The House of Representatives has stepped down a bill to amend the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to increase transportation and accommodation allowances of corps members.
The consolidated bill, sponsored by Eta Mbora (PDP, Cross River) and five others, also seeks to make NYSC scheme optional for graduates, particularly those in the diaspora.
The bill was debated on Tuesday but got mixed reactions from members of the House, as many opposed different segments of the bill.
The bill by Mr Mbora seeks to amend section 18(2) of the principal act to increase transportation and accommodation allowances payable by employers to prospective corps.
The principal law provides that “An employer of corps members shall provide the following, that is (a) basic accommodation and where it is not available, pay the minimum sum of N250 per month in lieu of accommodation;
all welfare facilities normally provided for the regular staff including medical Service
transport or where it is not available, pay the minimum sum of Nl50 per month in lieu of transport
The proposed amendment seeks to increase transportation allowance from N150 to N20,000 and accommodation allowance from N250 to N15,000.
The bill is also proposing a new provision to ensure that corps members at the orientation camps that are desirous of joining the military and paramilitary must get automatic employment.
“While in the orientation camp, any Corp member who is desirous to be employed into the Service of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Nigerian Police Force, Department of State Security Services, and Paramilitary Institutions should be offered automatic employment,” the proposed amendment reads.
Bill to make NYSC optional
There is also another bill, sponsored by Rolland Igbakpa (PDP, Delta) that seeks to make the NYSC scheme optional for graduates.
The amendment by Mr Igbakpa seeks to amend Section 2 of the principal act to remove the word “shall” and replace it with “may” to allow the scheme to be optional.
“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,” section 2(1) of the principal act reads.
The proposed amendment provides that an exemption letter should be given to any graduate that applies for it.
“Provided that any category of Nigerians who have applied to the Directorate to be exempted from the Service shall be exempted forthwith and shall not be bound by any provisions of this Act that may affect his rights as a citizen of Nigeria,” the proposed amendment reads.
Leading the debate on the bill, Mr Igbakpa explained that the bill seeks to address the remuneration package of corps members in-line with present economic realities.
He erroneously stated that the bill is proposing to increase the allowances of members from N30,000 to the wages of level 8 officers at the federal level.
“Because of the changing realities—The N30,000 given to them is our minimum wage, and in line with the present realities, it will be fair to give something that befits a graduate—a level 8 officer in public service.
“Secondly, with changing times, I believe that the activities should not be compulsory. In this amendment, we are proposing the use of the word “shall”, and bring in “may” hence make it optional for them,” he said.
A check of the bill by PREMIUM TIMES shows that Mr Igbakpa misled the House in his lead debate. The bill is not seeking to increase the federal government allowance but rather the transportation and accommodation allowances paid by employers of corps members.
In the course of the debate, most lawmakers backed the increment of allowances but opposed making the scheme optional.
The Chief Whip of the House, Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno), said the scheme should remain mandatory and the option of an exemption letter should be for those above 30 years and other exemptions granted by the act.
Also speaking against making the scheme optional, the Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), argued that the proposal is an attempt to favour students studying outside the country.
He opposed any attempt to make laws with the intent to favour students based on the locality where they are studying. He stressed that the scheme must be mandatory.
The speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, prevailed on the lawmakers to allow the bill to be stepped down and unbundled by the House Committee on Rules and Business.
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However, Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia) opposed the suggestion by the speaker, noting that the bill should be allowed to scale second reading, while committees are allowed to clean it up after the public hearing.
Mr Gbajabiamila insisted that the bill should be stepped down and unbundled to save it.
Consequently, the bill was stepped down.
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