By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Nigeria is currently the seventh most populous country in the world with a total population projected to reach 236 million by 2030 and 410 million by 2050 making her the fastest-growing among the 10 most populous countries globally and projected to exceed the U.S. as the third-largest by 2050, according to the United Nations. Yet, Nigeria has a median age of 18.4 years of age. This represents nearly 70% of her population under 30 years and the involvement of the youths in the political space of the Nigerian state has burst into the public political consciousness.
However, traditional factors absorbing modern institutions have created Nigerian youth not equipped for the challenge of nation building amidst the obvious inevitability of her pivotal role in the development of the country. Sadly therefore, while the emphasis has shifted from a developing the young minds, it is placed on a qualified youth developer who are themselves not properly groomed or developed.
Against this background it is not only important but also very essentially urgent matter to advocate a course or collaboration between a constitutionally recognized scheme like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and a most pre-eminent modern specialized crime fighting agency like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim the charismatic educationist heading the NYSC and the no -nonsense police officer and Commissioner Ibrahim Magu of EFCC are the personalities driving this process.
In the February 14, 2020 anti-corruption walk led by the EFCC, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, was quoted as saying that the anti-corruption walk would be an annual event because “the mind of the youth is a fertile ground and a potential force, to raise an army against corruption in the society” and that it “won’t end with the walk, but will continue after, with anti-corruption programs to run through the year at the various places of primary assignments of the youth corps members.”
Background and Comparison of the NYSC and EFCC Vis a Vis the Need for Collaboration
It is important at this juncture to consider the rationale for setting up the NYSC and EFCC. After Nigeria was ravaged by a brutal civil war occasioned by the mismanagement of ethnic heterogeneity and power tension, the search for a national solution gave birth to the National Youth Service Corps pursuant to Decree 24 of May 22, 1973, promulgated by the Military regime of General Yakubu Gowon later replaced by Decree 51 of June 16, 1993 which is now saved by section 315(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) that recognizes it as an existing law and gives it the same effect as any other provision of the Constitution. The section of the Constitution provides:
“Nothing in this Constitution shall invalidate the following enactments, that is to say-
(a) The National Youth Service Corps Decree 1993;
(b) The Public Complaint Commission Act;
(c) The National Security Agencies Act;
(d) The Land Use Act;
and the provisions of those enactments shall continue to apply and have full effect in accordance with their tenor and to the like extent as any other provisions forming part of this Constitution and shall not be altered or repealed except in accordance with the provisions of section 9(2) of this Constitution.”
The objectives of the scheme as spelt out in section 1(3) of the decree which have remained to date despite several changes to the scheme. They are:
(a)To inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work and of patriotic and loyal service to the Nation in any situation they may find themselves;
(b) To raise the moral tone of our youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement and social and cultural improvement;
(c)To develop in our youths attitudes of min, acquired through shared experience and suitable training, which will make them more amenable to mobilization in the national interest;
(d) To develop common ties among our youths and promote national unity by ensuring that:-
(i) As far as possible youths are assigned to jobs in states other than states of origin;
(ii) Each group, assigned to work together is a representative of the country as possible;
(iii) The youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of the country, with a view to removing prejudices, eliminating ignorance and confirming at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups;
(e) To encourage members of the service corps to seek, at the end of their corps service, career employment all over the country, thus promoting the free movement of Labour;
(f) To induce employers, partly through their experience with service corps members, to employ more readily qualified Nigerians irrespective of their states of origin; and
(g) To enable Nigeria youths to acquire the spirit of self-reliance.
The General Gowon spoke to this objectives during the inauguration of the NYSC Directorate on June 4, 1973 when he said:
“The purpose … is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian youths, the spirit to selfless service to the community and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of Nigerians irrespective of cultural background. The history of our country since independence has clearly indicated the need for unity amongst all our people….
If Nigeria is to make rapid progress on all fronts internally, and if she is to make her mark on the continent of Africa, and in deed, on the comity of nations, her youths must be fully mobilized and be prepared to offer willingly and without asking for rewards in return, their best in the service of their nation at all times.”
General Gowon’s message to the first batch of corps members on July 2, 1973 was equally clear:
“The National Youth Service Corps provides for the youths a much-needed platform for self-realization and for contributing their essential quota in the realization of our national objectives of building a strong, united self-reliant nation.”
Similar circumstances and background led to the establishment of the EFCC focusing on another monster of the Nigerian society, corruption and allied practices. The Group 7 (G7) countries’ summit in 1989 established the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering, which by 2001 had blacklisted Nigeria as a non-cooperative country. One of the recommendations of the FATF was the establishment of an anti-corruption agency to function as a financial intelligence unit that possessed sufficient statutory enforcement powers. In 1996 Transparency International listed Nigeria as the most corrupt country in the world. Moreover terrorism that dawned on 9 September 2001, resulted in increased pressure by the United States (US) and the United Nations UN) on countries (particularly developing countries) to put in place measures to combat financing of terrorism. These besides the reality of the perception and effect of corruption in Nigeria led to the establishment of the EFCC pursuant to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, which was repealed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act 2002 as stated in the case of EFCC v Yanaty Petrochemical Ltd (2017) 3 NWLR (Pt 1552).
