A cross section of Nigerians have expressed mixed feelings on the removal of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Decree from the 1999 Constitution.
The development came up in the recent Senate review and consideration of 33 Bills for passage.
The bills are contained in the report of the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on the review of the 1999 Constitution.
In separate interviews in Abuja, some Nigerians welcome the development, while others expressed concern on its consequences in the lives of youths and national development.
Mrs Ene Ede, Gender Advisor, National Democratic Institute (NDI), said the development would allow the democratic process to become more participatory, inclusive, accessible and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people.
Ede also said that it would prevent rigidity within the domain of parliamentarians who the citizens were not sure had their common interest at heart.
“My problem with Nigeria is that sometimes people can take advantage of lapses in processes.
“Altering the constitution to delete certain decrees can mean various things. My fear in this is that, it may be taken advantage of.
“Imagine if someone is not in support of gender equity and then he decides to suggest something that is against women, how do you now balance this.
“We are also suffering from religious and ethnic bias in this country, so the most important thing for me is inclusiveness.
“If the process is transparent, inclusive, accountable, gender sensitive, responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people and driven by the people then, it is good,” Ede said.
Mr Abdulrazak Salawu, the NYSC, FCT Coordinator, said deleting the decree guiding the NYSC from the 1999 constitution would expose the scheme to unnecessary dangers.
Salawu said it was because the NYSC decree was in the constitution that allowed it to be sustained through the years, making it grow and evolve in its activities, including addressing youth unemployment.
He urged the NASS not to toy with the NYSC decree.
Salawu said altering the constitution would give room for individuals and groups to ‘toy’ with the mandate and guiding principles of the scheme which had sustained it.
He said this would also be counterproductive to the growth, development and process of the country and youths which the scheme had tried to support.
“If the NYSC Decree is deleted from the constitution, it will cause a lot of problems because we are not easily objective in our decisions in this country.
“An individual can just choose to be subjective for his or her own interest. If we do this, we will be toying with the lives and the future of the Nigerian youths.
“NYSC is the only youth development programme set up by the Federal Government that has been sustained over the years.
“We should not toy with the future of the youth. NYSC is currently playing pivotal role in youth development, implementation of government policies, promotion of inter-tribal marriages for national integration and unity.
“Everyone is a stakeholder in this scheme because it involves all and do not forget that even developed countries and most African countries are coming to Nigeria indicating interest in the NYSC.
“Nigeria is a consultant in youth development for most African countries as they wish to duplicate NYSC in their various countries, so we need to be careful with how we handle this.
“Our doors have been open and continue to be open for us to engage in Public Private Partnership (PPP) with individuals, agencies and organisations interested in youth development.
“So, all stakeholders are already involved in the scheme.”
He urged NASS not to ignore the role and contribution of the NYSC to the growth and development of Nigeria which may be affected if the decree guiding and guarding it was altered.
Also, Alhaji Isa Hussaini, a media consultant, who also welcome development however, said that the process involved in amending the constitution, was often cumbersome.
He suggested that before deleting the decree from the constitution, it should be strengthened in such a way that no individual, no matter the position, could alter the law.
According to Hussaini, when the NYSC decree is deleted from the constitution before it can be amended, there should be public hearing involving stakeholders.
“I think having NYSC in the constitution is good but the world is evolving and things are changing, we also need to change with the times and amend the constitution in line with the dynamic nature of the society.
“I think it is better to remove it from the constitution and set up an act of parliament to guide the institution.
“The law should, however, be strengthened in such a way that no President or individual can come in to make changes as it suits him or her.
“The NYSC has really helped parents in terms of keeping their children engaged, training them in various skills and providing monthly stipends for them.
Mr Tony Madaki, a lecturer at the Nassarawa State Polytechnic, Keffi, urged the NASS to only amend the relevant section of the constitution as it affected the NYSC but leave the scheme in the constitution.
Madaki said this would allow the scheme to remain protected and relevant to the growth and development of the youth and the nation.
“The scheme has always been protected by the constitution and I think this should remain so.
“For me, I feel that any relevant section of the constitution that needs amendment should be amended, but the NYSC decree should be allowed to remain in the constitution,” said Madaki.