For those canvassing for the scrapping of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) scheme over growing wave of insecurity as well as its relevance especially in recent times may likely have a change of mind, particularly after visiting the garment factory of the scheme in Anambra State.
The factory located inside the State Polytechnics in Mgbakwu, Awka North Local Government Area of the state which boasts of over 15,000 production capacity of khaki suits, plain vests and shorts each, have continued to contribute to the economic growth of not only the state but that of the nation at large.
With the engagement of no fewer than 100 workforces, comprising corps members, NYSC staff and other skilled workers drawn from within the community, the factory has also increased the standard of living of the people of the area, as well as boosted the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of both the state and federal governments.
Commissioned in July 2002, the garment factory which is one of the two factories in the entire country is not only into production of corps members attires, but also serves as training center for Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED) where both corps members and unemployed youths are empowered with different skills.
The barely 20-year old factory, regrettably, had not fully maximized its full potentials party due to lack of adequate machines and manpower. The facility had reportedly suffered this under-utilization challenge until the recent deployment of one of the Assistant Inspectors from the NYSC Directorate in the person of Mr Joshua Onifade to resuscitate it.
The Manager of the factory, Mr Joshua Onifade said his deployment followed the decision of Director General of the Scheme, Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Shuaibu to ensure the factory was resuscitated in line with his fifth policy thrust of reinvigorating the NYSC ventures, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development programme in the scheme for greater achievements.
He expressed joy over the unprecedented positive change the factory had recorded since his assumption of office barely five months ago, attributing it to injection of both machines and manpower.
He said, “It was last year that the DG, in line with his policy thrust on assumption of office, deployed me to this place. He asked me to come and see what can be done to revamp and reinvigorate the factory. He said in his fifth policy thrust, he will reinvigorate NYSC ventures, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development programme in the scheme for greater achievements.
“It’s in fulfilment of that I was deployed here. That was precisely September 18, 2020. But I resumed work a week after because the DG asked me to stay and see him before finally leaving. While in Abuja since 1998 I joined NYSC, I’ve rose through the ranks. Presently, I’m an Assistant Director, Procurement. I changed my cadre from inspector to procurement. In order words, I was in procurement department before my deployment.
“The DG said he had to scout for a long time for who would assist him actualize his policy thrust. I could remember the time he sent me on an inspection of the activities here. I also went to Mina, Niger state and later sent him my report. I didn’t know he observed all I did. So, one day he called and said I’ll be going to work in the factory. He said I’m in the best position for the job, in addition to my experience as a procurement officer. So, who am I to say no to my DG?
“Actually, the production level of the factory was nothing to write home about when I took over. I met 18 sowing machines, 12 functional but old. I decided to ensure the 7 in critical condition were repaired. Again, I said, if actually we’re to achieve the mandate of the DG, I must go out of my way to do more. I had to get back to him for support. That he did and still doing.
“Within a space of 5 months, I was able to increase the number of machines from 18 to 41. We have two types: interlockers and straight showing machines. We bought more of them. Those that were down, including boton hole machine, I fixed all. Our production capacity was boasted.
“Before my resumption, they were majorly outsourcing from existing contractors. When I came, I saw it as an aberration because it’s more or less working for the contractors. We were running at deficits after making statutory deductions from government. That was why we decided to make us of what we have.
“The production was about 2000. But presently, we have 15,000 capacity of khaki suits, 15,000 plain vests, 15,000 of PE shorts. The only item I didn’t want to involve myself in is the crested vest because it’s done manually and it’s costlier to produce.
“Until I get a screen-printing machine with the capacity of producing 1,200 per day, we will not commence the production. Then, it will be massive. For now, we’re concentrating on plain vest. We’re not also producing jungle boots, caps, belts and tennis because we don’t have the machines. But all of that are in the pipeline. By the time these ones become stabilized, we’ll go into that.
“Initially, our staff in government payroll were just 10. We relied on tailors from outside. We employed them whenever we needed their services because there was no job. But on assumption, I requested the State Coordinator to give me corps members with fair knowledge of fashion designing and painting who we could train.
“He posted 11 of them, 6 female and 5male and I rented an apartment for them within the neighborhood. He just posted another corps member to me yesterday, making it 12. Besides, I said if we must increase our production capacity, we needed more tailors. So, I had to engage more 41 tailors who we pay wages to boost their moral to handle the 41 machines on ground.
“We have a cutter who is a professional. We also have a staff assisting him. But we need more cutters who we can train because their work is very important. The one on government payroll is getting old and will soon retire. So, we need to have a succession plan. Presently, I’m talking with the people in the community, especially those with school certificate to join us so they can eke their living here.
“I’ve also met with the Rector of the State Polytechnics who’s coincidentally our neighbor, appealing to her that we would like to engage her students. She obliged to give us some indigent students who we can engage and assist to pay their fees from the proceeds they make. They’re here with us. All in line with the policy thrust of the NYSC.”
On how long it takes to produce the 15,000, Onifade said, “Within 6weeks, we produce the 15,000 each of the 3 items simultaneously. If it’s replicated, we’re expecting to have over 60,000 production capacity of the 3 items, khaki suits, plain white and PE each in a year. That will come to a total of 180,000 pieces annually.
“We supply the items directly to the central store at the headquarters from where they would be distributed to corps members across the country. Presently we have corps members in camp. Another batch is expected to be deployed in May, July and November/December.
“I’m working for NYSC which is invariably working for government. Whatever profit accruable from the proceeds is paid into TSA, thereby boosting the IGR of the scheme and economy of government.
