N4,000 call-up fee for NYSC sparks anger

2014-09-23
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Charles Abah

The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students should know where the shoe pinches an average undergraduate. As the umbrella body of all students in the country, it understands the mood of the majority.

Although many Nigerians frown on the divisions within NANS and the organisation’s mode of operations, with regard to romancing politicians and those in the corridors of power, there is still no denying its prime place as the heartbeat of student unionism in the country.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the body is responding to issues concerning the students. The planned imposition of online registration fee on prospective corps members is one of such issues and the leadership of the association is currently kicking against it.

The NYSC recently announced that the next batch of prospective corps members would access their call-up letters via the Internet by paying the sum of N4,000.

According to the 41-year-old agency, the move is to guard against impersonation and to reduce the inconveniences as well as the dangers of travelling long distances to collect call-up letters.

The NYSC, through its Director of Corps Mobilisation, Anthony Ani, says, “Before orientation, every prospective corps member has to pass through a long process, including travelling to collect call-up letters. Sometimes many corps members have died while travelling to get their call-up letters and, most times, school officials may not be there.

“Coming to camp, you meet long queues during registration, while others bring fake call-up letters. Some prospective corps members change their dates of birth because they want to serve and get discharge certificates. Some institutions are admitting students without passing through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board and enrolling them into unaccredited courses.”

Dismissing the NYSC’s argument, the leadership of NANS describes the plan to introduce the fee as exploitative.

Indeed, going by the participation of an average of 300, 000 corps members in the scheme annually, the NYSC will be laughing all the way to the bank with no less than N1.2bn every year. According to the South-West zone of NANS, the N4, 000 call-up charge is not only exploitative but criminal.

Speaking through its South-West Public Relations Officer, Jeremiah Olatinwo, the student body says, “The clandestine and venal method of extortion by the management of the National Youth Service Corps has come to our notice. The mandatory youth service is a call for service to our nation; hence, there should not be price tag to obtaining the call-up letters. It must remain free.

“Enforcement of a non-refundable fee of N4, 000 for NYSC call-up letters is barbaric and is nothing but a path strewn with thorns. NANS, therefore, demands that the fee be suspended.”

Also, the National Association of Polytechnics Students has joined NANS to condemn the fee. The NAPS Senate President, Lukman Salaudeen, says the association has rejected the planned move to impose the fee on prospective corps members.

The leadership of NAPS, he adds, met in Abuja last week to discuss the issue alongside other matters of national importance.

He says, “NAPS Senate rejects the introduction of payment for printing call-up letters for prospective corps members by the NYSC authority. It, therefore, calls for the reversal of the policy with immediate effect.”

Beyond students, many other Nigerians and groups are not comfortable with the NYSC’s planned move. For instance, the Education Rights Campaign says the initiative is condemnable, exploitative and unacceptable.

The ERC, in a statement titled “Do not turn NYSC into a racket”, opposes the introduction of the fee and promises to persuade the leadership of the NYSC to reverse the “extortionate” policy.

The group says, “The decision to commercialise the NYSC scheme is condemnable, exploitative and unacceptable. Charging N4, 000 for online registration is fraudulent. We respectfully call on the NYSC DG, Brig-Gen. Johnson Olawumi, not to turn the scheme into a racket.

“The ERC opposes the N4, 000 charge and shall campaign to force the NYSC tops to reverse this extortionate policy. We demand that the NYSC provides the online registration free of charge. NYSC is supposed to be a platform for the youth to serve their country meritoriously. Asking people to first pay to serve their country is turning the idea of the NYSC scheme completely upside down from a meritorious service to a business venture.

“The proponents of this extortionate scheme have laboured to justify it. The ERC is not against any effort to ease the process of mobilisation and collection of call-up letters by prospective corps members. We are in favour of every means to ease the burden of students, youths and workers. What we are against is an attempt to extort Nigerians.

A cross-section of NYSC members

“What the NYSC bureaucracies want to do is to use this to create an opportunity for themselves and their big business friends to fleece Nigerians and make some cool profit. It is the same sleazy racket in the Ministry of Interior, which saw the ministry and a private company raking in billions of naira from the travails of unemployed youths. It is in the nature of Nigeria’s ruling elite to use every progress to extract payment from already over-exploited Nigerians.”

“Progress should mean easing of burden; not the other way round. More so, the technology to be deployed for the online registration and processing of call-up letters by prospective corps members is not something from heaven. The technology exists here in Nigeria. It is the same technology already used for online registration in schools and it is not beyond what the NYSC, which has an enormous annual budget, can provide at no extra cost. At this point in Nigeria, when the vast majority is wallowing in poverty and tens of thousands of youths are graduating without prospect of employment, it is the height of heartlessness for the NYSC to think up this fraudulent conspiracy in order to fleece Nigerians.”

Although the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, Lagos State commends the online registration initiative, it wonders why the fee is as high as N4,000. Like the ERC, the Muslim group says the move is not only exploitative but it also has no regard for human labour.

The MSSN President, Kaamil Kalejaiye, in a statement condemning the fee, urges the NYSC not to betray the interest of Nigerian students for profit making.

Kalejaiye notes, “This is another betrayal from our government. Why should someone who wants to go and serve his nation freely pay so much money? Where do they expect a student who has suffered so much in the decaying Nigeria universities and polytechnics to have such amount of money? The NYSC must realise that having finished a degree course does not mean that you have a job. So, where do you want the thousands of jobless Nigerian students to get N4, 000? If that charge is retained, then the authorities do not have regard for the human (corps members) labour, especially when they want to go and serve their fatherland.”

For a youth pressure group, Advocate for Collective Transformation, also, there is no justification for the fee.

The ACT, in a statement by its President, Tayo Fashogbon, and the National Secretary, Ifetoluwa Ajayi, says the fee negates the higher call to national duty.

“We are surprised that an agency, such as the NYSC, that is not saddled with the responsibility of generating funds will be monetising its core duty to Nigerian graduates. We disagree with the justification for this and immediately call on the Minister for Youth Affairs and Chairman NYSC Governing board to stop this extra financial burden on these patriotic youths,” it concludes.

 

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