A bill seeking to increase the allowance of the Corps members has been introduced at the House of Representatives.
However the bill, which also seeks to make the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) scheme optional for someone who graduates at 30 and above to obtain a Certificate of Exemption, failed to pass second reading as it faced stiff opposition, especially from members of the House from the North.
Those who criticised the bill include the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase (Plateau); Majority Whip, Mohammed Monguno (Borno); Ahmad Jaha (Borno), Leke Abejide (Kogi), among others.
The legislation is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Youth Service Corps Act, Cap. N84 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Review Upward the Accommodation and Transport Allowances of Corps Members in Line with Current Realities; and for Related Matters.’
The bill, which is jointly sponsored by Messrs Eta Mbora, Abass Adigun, Ben Igbakapa, Moshood Akinolu and Oluyemi Taiwo, is a product of harmonisation of Bills 716, 1305, 1657, 1922, 1945 and 1674, which were separately sponsored by the lawmakers.
The Senate and the House usually harmonise bills that are seeking similar or various amendments to an Act or Constitution.
The bill sponsored by Igbakpa was particularly seeking to amend Section 2 (1) of the NYSC Act by substituting the word ‘shall’ with the word ‘may’ to make it read, “Subject to the provisions of this Act, every Nigeria may -”
It would also amend Section 2(1)(a) of the Act by adding the words ‘or outside’ immediately after the word ‘in’ in Line 2, to make it read, “If, at the end of the academic year 1972-73 or, as the case may be, at the end of any subsequent academic year, he shall have graduated at the university in or outside Nigeria; or”
The bill also sought to amend Section 17 (1) of the Act by introducing a proviso thus: “Provided that any category of Nigerians who have applied to the directorate to be exempted from the service shall be exempted forthwith and shall not be bound by any provisions of this Act that may affect his rights as a citizen of Nigeria.”
Igbakpa wrote in the explanatory note, “This bill seeks to amend the National Youth Service Corps Act, Cap. N84 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, to provide that the national youth service is not compulsory but optional for persons specified in the call-up instrument.”
Leading the debate on the bill at the second reading on Tuesday, Igbakpa noted that the amendment seeks to do three different things because the law is based on the “changing realities of time.” He said since a corps member is deemed to have graduated from a higher institution, “the N30,000 (monthly allowance) given to them, as it is today, is a minimum wage threshold. In line with the present reality, it would not be fair if they are not given something that befits a graduate, a (Grade) Level 8 officer in the public service.”
Igbakpa added, “Secondly, with the changing times, it is our belief that this exercise should no longer be compulsory and that is why there is an amendment we were proposing to remove the word ‘SHALL’ from Section 2 Subsection 1 of the principal Act and bring in ‘MAY’, making it optional for people to attend.
“The third: as at the time the law was made, it was in such a way that we did not consider our children schooling abroad. Not long ago, a former Minister of Finance schooled abroad, was above 30 and came to Nigeria to help with the knowledge. But because of the stringent conditions placed on the acquisition of Certificate of Exception there was something wrong and at the end of the day, we lost that intelligence and expertise.”