“The community where the factory is located is already feeling the impact. Over 40 women working with us fall back to the community and you can imagine the multiplier effect, directly or indirectly. Same goes with the 41 tailors. If you put all the manpower together, we have close to 100 workers on our payroll. All these increase the standard of living of the people. That’s what NYSC is doing over 47 years ago of its existence, particularly under the able leadership of the current DG.
“Some of the corps members we engaged decided to stay back after service. You know leaving service without anything to do is a fundamental problem in the country which can be frustrating. That’s why NYSC is going further to engage youths to ensure they can live anywhere in the country. For example, I have a corps member from Edo state and another from Nasarawa state. They’re all working here. They’ve mingled with the community so much that it’s likely they may decide to stay back. By large, the unemployment rate is drastically reduced. The skills we’re teaching them here are what they convert to employment.
The Manager listed the various sections of the factory to include the store where the finished products as well as raw materials were packed, the SAED training section, printing section, among others.
“The factory hall where all the materials are cut with the various machines. Another section is the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED) training center where corps members and the community members who are interested in acquiring skills are trained. We have manual sewing machines there.
“We are also into printing for those interested in the skills. We have a lot to offer here. With time, we intend to take it further to produce other types of garments for the community. We’re taking it gradually so we don’t chew more than we can swallow.”
He further revealed that all materials in the factory were locally sourced in line with the local content of the federal government to boost the economy and create employment for the teeming youths.
“You can imagine the impact on the local manufacturers of the fabrics, as well as button and tread. There’s already made market for them. No material here is imported. All are locally sourced from Lagos, Onitsha, Aba and other parts of the country. The money still circulates. You can imagine the millions being invested in the production of these materials,” he added.
Reacting to the challenges facing the factory, Onifade highlighted funds, power and roof leakage as major impediments confronting the growth of the factory.
He said, “Our challenges are enormous, finance is a major one. But God has been faithful. We’re approaching it in various ways. But we don’t want to take loan, which I see as killing, with due apologies to the bankers. We rather collaborate with spirited individuals, corporate bodies. I’ve approached some into garment factories. Most of them have shown willingness to support.
“This collaboration doesn’t necessarily involve money. For me, all I want are materials, fabrics and other sewing materials. We just agree on formula for profit sharing. All these, definitely will be approved by the headquarters. But at our local level, some of our colleagues have keyed into what we’re doing as they see it as saving against their retirement.
“Another major challenge here is power supply. When I came here, we were not connected to the national grid. I had to insist on our being connected and made the EEDC management and we got it connected. So far, we enjoy their services within the period they provide light. But you know how epileptic it can be. But we make sure we maximize those few periods they give us light, including midnights. Like last night, they worked till 4am when light went off before they went back home. Yet, they’re back this morning.
“Besides, the factory warehouse, though well-built is getting older by the day. Though an ideal factory setting with conducive environment, but we have roof leakages here and there. Once it rains, you can imagine what will happen to our materials and machines. All the same, I’ve informed the DG and he has promised to come to my aid.
On the area of remuneration, the manager has this to say,
“The simple motivation here is, apart from being participatory, the workers have sense of belonging. Everyone is conscious of his responsibility, no wastage in form of dull moment or materials. They know that any wastage can affect them directly or indirectly. They are up and running bearing in mind regular payment of their wages, which is based on how much they produce. They work day and night because they know they have a target. They wouldn’t mind stopping their sleep if possible. We too are supporting them. I don’t say because I pay them, they don’t need further encouragement. If it’s water, snacks I buy for them, just to make them happy.
“Again, my relationship with the workers has been cordial. In fact, they thank God for bringing me here. They’re always happy seeing me. It may interest you to know that many of them were even routing for their transfer from here. But since I came, they have jettisoned that plan. They said they would stay back, saying it’s now they know they are working. They feel fulfilled too.”
Asked if there had been any laying off of any worker over misconduct, the manager said, “So far, all the workers have been doing fine. You know they can’t work at the same pace, but as a leader, the onus lies on me to encourage them. As a leader, you need to discover those working under you and handle them as such. You don’t discard anyone at will, all fingers are not equal. Instead, you build their confidence, which I’ve been doing and they’ve been enjoying it. In fact, there’s one officer they tagged as write-off, I picked him up and he later became one of our wonderful staff. I don’t write anyone off. There were lots of complains when I came. But I told them if everyone in his/her section carries out his/her role, the factory will move on.”
Onifade however revealed that they were yet to receive any government official in the factory since he came. He however noted that the DG had always been in touch, saying, ‘If I call him ubiquitous, it’s not an overstatement. He’s always thinking about this place, and always supportive. That’s why you can see what we’re doing.”
Comparing the factory with that of Minna, Niger state, the Manager said, “I’m making them to wake up from their slumber and run. Thank God my colleague there is not only understanding, but well experienced. I brief him from time to time and he takes our advice seriously. He’s doing well. For me, it’s a healthy competition.”
He also described his transition from Abuja to the state as divine, saying he had found joy and fulfillment working in the state.
“Honestly, I’m highly fulfilled because the DG who’s the no. 1 corps member in Nigeria discovered me. I still don’t know how he knew I could do what he’s posted me to do here. He has made me to see that inner potentials in me that is still coming out. Initially, I didn’t know I could have done all these. I’m very happy with what I’m doing here and that’s why I’m all out to see that his policy thrust is actually achieved. And we’ve been doing that. You can see it with your eyes. I feel great and highly honored.
“Ordinarily, everyone would prefer working at the headquarters. But this is a call to service and in our employment, you can be posted anywhere. That’s why I saw it as a call to service when the DG asked me to come here. I see my posting as divine to be able to contribute my quota to the development of NYSC and Nigeria in general. I enjoy what I do every day.”