural or geographical entity exists in isolation. The decree spelt out the following as the basic objectives of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme.

  1. To inculcate discipline in our youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to the nation in themselves.
  2. To raise the moral tone of our youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national development and socio-cultural improvements;
  3. To develop, in our youths, attitude of mind acquired through shared experience and suitable training which will make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest.
  4. To develop common ties among our youths and promote national unity by ensuring that;
  5. As far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in states other than their geographical, ethnic and cultural background;
  6. Each group assigned to work together is as representative of the country as possible;

iii.      The youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of the country with a view to removing prejudice, eliminating ignorance and confirming, at first hand, the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups;

  1. To encourage members of the Corps to seek, at their corps service, career employment over the country, thus promoting the free movement of labour.
  2. To employers, partly through their experience with corps members, to employ more easily qualified Nigerians irrespective of their states of origin, and
  3. To enable youths to acquire the spirit of self reliance (NYSC Handbook, 1998:19; Danfulani and Aja, 2008:4-5 and Ojo, 2009:175).

Consequently, the administration of the National Youth Service Corps scheme commenced business on 22nd July, 1973 with the mobilization of and deployment of 2,364 participants from all the twelve states of the federation. The service year was compact and businesslike, consisting of orientation, tour of state of deployment, primary assignment, secondary assignment and passing out ceremony. Each participant was to serve for a period of twelve (12) months (Danfulani and Aja 2008:3).

 

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was meant to solve serious problems of national importance; vital questions were raised about the nation-state itself. Why for instance, would the country be desirous to have national unity, religious tolerance, free movement of labour, patriotic leadership, etcetera? The truth is that long before the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the country was mired in inter ethnic politics of bitterness, religious intolerance, antagonism and mutual group suspicion. It was a country in deep agony but with a fresh resolve to right the wrongs of its past (Ojo, 2009).

Most of the problems of the country have been blamed on faulty beginning, colonial experience and poor leadership in the post-independence era. For instance, whereas people with different cultures and religion were brought together to form the Nigeria state, created by the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914  by the British, the leadership that emerged was not serious about national unity, integration and national development.

According to Olusanya (1974), leaders merely paid ‘lip service’ to the cause of national unity in favour of religious and ethnic differences. Thus, by 1973, when the scheme was established, the country, in the words of the founding fathers of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was characterized by ethnic loyalties, mutual group suspicion and distrust which culminated in the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970. The country was also plagued with problems of underdevelopment, namely, poverty, mass illiteracy, acute shortage of skilled manpower and very inadequate socio-economic infrastructural facilities like housing, good roads and potable water, among others. Added to these was the post civil war task of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation. In addition to the above NYSC objectives, the country therefore, set the following goals for itself that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was to facilitate:

  1. A united, strong and self-reliant nation;
  2. A great and dynamic economy;
  3. A land of bright and full opportunities;
  4. A free and democratic society (Dafulani and Aja, 2008).

 

Thus, Abhuere (2000) asserted that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is an exercise in nation building, a neo-nationalist outfit, dedicated to the realization of the dream and aspiration of nationalists. From pre-colonial to post-colonial periods, the youths have played strategic roles in the development process. The resort to them, in 1973, was both in recognition of their abilities to bring about change and a pragmatic policy move to involve more citizens deliberately in the development process of the nation. Put differently, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established to address pressing national issues and problems in order to move the nation forward on the path of progress. The development desire and aspiration of the state dates back even to pre-colonial times.

The question now arises as to how it is being administered in Nigeria generally and in Imo State in particular. It is commonly observed that policy implementation is one of the major problems confronting Nigeria and other developing countries. There are critical factors that are interrelated for a successful and effective policy administration of the National Youth Service Corps scheme in Nigeria. These include policy standards and objectives, human resources, communication, financial resource, physical resource, disposition and attitude of the policy implementers and environment.  These critical factors impinge on the administrative processes which in turn will mar or promote the attainment of the National Youth Service objectives. The National Youth Service Corps Community Development Services (CDS) are also essential for the realization of the NYSC objectives. This is a package of projects aimed at harnessing the skills, potentials, creativity and innovativeness of youths into effective machinery for national development (Enegwa and Umoden, 1993). The programme is directed to give the corps members opportunity to have impact on the host community. This is done concurrently with the primary assignment without any conflict.

These crucial factors as mentioned above are interrelated and operate simultaneously with each other to hinder or help policy administration process. It is on the basis of this premise that we have set out to assess the administrative challenges of the NYSC in Imo State, Nigeria.

