The NYSC Foundation Scam: Beyond Impunity?Articles/Opinion Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
By Kayode Ojo
The recent scandal involving the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and a private entity named NYSC Foundation has effectively confirmed that Nigeria’s biggest challenge is, perhaps, not corruption but barefaced impunity. According to a report in THISDAY newspapers of Sunday, October 20, 2013, the Foundation has since 2007 been making compulsory deductions of N500 per corps member under the pretext of contribution to a revolving loan scheme.
When I read the headline of the investigative report: “Trouble Brews in NYSC over Deductions from Corps Members’ Allowee for Private Concern” my immediate reaction was that some dubious characters and corrupt officialdom were at it again; and, by the time I was done reading the expose, presented in a well-balanced reportage of the findings of the investigation, I was filled with indignation.
I have always thought that impunity is the extreme of corruption, but in the circumstance, the action of these persons running the so-called Foundation, supposedly in concert with the management of the NYSC is, to understate the fact, beyond impunity. A creepy culture of ‘I can do what I want without being questioned’ has unfortunately become ingrained in the system; and this appears now to be our collective tragedy. This way of life has to be the only explanation why a private entity would register itself with the logo and name of a government parastatal and ascribe to itself the power to covert funds from the said government entity.
This is the shape and texture of the dubiety that the action of the NYSC Foundation has defined for the NYSC management in the public domain. How can successive NYSC managements, since 2007 when the Foundation was set up, wriggle out of this seemingly orchestrated and intentionally internalised sleazy deal? The situation is not helped at all by the fact that with the approval of past Boards, the Foundation has been able to play on the psyche of corps members who have to release a one-off N500 from their allowances in exchange for their discharge certificates.
This is the point at issue in this game of sheer absurdity. How could they have ratified or justified the swindle? And no Director-General of the NYSC from 2007 to date saw anything fishy in the Foundation! Not even the Boards from that time until now batted an eyelid! It was possible that the managements of the NYSC and the Foundation were able to shield the Foundation from the Boards of the NYSC; otherwise, I expect that necessary questions should have been asked had the Boards been properly briefed about it.
Had they been briefed, they should have been intelligent enough to see through the contraption. They would then have asked a number of questions: for instance, is it possible for a foundation without link to Airtel, for instance, to register itself as Airtel Foundation with Airtel logo? Or, more similar in this instance, something like Ministry of Finance Foundation? Is the NYSC Foundation responsible to the NYSC or an independent body? Now, very quickly, the Foundation is said to be independent and this is the sore point: why then is it using the identity of the NYSC to collect contributions from corps members?
Consider: should Nigerians look the other way because this Foundation was established by some former Directors-General of the Scheme? Should they look the other way even if it is discovered that the Foundation is, perhaps, a slush fund to service them in retirement? A good number of other posers can be raised ad-infinitum in order to ventilate personal anger; and this would be understandable.
It is depressing that a private entity can appropriate funds from a government entity without recourse to the National Assembly. It speaks volumes about the level of impunity that has pervaded the system. Or is it because the Foundation has as its Grand Patron, President Goodluck Jonathan and as its Life Patron, the founder of the NYSC, General Yakubu Gowon (retd.)? Does it mean that General Gowon or even President Jonathan is in bed with this fraudulent contraption? It is not possible. Their names were used to garner credibility and give a stamp of authority to the hoax.
Yes, it is fraud that the management of the NYSC itself would sanction the Foundation and ‘approve’ deduction of N500 per corps member into a private purse whether it is compulsory or optional subscription. The Foundation says the deduction is not compulsory; corps members say it is. It is even possible that desk officers are taking some of the money and not remitting all? This is an angle that the NYSC should administratively investigate.
Overall and more importantly, it is deliberate act to deceive the Nigerian public and corps members with its name: NYSC Foundation, when in fact it has nothing to do with the NYSC. How many people would be able to separate the two entities-NYSC and NYSC Foundation- and bother to take the step to find out if they are or not linked to each other?
This contraption is purely an avenue for some privileged persons and their cronies to continue to make money long after their tenures at the helm of affairs of the scheme. Or how would one explain that a ‘loan providing’ Foundation that claims to have collected over N300m from corps members since 2007 has given out only N14m of the money. What has been happening to the rest of the money? Yielding interest in some fixed deposit accounts somewhere? Or is it being shared by some persons as it comes in?
The good news from the grapevine is that the current board of NYSC has committed itself to reversing the trend. I understand that steps have been taken to stop the illegal collection and/or subscription, nay extortion. I believe the Ministry of Youth Development supervising the NYSC and the Board should give this matter priority attention. The Federal Government should eventually determine the existence of the Foundation.
But what was yet unclear as of the time of writing this piece is whether or not the anti-graft agencies will be directed to move in to investigate the sleaze. I sincerely believe that is the right thing to do if impunity of this kind is to be discouraged. The actors in this lurid drama should be made to account for the money so far collected, make necessary refunds to the coffers of government and thereafter face sanctions by appropriate institutions of government.
Having taken advantage of these young graduates who are only too eager to collect their discharge certificates and get into the labour market, bothering less about a seeming meagre sum of N500, which indeed may not be much, until multiplied with the number of corps members (put at about 300,000) mobilised and deployed annually in the last six years, I believe those behind the impunity should receive a just recompense for their fraudulent deal. The syndicate feeding fat, and quietly so, on the innocence and sweat of our young graduates in service of our nation should be dismantled. Nigerians should support the relevant authorities to viciously confront this impunity.
* Mr Ojo sent this piece from Lagos.
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