We are Rebranding NYSC for Youth Empowerment, Revenue Generation – Brig Shuaib, DG
Brigadier General Ibrahim Shuaibu recently clocked one year in office as Director General (DG) of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He expressed delight over the success story of the Scheme’s Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme and the plan to generate revenue from the creative ingenuity and productivity of corps members. But in an exclusive interview with the ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL, Shuaibu disclosed that the NYSC management cannot say when it would actually resume the mobilization of prospective corps members due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: Congrats for marking your one year in office, Sir. We will like to begin this way, to what extent have your administration reinvigorated the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme, especially with a view to creating jobs and tackling unemployment among youths?
The SAED programme has recorded tremendous successes, which can even be seen from the activities of our corps members in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Our corps members, nationwide, produced face masks, sanitizers, disinfectant tools, and automatic sanitizing machines. They are also involved in the sensitization and distribution of palliatives of some of these items to communities. If you go to our garment factories, our corps members are involved in sawing of the COVID-19 preventive materials. So, it is quite tremendous. We have already put in place and also functionally, our SAED Centres. We are about to put the mega one in Gombe State to use now. The one in Kazaure has reached 95% completion. The one in Nasarawa State, which is in partnership with Access Bank, will soon commence construction in Keffi.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: What about the commencement of the projects in other parts of the country?
Likewise, the one in South East and South South will also commence. The one in South West, Ekiti State to be precise, is also at advance stage with over 98% completion. The NYSC takes the skills acquisition programme very seriously. We have the in-camp and post-camp training. So that at the end of the orientation, the training continues. And we are lucky that we have a very good partnership with the Bank of Industry (BoI), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other stakeholders who availed the corps members with soft loans. What we are doing now is to try and see that we have a perfect mechanism of monitoring. Because it ought to be a revolving loan, so that the system can be sustained over time.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: What about the performance of the corps member in the SAED initiatives
In terms of performance, our corps members are doing exceptionally well in SAED. Some of them are into fish and snail farming, among others. Some of them are even working in our NYSC farms in Kebbi, Saminaka, Kwali and other parts of the country. Yet we need additional farmlands for the NYSC. But we have approached some of our State Governors, sequel to my address to them at one of their meetings of the Governors’ Forum. We want to embark in commercial farming of rice. We want to key into the Federal Government’s policy on local content on agric business. This is because we don’t want to be a burden on government. Therefore, we must continue to look for ways to internally generate our revenue.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: How can the Scheme become self-reliant and stop being a burden to the government?
You see, because we realized that many people see NYSC as a burden, the management sat down immediately I came on board. We resolved that we must find ways to generate something and bring to the table. That is why we rejigged our ventures. We now have NYSC bread and Table Water Company in Kubwa. Their products are everywhere in Kubwa. So, we want to see how we can replicate same in the States. So that during orientation exercises we can get these items from our production plants, and feed our corps members in camps.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: Do you intend to amend the NYSC Act?
Again, in order to sensitize Nigerians on NYSC, I organized a sensitization workshop on the NYSC Act, and the role of key stakeholders such as individual, students, schools and government. It was held immediately after I came on board. The aim was to see how we can amend some clauses in the Act. We are also organizing a movie called “NYSC, Call to Service”. Once you watch the movie, you don’t need to ask anybody about NYSC. You will be informed about the Scheme. Also, we organized our Sports and Cultural Festival in February. At the event, which was quite interesting, several talents were discovered. We observed that the performances of these corps members in drama, comedy and dance, are beyond exceptional. So, we are going to establish the NYSC National Cultural Troupe so that when there is any event, our troupe can be invited to showcase the stuff it is made of. And this will help to generate income and revenue for members of the troupe and the troupe itself. We will write the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the need for agencies and other stakeholders to patronise the NYSC National Cultural Troupe. I have also discussed with the Governors’ Forum to provide us farmlands so that we can grow rice and other farm produce.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: What are other sectors are you looking at?
We are planning to sustain our NYSC movie over time. It will be called NYSCwood. So, our corps members who studied drama and Theatre Arts will be invited to act films and entertain people. Their dramas and films will be centred on promoting national unity, condemning social vices, and several others, so that Nigerians can learn from them. So, these are some of the plans we have, and would be sustained even after I leave office. Again, we have also strengthened our IT platforms. We have renegotiated necessary terms with our IT integrated provider. That is also going to generate revenue. So, we are gradually becoming a national asset, instead of a burden to the government and society.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: Like workers, corps members are also paid the minimum wage as ‘allawee’. Tell us how you achieved the feat?