 

1.2     Statement of the Problem

After the Nigeria civil war, policy makers came up with the idea of an enhanced interaction among the emerging young graduates, the youths. The assumption of this policy was that if the young graduates were made to interact and come in contact with the environment outside their cultural milieu they would have a better understanding of the Nigerian state. This rationale informed the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme by Decree No. 24 of 1973. Though, this Decree was repealed and replaced by the National Youth Service Corps Decree No. 51 of 1993 but the objectives remain the same (NYSC Handbook (No date). The Decree spelt out the basic objectives as outlined above with more emphasis on corps members welfare and security.

It has been observed that policy administration is one of the major problems confronting Nigeria and other developing countries. Little attention is paid to the subject of policy administration by policy-decision makers in Nigeria as it is often taken for granted that once a policy is adopted by government, it must be implemented and the desired objectives achieved.

As stated earlier on, there are crucial interrelated factors that interact with one another and influence the outcome of policy administration. We are going to investigate some of these crucial factors that impinge on the administration of National Youth Service Corps in Imo State. These crucial factors include:

Policy Standards and Objectives: If the standards and objectives of the National Youth Service Corps are well stated in clear and measurable terms, administrators would understand what is expected of them and the extent of discretion open to them. Policies which have acceptable objectives usually elicit positive responses from the implementers as well as the public (Horn and Meter, 1995). The reverse is the case when the objectives of the National Youth Service Corps are not acceptable to the implementers and the populace.

Human Resource: The quality and adequate number of human resource who are skilled, knowledgeable, and capable to carry out successful administration are necessary. For instance, if the human resources lack necessary skills, knowledge and capabilities for the understanding of what is entailed in the administration of the National Youth Service Corps, the administration may fail to realize the objectives. Leadership is a key input and/or a processing or conversion factor particularly as it relates to its ability to alter or modify the other critical factors in the administration process.

Another crucial factor that is closely related to the human resource is the ‘strength’ of the administrators in communication. Communication is an essential ingredient for effective administration of policy, including the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Through communication, orders to administer the NYSC are expected to be transmitted to the appropriate personnel in a clear manner. Such orders must be accurate and consistent inadequate communication can lead to misunderstanding on the part of administrators who may be confused as to what exactly is required of them. In effect, administrative instructions that are not transmitted, that are distorted in transmission, that are vague, or that are inconsistent may course serious obstacles to policy administration. Conversely, directives that are too precise may hinder implementation by stifling creativity and adaptability (Edward III, 1980). Such precise directives do not leave room for administrators to exercise discretion and flexibility where and when the need arises.

Inter-Governmental Communication and Enforcement: various government agencies at the three levels of governance in Nigeria-Federal, state and local government are involved in the implementation of the National Youth Service Corps. The large number of government agencies participating in the administration of the national Youth Service Corps is bound to create coordination and communication problems. The NYSC administration in Imo State may not be shielded from this problem.

 

Financial Resources: A major constraint to positive policy administration pertains to inadequate funding to the National Youth Service Corps. Without sufficient fund the NYSC administration may not function properly. The scheme took off with a modest beginning of 2,364 participants in 1973 rising to about 200,000 annually (NYSC Year Book, 4th Edition, 2008). This phenomenal increase in the number of participants over the years has necessitated corresponding changes in the organizational structures of the scheme from time to time resulting in the need for more funding. The number of tertiary institutions in the country is increasing with the result that there is population explosion of intending corps members that will need monthly stipends, uniform, welfare and workers’ salaries among others. These challenges are even compounded by the fact that the NYSC does not generate fund for its operations.

Physical Resource: The state government has the responsibility to build orientation camps for corps members. The building of orientation camp in Imo State was delayed until the State’s old Teachers Training School was adopted. It lacks constant maintenance. There is inadequate accommodation for corps members during orientation. Facilities such as good roads, the NYSC offices and land acquisition depend on the state government. There is shortage of land around the NYSC office with no room for expansion of the NYSC secretariat.

However, the National Youth Service Corps community development services (CDS) are also essential for the realization of the NYSC objectives. This secondary assignment (CDS) involves mobilization of corps members in groups to perform community and rural development activities in various locations. Community development service (CDS) in which the corps members participate once every week, away from his or her place of primary assignment, involves projects aimed at harnessing the skills, creativity and innovativeness of the youths into effective machinery for development and is discharged to the corps members host community (Enegwa and Umoden, 1993).

The implementation of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme had succeeded in truncating its achievements. Contrary to the desired positive results, the scheme is bedeviled with the spectre of favouritism in postings. It is an open secret that a large number of corps members do not move away from their ethnic base. Except on marital and ill-health grounds, corps members are supposed to be posted away from their natural habitat. However, official rules are circumvented. In the same vein, the scheme has become a bastion of corruption. People now negotiate where they want to be posted. Against this backdrop, this study has set out to examine the effect of some of the above key factors on the administration of the NYSC in Imo State.

