IT is somewhat reassuring to learn that the Directorate of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC) is not contemplating slashing the monthly allowances given to members of the Corps who are serving the nation outside their areas of origin.
The speculation that the slash might be one of the ways the Federal Government wants to reduce the cost of governance came in the wake of the steep drop in the revenue derived from oil resources, our major means of national income, which played a major role in the current economic recession the country is going through.
Apart from the recession, the number of Corps Members who participate in the annual programme has skyrocketed from the paltry 2,364 mobilised in the pioneer year (1973) to the current 260,000; with clear indications that the number will increase to 350,000 next year. It is even anticipated that by 2017, the Directorate will have no choice but to resort to four orientation programmes per annum instead of the single orientation, which used to be the norm in years past.
Debunking the speculation about a possible slashing in the amount paid to Corps Members as stipends, the NYSC Director of Press, Mrs Bose Aderibigbe in a statement, declared that the Director-General of the Corps, Brigadier-General Sule Kazaure, had made no comment about the issue, asking the participating fresh graduates of tertiary institutions and the public to ignore the “misleading information”.
We are very much aware that the burden of coping with the challenges of the Scheme is enormous, what with the ever exploding number of prospective corps members being churned out of our equally multiplying number of tertiary institutions, especially in the face of dwindling budgetary allocations.
In spite of this, we urge the Federal Government to continue to provide adequately for the financial needs of the Corps Members. Even if the current monthly stipend of N19,800 cannot be increased (for now) due to the parlous economic fortunes of the nation, it should not be reduced.
The truth is that Corps Members, with this level of stipends, are almost earning the National Minimum Wage. By United Nations standards, they are living below the poverty line, which is averaged at about two US Dollars a day.
Many of these young ones who are serving in areas where they have never lived in before have to pay for their accommodation, feeding, travel and other personal expenses from this paltry sum, and many of them are no longer being sponsored by their parents or guardians.
Slashing the stipend might expose more of them to crime and corrupting tendencies, especially as they are being used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections around the country.