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Let me begin by asking a question, is it right to bar some citizens from serving the nation without the basis of law? I think not, but as it stands, graduates of the first of its kind National Open University of Nigeria have been officially barred or excluded from serving our father land. This should be a source of concern to all meaning Nigerians.

After the end of the Civil War, the leadership of the country thought of a way to re-unite the country in an effort to bridge the fracturecaused by the civil war, and after much deliberation, the National Youth Service Corp was given birth to.

According to SECTION 1 of the NYSC decree, it states that, there is hereby established a scheme to be known as the National Youth Service corps (in this Decree referred to as “the Service Corps”).

The decree states that, the objectives of the service corps shall be:

  •      to inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service toNigeria in any situation they may find themselves
    •       to raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievements,social and cultural improvement
    •       to develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training, which will make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest
    •       to enable Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment
    •       to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy
    •       to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration
    •       to remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance-and confirm at first hand
    the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups
    •       to develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria In order to achieve the objectives in this decree, the service corps shall ensure:
    o       that the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria
    o       that the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences.

The above are the reasons for the establishment of NYSC. However, it is a surprise that today, the same NYSC which was founded to bridge divide has now resorted to discrimination without basis. This is against the principle of the scheme.

Going through the NYSC decree, those qualified to participate in scheme were well spelt out.

SECTION 2 of the decree states that:
Subject to the provisions of this Decree, every Nigerian shall:

if, at the end of the academic year 1972-73 or, as the case may be, at the end of any subsequent academic year, he shall have graduated at any university in Nigeria ( ANY UNIVERSITY IN NIGERIA)

Since this law has not been changed or the decree amended, it is a gross offense and flagrant disobedience of the laws of our land toexclude Open University graduates from the NYSC.

Here we can see that, nothing in this decree indicate that students from Open University are not qualified, it only informed us of thepurpose of this scheme which is to build capacity of the Nigerian youths and imbibe the culture of national service, tolerance andaccommodation in them.

However, rather than admit graduates of Open University into the NYSC scheme to serve their fatherland, the National Youth Service Corps governing council without any basis, continue to exclude the first of its kind institution. They designate Open university as excluded, and the graduates are given what they call, exclusion certificate to indicate that they have been officially excluded from serving our nation. This is a grave injustice.

Let me note that, this exclusion certificate was alien to the NYSC Act. What the act recognize is exemption certificate, but only somecategories of people are qualified for the exemption.

Exemption certificate is different from Exclusion certificate.

According to amended NYSC act:
Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this act, with effect from 1st August, 1985, a person shall not be called upon to serve in the service corps if; at the date of his graduation or obtaining his diploma or other professional qualification –

•       He is over the age of thirty.
•       He has served in the armed forces of the Federation or the Nigeria

Police Force for a period of more than nine months.

•       He has been conferred with any National Honour.

•       He is member of staff of any of the following, that is:

i.      the Nigerian Security Organisation
ii.     the State Security Service
iii.    the National Intelligence Agency
iv.     the Defence Intelligence Service
As we can see in the above, these are the only categories of people that are qualified for NYSC exemption certificate, nothing likeexclusion certificate was ever mentioned in the NYSC act, but because the governing council of the NYSC are bent on denying our institution equal rights of participation for reasons best known to them, they introduced what they call exclusion, which they dumped on the faces of distinguish NOUN graduates.

It is quite disappointing that, after 4 years of academic grinding, plus hard work in an institution with no equal, where you have obtained the best of knowledge under a properly guided system devoid of any form of examination Mal-practices, what you get is discrimination from some government establishments.

It is important to note that, Open University is a federal university, accredited by the same National University Commission which accredited other institutions in the country. For no reason should her graduate be sidelined as this would discourage prospective students from enrolling in the institution, thus defeating the purpose for which it was created.

We have seen all over the world that graduates of Open Universities are accorded front seat roll, they are seen as people who deserve first class treatment. Nigeria shouldn't ignorantly relegate this noble institution and its distinguish graduates, they cannot be relegated.

Many students from this university feel pained when they see other graduates in the youth corps uniform moving about their places ofassignment. They wish that one day, it would be them in those uniforms, holding their head high in service to their fatherland, but this dream seems to be under threat, as graduates after graduates, the discrimination yet continues.

I therefore call on those in authority to desist from this discrimination, failure of which the students would be forced to drag the NYSC to court for legal redress.

Finally, we are aware that the president have the power to resolve this issues without further delay, as the NYSC act states that, thePresident, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces may, by Order published it, the Gazette, extend the application of the provisions ofsubsection (1) of this section to other categories of Nigerians who shall have obtained such diplomas, certificates or other qualifications as may “be prescribed in the Order from universities, colleges and other institutions of higher learning within or outside Nigeria, and the Order may specify different dates for call-up in relation to different categories of those affected or to be affected by the Order.

Therefore, the president should as a matter of urgency, intervene to correct this unjustifiable exclusion of Open university graduates fromNational Youth Service.

Written by Abdulrazaq O Hamzat.

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