The planned introduction of a N4000 fee for accessing and downloading of call-up letters for prospective members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme throughout the country is unconscionable and ill thought-out. According to reports, the next batch of corps members will access their call-up letters through the Internet by paying a fee of N4000 each.
The agency has pointed out that the move will help guard against impersonation and reduce the inconvenience of prospective corps members travelling long distances to collect call-up letters from their universities. It also explained that the new method of disseminating the call-up letters is designed to safeguard the lives of intending corps members, and eliminate forgery. According to the Director of Corps Mobilisation in NYSC, Mr. Anthony Ani, the prospective corps member had, before now, had to pass through a long process, including travelling long distances to collect call-up letters from their institutions, with some dying in the process. In addition, school officials were not always on ground to attend to the fresh graduates.
However, while it is good to ease access to the call-up letters by making it possible to print them online, this benefit does not in any way justify the steep N4000 charge. The explanation by the agency that it entered into a Public Private Partnership with a consulting firm at the cost of N830 million to adopt the technology does not justify the high charge. This is more so as the printing of letters online is not rocket science. It is being used by many institutions in the country in their admission processes. It is not at all a reason to charge prospective corps members who are on a mission to serve their country so much money. It is not fair to inflict additional pains on prospective corps members at a time that we should be trying to motivate them for the difficult task ahead of them.
Charging new corps members N4000 fee just for call-up letters is exploitative. It does not portray the NYSC in positive light. If the agency wants to raise additional funds for the running of its affairs, it should think of other innovative ways of doing so. It should not be through charging fresh graduates who would be thrown into the employment market at the end of their service year exorbitant fees.
This is more so as many of the prospective corps members may not have the wherewithal to pay this fee, in addition to the amount of money it will take them to travel to the orientation camps. Our view is that the NYSC should be in the vanguard of alleviating rather than compounding the problems of the intending corps members. Technology should make life easier and not more difficult.
Already, the NYSC decision has been causing ripples in the polity, with many concerned Nigerians and rights bodies frowning at the controversial plan. For instance, the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has rightly said that the planned action is exploitative. Other groups that have condemned the NYSC directive and called for the abrogation of the call-up fees include National Association of Polytechnics Students (NAPS), Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Women Arise and Advocate for Collective Transformation (ACT). Let the Minister for Youth Affairs and the Chairman of the NYSC Governing Board wade into the matter and cancel the contentious call-up fee.
We call on the authorities of the NYSC to rescind this unpopular decision that did not factor in the financial status of most of the prospective corps members, especially those from poor families. Insisting on the payment of the outrageous fee is a great disservice to the nation. Therefore, the Director-General of NYSC, Brig-Gen. Johnson Olawuni, should bow to public pressure and stop the call-up fee paying regime forthwith. Apart from being unwarranted, the fee negates the lofty objectives of the scheme set up in 1973 to unify the country at the end of the unfortunate Nigerian Civil War.
Beyond the introduction of fees for call-up letters, it is high time the activities of the NYSC were thoroughly scrutinised to determine how the organisation is run. The Federal Government should wade into this call-up fee saga so that it does not end up like the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) fee-for-job assessment test that ended in tragedy. We believe the NYSC can meet the cost of posting the call-up letters online without charging this ridiculous fee. Let the call-up letters be freely accessed by the prospective corps members. This is the least that the government can do for people who are about to commence the mandatory national service.