You know the corps members apart from their allowances, they also enjoy some little stipends from States such as transport allowances and support in various other ways. So, the allowances came at the right time, because some of the corps members took advantage of the increment to start saving. Some of them even send part of it to their parents back home, just to support them. There are others who invested their allowances into learning relevant skills and petty trading. And by the time they finish service, they have become self-reliant. With the loan also coming, they will boost their businesses and become employers of labour.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: Recently, we saw some corps members carrying out special projects across the country. How was the NYSC able to harness their potentials?
From the contributions of our corps members in the COVID-19 fight, you will come to realize that we greatly tapped from their potentials. This is because I tasked them that let’s take the challenge of COVID-19 and turn it into an opportunity for the NYSC. And how can they go about it? They can produce sanitizers, disinfectant soaps and face masks. And after receiving the clarion call from the management, they hit the ground running. Most of them have done very well. There is also a medical doctor who is involved in the production of face masks.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: How is the Mobilisation of Corps Members?
Similarly, our mobilization is driven through Information, Communication and Technology (ICT). And where we have challenges, we introduced the physical verification of their credentials, which has led to the arrest of several fake members who tried to come into the scheme. What we discovered last year was mind-boggling. In the Batch C of November/December last year, over 22, 000 foreign-trained graduates uploaded their credentials online for mobilization. But when we went in for the physical verification, only 3, 420 showed up. So, that is to tell you that we are winning the war against fake certificates.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: The state of some orientation camps have been described as an eyesore. How far is your intervention in the area of rehabilitating them?
The provision of orientation camps is the responsibility of the States. You know the NYSC is built on three tripod—the Federal, State and Local Government. The Federal takes a large chunk of the expenditure, while the States provide the orientation camps and take responsibility for their maintenance. We are supposed to have local government committees who also lend support at their own level. So, most of the States have permanent orientation camps, it is just the issue of maintenance and renovation. As for those that don’t have, I was able to hold a meeting with the representatives of the States. At the meeting attended by Secretaries of State Governments and Commissioners of Youths and Sports, I stressed the need for them to be alive to their responsibilities. And I am happy that since that meeting, most of them have responded. We have about 35 permanent orientation camps, the problem is just their maintenance.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: You immediately suspended the orientation camping of mobilized corps members and also stopped other activities of NYSC following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. When are you going to resume the exercise and also mobilize other fresh graduates?
Well, I don’t know. I cannot tell you when. You know the nature of our training is just like that of the military and paramilitary. You can see that the Nigerian Navy also suspended the training exercise for its fresh cadets. So, the moment the coast is clear, we are also going to key into the way training will be, so that our corps members can be called back in soonest. The Batch A, Stream 1, as we all know was suspended. We still have another 11 days to cover. So, by the time the coast is clear, we are going to recall them back to complete the remaining part of the training. Immediately after that, the Stream 2, will begin theirs two days after. So, we are also waiting in the wings to see how things go. We are hoping and praying that this thing should be over as quickly as possible.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: What are your major achievements so far?
One of our greatest achievements so far is that we ensure that persons who weren’t qualified, but came for mobilization were arrested, prosecuted and jailed. I must also say that are ongoing skills acquisition centres are pride to the scheme. Once they are all completed, our corps members will continue to be trained. And by the time they finish their service they will not start hunting for jobs. But instead, they will have something to fall back in. I must thank the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari for the abiding faith in the scheme. The Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, State governments, the Nigerian Army and other security agencies and our stakeholders have been very very supportive in our initiatives and achievements. We are indeed grateful.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: Lastly, what are the legacies you wish to bequeath as DG of NYSC?
I want to ensure that our mobilization process will continue to be seamless. So that those who are not qualified will not come and make themselves available for service. I want a situation where our process will be driven by technology. This is because NYSC activities involve a lot of traveling both by corps members and staff. And it is risky. Just like I said when I came on board, I will prefer to die rather than loss a corps member. Because it is very touching for their parents and guardians.
ECONOMIC CONFIDENTIAL: Finally, how do you want to be remembered after your tenure?
First, I want to see the situation where the staff and Nigerians will see me as someone who came, who saw and also conquered. I want a situation that by the time I leave, people should say when he was around, he never joked with the welfare of staff and corps members. I want the situation where they will say I came and touched lives. So that I can be able to visit the NYSC Headquarters someday, and say ‘Hi’ to the staff.