Section 6(c)(n) and (o) of the EFCC Act vests the EFCC with the function of coordinating and enforcing all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other authority, a power that has been recognized by the Supreme Court in plethora of cases including Danfulani v EFCC (2016) 1 NWLR (Pt 1493) 223. Furthermore, Section 7(2) of the EFCC Act empowers the EFCC to enforce any and all laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes, including the Money Laundering Act, the Advance Fee Fraud Act, the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractice in Banks Act 1994 (as amended), the Banks and other FinancialInstitutions Act 1991 (as amended), the Miscellaneous Offences Act and any other law or regulations relating to economic and financial crimes including the Criminal Code and Penal Code. Also, the reach of the EFCC’s enforcement powers exceeds that of public sector corruption conferred on the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Independent and other Corrupt Practices Offences Commission (ICPC), with the EFCC enjoying enforcement and prosecutorial powers in respect of both public- and private-sector crimes.
From a backdrop of the entrenched twin evils of ethnicity and corruption which have bedeviled the Nigerian State leading to the establishment of the NYSC and EFCC, it is obvious that the primary goal is to achieve a new order for Nigeria. It is therefore correct to say that the re-orientation of the minds of Nigerians howbeit one from a social engineering perspective and the other from a reformation perspective through the criminal justice system are inherent functions of both organizations. First, both NYSC and the EFCC were set up to combat the entrenched menaces of moral decay resulting in tribalism and corruption. Second, both agencies are legally considered to be very important to the continuous existence of Nigeria that while the former is made a part of the Constitution, the latter is endowed with wide investigation and prosecution powers not only with effect to crimes created under its establishing law but also related laws. Third, while the former is clearly created to function with enormous civil responsibility related directly to the youth the other latter is created with tremendous criminal responsibility with a large chunk directly connected to offences which relate to activities increasingly consuming young minds like cybercrime popularly called “yahoo”. Fourth, both agencies are meant to enhance image and economic development of Nigeria. In this regard, the NYSC takes a direct self-development approach of the corps members through community development initiative with the aim of: instilling the tradition of dignity of Labour; enlisting the corps members’ commitment to their host communities not as tourists but as members of the community; offering insight into the custom, culture and tradition of the people; rekindling self-help spirit in local communities towards emphasis on self-reliance; enlightening local communities of the lives of other parts of the country and providing a forum for training of the young in leadership of development initiatives.
In the same vein one thing which is lost about the criminal jurisdiction of a law enforcement agent like the EFCC is that it is essentially not set up to achieve conviction of suspected criminals but to contribute to a new perception and way of life of Nigerians. Neither can achieve this new order without the other or support of all Nigerians especially the most active set of her population being the youth. At its Anti-Corruption Summit of 2019 held on June 11 at Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman’s Welcome Address did allude to this fact when he said despite the achievement of the EFCC,
“corruption remains in our country. I believe that the fight against corruption requires a multi-stakeholder approach. The private and public sectors are critical players in this regard and I am glad some state governors are taking steps to establish institutional mechanisms to fight corruption. However, institutional mechanisms alone will not eradicate corruption; we must have a passion and the will to make a difference.”
Also in his contribution at the same conference among a panel of eminent discussants chaired by former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, the former Director of the Nigeria Law School – Lagos Campus, Professor Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, called for reorientation of the political actors, using vivid examples of moral decay amongst segments of the population, like students bodies and such groups as NBA. This was actually an indirect call for reorientation of young mindset towards sane political climate and participation. Only this approach can reform the political space.
Sadly we are a country known for momentous statements without commensurate practice or culture of implementation. There is urgent need for a direct collaboration between the two agencies in engaging the minds of the young Nigerians in fighting corruption.
Recommendation and Conclusion
To effectively perform its traditional role as an anti-graft agency and to enhance its ability to not only collaborate with NYSC but also affect it towards fighting corruption and reorientation of the young mindsets, the EFCC must be non-partisan. Affiliation to a political party has ability to derail it. It must aggressively enforce laws on corruption and allied matter to give the young minds a sense of responsibility for actions against the general perception of anything goes. Moreover, the EFCC must also adopt most modern and civilized modus operandi that will embellish it with the toga of a people-friendly law enforcement agent with ability to effectively collaborate with a sister agency like the NYSC. Both NYSC and EFCC must rid themselves of intrinsic corrupt practices with ability to generate negative public perceptions of their organizations in order to position them as veritable instruments of positive change; deployment of corps members must fulfill the intent of the scheme all things being equal. Also the community development initiative of the NYSC must be given its pride of place in the scheme just like the certificate is prioritized. Moreover, corps members should be non-partisan and should not only be well utilized in the electoral process at all levels but also adequately encouraged to do so. However, the leadership of the NYSC and the EFCC are doing a great and good job and must be supported by all and sundry.