Consequently, the following research questions are posed to guide this study;

  1. what are the effects of human resources on the administration of the National Youth Service Corps in Imo State, Nigeria?
  2. To what extent do inadequate funds affect the effective administration and realization of the objectives of the NYSC in Imo State?
  3. Do communication among the federal, state, local governments and operating agencies impede the effective administration of the NYSC in Imo State?
  4. What can be done to overcome the impediments from the above factors against the effective administration of the NYSC in Imo State?

 

1.3     Objectives of the Study

The broad objective of the study is to assess the extent to which the National Youth Service Corps scheme is being effectively administered in Imo State, Nigeria. Basically, the work seeks to examine the critical factors of human resources, funding and communication affecting the administration of the National Youth Service Corps in Imo State, Nigeria.

The specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. Determine the effect of human resources on the administration of National Youth Service Corps in Imo State Nigeria;
  2. Examine the extent to which inadequate funds affected the effective administration of the objectives of the NYSC in Imo State;
  3. Ascertain whether communication among the federal, state, local governments and operating agencies constituted impediment to the effective administration of the NYSC in Imo State.
  4. Proffer suggestions to overcome the impediments to the effective administration of the NYSC in Imo State, emanating from the above factors.

 

1.4     Significance of the Study

This study, to the best of my knowledge, is the first of its kind in Imo State. It is hoped that this work will, in a modest way, improve an understanding of some major factors that impinge on the administration of the national youth service corps in Imo State. It invariably forms a fresh information on the subject that can be of use both to the study of public administration and the government also.

Like most researches, it is envisaged that the study will have some theoretical and empirical values. Theoretically, this study is significant as it will contribute to the numerous literature on youth organizations, especially when it is geared towards solving a particular problem of national importance. Considering the nature of ethnic pluralism in Nigeria, Yakubu Gowon administration conceived the NYSC scheme in 1973 which he thought was capable of enhancing interaction and understanding among Nigerian youths. The implementation theory applied in the study brings to the fore the uncertain relationship between policies and implemented programmes as manifest in the case of NYSC in Imo State.

This work promises enormous practical utility. Its value to Imo State cannot be underestimated. The researcher as a stakeholder in Imo State, will find opportunity to raise the recommendations in policy discussions of the state. In this way, the findings will be relevant to the progressive efforts of the corps members to enhance national unity, integration and socio-economic development.

 

1.5     Scope and Limitations of the Study

Scope

This research zeros on the extent to which the policy of the National Youth Service Corps is being administered in Imo State, Nigeria. The administration of the National Youth Service Corps takes place in each of the three (3) senatorial zones that make up Imo State, viz, Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe. In each of these zones, three local governments were selected from Owerri; three local governments were selected from Orlu and two local governments were selected from Okigwe out of a total of twenty seven local governments that make up Imo State. Also the NYSC National Headquarters at Abuja directed all states NYSC since 1991 to institute the use of the NYSC state zonal headquarters. Hence, there are four zonal headquarters in Imo State, Viz, Owerri, Aboh Mbaise (both from Owerri senatorial zone), Orlu (From Orlu senatorial zone) and Okigwe (from Okigwe senatorial zone). The creation of state NYSC zonal headquarters is to reach the grassroots and they are made up of local governments. The NYSC state zonal headquarters and target local governments are represented in the table below. Our study shall cover all the four NYSC State Zonal Headquarters and eight local governments as below;

NYSC Focal State Zonal Headquarters and eight (8) selected local governments in Imo State.

 

Table 1: NYSC State Zonal Headquarters and Local Government in Imo State Selected for the study

Imo State NYSC Zones Local Governments
OwerriOwerri Municipal, Owerri West
Aboh MbaiseAboh Mbaise
OrluOrlu, Nwangele and Nkwere
OkigweOkigwe and Nsu

Source: NYSC Imo State, 2011 Batch ‘A’ Orientation/Service Guide

The study shall cover a period of eight (8) years between 2003 and 2011.

 

 

 

 

Limitations

There is no research work that is not problem-ridden. In a study of this nature, it is important to talk with people, obtain information and assess their views and ideas on the issues in question. In Nigeria, unfortunately, officialdom is at times taken to very ridiculous and self-denigrating heights. People like to hoard information unnecessarily even when such pieces of information are innocuous and meant for public consumption. Hence, it was difficult to get at official documents from the office of the National Youth Service Corps in Imo State. This is because those in custody of such information felt that it may be used for purposes other than that for what they are meant. Additionally, certain information pass through a lot of media before getting to the researcher, therefore, such information may have lost its originality. These limitations, however, will not, in any way, invalidate the conclusion of the study

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