House of Reps step down bill seeking to make NYSC optional for foreign students, lawmakers support upward review of the Accommodation and Transport Allowances of Corps Members in line with current realities
The House of Representatives on Tuesday stepped down a bill seeking to amend the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Act, Cap. N84 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and make it optional for foreign students to be issued an exemption certificate.
Presented by Rep. Ben Igbakpa (LP, Delta) noted that certain sections of the Act discriminate against some Nigerians, especially foreign students, who have been affected due to the lacuna in the NYSC Act.
Tilted ‘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 (HBs.716, 1305, 1657, 1922, 1945 &1674), it was, however a consolidated bill jointly sponsored by Igbakpa, Rep. Eta Mbora, Rep. Abass Adigun, and two others.
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Igbakpa, being the only one present during debate on the bill, explained that going by current realities, it was apparent that the principal Act has to be amended to make it easier and optional for Nigerians who schooled abroad to access the certificate.
In a bid to further convince his colleagues, Igbakpa made reference to the case of former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, who dramatically quit her job after she was accused of obtaining a fake NYSC exemption certificate. He also canvassed an increase in the allowance of the serving corps members, arguing that it would encourage participation in the long run.
“This amendment seeks to cure three different things because the law as it is today; because of the changing realities of time, anybody that had passed the university and is serving as a Corps member automatically has acquired a degree, and it is the belief that this amendment should reflect in their remuneration.
According to him, “the N30,000 given to them as it is today, is a minimum wage threshold, and in line with the present reality, it would not be fair if they are given something that befits a graduate, a level 8 Officer in the public service.
The third, as at the time the law was made, was in such a way that we did not consider our children schooling abroad. Not long ago, a former Minister of Finance who schooled abroad was above thirty and came to Nigeria to help with the knowledge. But because of the stringent conditions placed on the acquisition of a certificate of exception, there was something wrong and at the end of the day. We lost that intelligence and expertise.
When the NYSC law was created, Nigerians studying abroad were not considered. Nigerians schooling abroad should be issued a certificate of exemption,” he added.
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The majority of lawmakers present opposed the bill noting that the Act, as currently crafted, gives the citizens equal opportunities regardless of their social background and promotes unity across the country.
In his contribution, the Deputy Speaker, Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase, called for strict adherence to the provisions of the principal act.
“Those who schooled abroad should comply with the bye-laws we have set in the country. In several countries we have programmes like this. In USA, you have to serve compulsorily in the army for a year. The purpose is integration and discipline,” he said.
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Also speaking, Rep. Ahmed Jaha (APC, Borno), who corroborated the position of Igbakpa on the call to review the aspect of the bill which made reference to remuneration, however, argued that the Exemption Certificate should not be altered as it is in the Act.
“A substantial part of graduates recognise the importance of NYSC because by the time they go out, they will discover a lot of things. They have not been conversant with in their area.
So, if you say it is optional, people may think it is not serious. They would make it optional, and they would be reluctant to go, but if you make it compulsory, definitely, everybody would go and, at least, discover something outside their domain,” he said.
Amid the debate, the lead sponsor, Rep. Igbakpa, opted to step it down for further consultation.
Ruling on the Bill, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, advised the Rules and Business Committee to take a holistic look at the bill and expunged the offensive parts to enable the sponsors to represent it before the House adjourns this Thursday for a two-week break to participate in the national elections.
DEBATE ON THIS BILL MADE IT TO OUR PARLIAMENT WEEKLY SERIES. WATCH HERE: