NYSC At 50, Still Challenged by Accountability

By Emmanuel Onwubiko / posted May 12, 2023

There is a general social media euphoria among millions of former and present participants of the National Youth Service Corps scheme, following the commemoration of half a century after the establishment of the scheme.

Pretty much all of these excited former corners and a few that are serving, are in a mad rush to outdo each other on the capacity to post old copies of the photos they took whilst serving and the entire social media platform of Facebook is abuzz with this conviviality of sharing photos.

But beyond these ecstasies and euphoria that dovetails into hysteria by enthusiastic youth who are showcasing their admiration for the NYSC, there is the bigger picture of the doubts hanging on the management of the NYSC like a sword of Damocles on the critical issue of accountability.

An interesting newspaper article dated July 4th, 2016 titled “Purging NYSC scheme of sharp practices,” attracted my attention because it is said that to whom much is given, so much is expected.

The opportunity that is now created by the whirlwind of rejoicing generated by the fact that the institution of NYSC has clocked half a century, meaning that given the right frame of mind, the imperative of strictest adherence to accountability and transparency principles by the staff and management of the NYSC has come to stay.

I am one of the supporters of NYSC. I’m credited with churning out several copies of researched based articles in praise of certain qualitative attributes and landmarks made by the NYSC. In the same vein, as a stakeholder, one is compelled by the urgency of the now, to do these interrogatories with the aim of tying all the loose ends.

But I also advocate radically for things to be done right especially since the treasury single account payment system birthed a few years back and has purged the excesses and corruption in many government institutions.

It must be stated that clearly, the treasury single account being an instrument created by Nigerians, the ability to manipulate the process is very high. Indeed, a few weeks back, the substantive Accountant General of the Federation was arrested and charged for defrauding Nigeria of over N123 billion. It is his office that is the custodian of the treasury single account. Many ministries and agencies, Department of Government (MDAs) have inevitably found ways and means of manipulating the TSA since the general matrix on most government offices is that ‘if you can’t beat them in the game of corruption, you then join them’.

That the suspended accountant General of the Federation who is from Kano State has allegedly breached the treasury single account or what is called TSA and managed to allegedly siphoned that multi-billion cash belonging to the public, makes the case of corruption as alleged by the aforementioned writer of the article titled “purging NYSC scheme of sharp practices,” even much more pungent and urgent. Aside from this very writer of the article, we will examine soon, there are clearly questions that actually needed to be confronted by the NYSC, particularly around the issue of public procurement processes.

We will return to that publication in which wide-ranging allegations were made against the NYSC, some of which subsist to date. But first, let us get a brief take on TSA.

Basey Udo on March 7th, 2016 stated that the 5 things to know about Treasury Single Account (TSA) are: “TSA refers to Treasury Single Account, a public accounting system using a single account, or a set of linked accounts by the government to ensure all revenue receipts and payments are done through a Consolidated Revenue Account (CRA) at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); The pilot TSA scheme commenced in 2012 using a unified structure of accounting for 217 government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, for accountability and transparency in public fund management; All government MDAs remit their revenue collections to the CRA through their individual commercial banks on a fee-for-service remuneration basis.

He also posited that “MDAs registered on the electronic payment platform, or CBN Payment Gateway, through the Settlement Centre, Funds Department, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation are granted access to funds collected on their behalf at the CBN.

“The TSA scheme covers all MDAs as well as other institutions and parastatals that collect revenues and monies payable to FGN, including all forms of receipts, refunds, operating surpluses, transfers, donations, over-payment, taxes and customs duties, etc.”

However, in the 2016 published piece, precisely on July 04, 2016, in The Guardian titled “Purging NYSC Scheme of Sharp Practices,” the writer introduced direct allegations against the management of the NYSC.

It is of interest for the millions of erstwhile Corpers to ascertain if these loopholes that permit corruption and the violation of the rule on the operation of the TSA, have been fixed by NYSC.

This is apt because good governance is embellished by adherence to the principles of accountability and transparency.

The truth is that any publicly funded institution that has clocked 50 and counting must of necessity be expected to live above board like Ceaser’s wife and is obliged to render full disclosures of their activities, especially in the area of procurement.

A few of the allegations against NYSC by Samuel O. Jatalo need to be re-examined.

He wrote that in the third quarter of last year (2015), August to be precise, the Federal Government announced the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA). TSA was not a new strategic concept. It was just not implemented under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. This noble policy was a fiscal strategy aimed at blocking financial leakages, promoting transparency, and preventing mismanagement of public funds, as widely witnessed in Jonathan’s haphazard government. This, no doubt, was one message of intent syndicated through President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.

The writer maintained that the TSA, as we all know, has yielded results in many Nigerian institutions that had been perforated with corruption in the past. This is evident in institutions like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the military, police and other para-military agencies, federal ministries and government parastatals, and even the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme at the opportunity cost of Nigeria’s youth.

He then posits that it is unfortunate that the NYSC scheme is still harboring a variety of sharp practices. These sharp practices are common knowledge. This time, unlike before, I expect that urgent attention will be given by the Federal Government to rebranding, redefining, and repositioning or perhaps even removing the mess and waste that is the bungling NYSC scheme.

He said that some of the camps have no potable water. Hostels are in a dilapidated or dilapidating state.

Healthcare facilities are not properly funded. It should administer first aid treatment but sorry to say, still grapple with inadequate first aid materials. Yet still, camp clinics lack clinical materials or equipment to meet up with camp casualty demands, he argued.

Besides, the writer raised the much more important point that the restrooms and bathrooms, most times are not convenient and conducive for use.

“They are for many months left in a state of smell and litter for prospective corps members to clean up for use. In fact, due to the unhealthy state of some of the toilet facilities, ladies are mostly (guys inclusive) susceptible to toilet infections. Going by the state of the NYSC Orientation”

Camps, he stressed, and the body language of some of the state governors to the scheme, one is compelled to ask why a State of Emergency has not been declared on the NYSC scheme in general.

According to credible sources in the NYSC and most importantly, serving corps members, the feeding of Corps members (confirmed graduates from various academies) which is part of their welfare package is nothing of worth. It is equivalent to what is given to condemned prisoners in their cells. It is public knowledge- I think that the feeding cost per corps member is N1,500 per day. By design or default, every corps member is entitled to three full square meals per day at the rate of N500 per one-meal, he argued.

“This meal ratio directive was obeyed on camp but with some level of impunity and corruption. It is unfortunate that no corps member ate an aggregate meal ofN1, 500 per day or a fractional meal of N500. Don’t many of us eat in all these local restaurants and eateries and spend less than N500 for a satisfying dish? These are the kernel of the allegations”.

Another question to ask is if the mobilization fee of over three thousand Naira paid by each aspiring Corper is captured under the TSA system just as the corollary is to ascertain if the platoon contribution goes into the TSA and why does a prospective Corper need to pay what is called platoon contribution which is about two thousand Naira? These payments from millions of corners in a year should amount to a humongous quantum of cash. How are these cash received and spent and who does the expenditures?

Then, the NYSC has never ever opened its procurement processes to the public to be transparently monitored by the credible Civil Rights movements trained by the Bureau of public procurement for such arduous tasks. Multimillion Naira contracts and projects are done by the NYSC yearly. These procurement mechanisms are not foolproof and corruption free. If they are, we the people of Nigeria need to know now.

Also important is to ascertain why the foods served in the camps of NYSC are so substandard and why smaller markets and restaurants are springing up around the camps and are engineered and operated by the staff of the NYSC through proxies.

On December 9, 2016, it was reported that the Federal High Court in Lagos had fixed February 6, 2017, for judgment in a suit against the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) over alleged mobilization fee fraud.

The incorporated trustees of the Citizens Advocacy Initiative for Accountable Leadership (CAIFAL) had in June sued the NYSC, challenging its collection of N3,000 as a mobilization fee. Joined in the suit are the director-general of the NYSC, Sidmach Technologies Ltd., the minister of youths and sports, and the attorney-general of the federation.

The above case however it ended is not the issue. What it raises is the doubt over accountability within the NYSC for which this epochal 50th anniversary ceremony should offer the best time and opportunity to put all these lingering doubts to sleep forever.

But the NYSC has over the years organized a series of seminars on how to prevent procurement corruption and foster accountability and transparency.

But it is not so much about theories but to what extent have they put their teachings into practice? Or is it a question of what Fela sang that “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense.”? Or the case of ‘Do as I say and not as I do”?

On August 31, 2021, NYSC said it has set up CDS Groups for Promoting Accountability, and Transparency. Ordinarily, this is a laudable achievement if carried through.

The National Youth Service Corps stated its determination to partner with the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to sensitize Corps Members on fiscal governance, transparency, and public accountability.

It said the Scheme which was established for the promotion of national unity and integration would continue to leverage its achievements for the advancement of the socio-economic development of the country. For a start, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission is as good as dead because it’s just a toothless bulldog and an institution hobbled by operational impediments. So how can a sick institution help to foster respect for accountability and transparency in the NYSC and by the way, can you give what you don’t have? The coroners that are trained to observe transparency and accountability can’t say anything since the code is SEE NO EVIL AND SAY NO EVIL. If this copper makes any daring move to correct any seen anomaly, their certificates of discharge from NYSC can be confiscated by the top hierarchy.

Then again, on November 24, 2022, the director overseeing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), (as she then was) Mrs. Christy Ifeanyiwa Uba, said the scheme remains resolute and committed to transparency and accountability in all its operations.

The former DG, Brigadier General Muhammed Fadah, was relieved of his duty by President Muhammadu Buhari for incompetence.

She said the scheme would continue to leverage the template provided by the federal government to tackle the problems associated with poor management in respect of access and inventory in government.

Mrs Uba stated this while declaring open the 2022 second Procurement Officers Training, with the theme; “Access and Inventory Management in GIFMIS”, held in Abuja.

She stated that NYSC is fully committed to the prudent management of government business using the GIFMIS module.

“I find it necessary to inform you that management places a high premium on the capacity development of staff, to enhance efficiency and productivity.

I, therefore, urge all participants to key into this technologically-driven IT-based system that was designed for access and

She appealed to participants at the training to endeavor to acquire all the requisite additional skills and knowledge that will improve their job efficiency.

The deputy director of, Overseeing Procurement Department, Mrs. Grace Akpabio, in her introductory remarks, stated that the training is in conjunction with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, GIFMIS Unit, and Treasury House, Abuja.

Akoabio added that the training was designed to update the procurement officers on their roles on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) platform. But the truth is all this romanticism with this flowery language and concepts of transparency and Accountability, are just for the media if we can’t see proof that we are using this 50th year anniversary of NYSC to ask the relevant institutional authority at the NYSC.

The NYSC should pause for a while and talk to us about their readiness to respect the principle of accountability and transparency so we can very well celebrate the 50th anniversary joyfully.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and was the National Commissioner of The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

NOTE: Opinions expressed by Columnists are theirs and do NOT necessarily represent the views of DDnewsonline.

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