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NYSC Program Is Not An Infringement Of Right To Liberty, Court Of Appeal Holds



The Court of Appeal in its recent judgment delivered on Thursday, March 28, 2019 upheld the validity and constitutionality of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Act in an appeal filed by Mr. Oluwole Aluko against the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation. 

Mr. Aluko, a lawyer, had sued the President of Nigeria and the Federal Government, challenged the constitutionality of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) Act, and asked the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division to hold that the NYSC Act was inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution. He argued that the NYSC programme constituted a threat to right to life, right to liberty and amounted to forced labour and slavery, and ought to be scrapped. The Federal High Court had dismissed the suit primarily on the ground of lack of locus standi (incompetence of a party to bring an action).

In affirming the Judgment of the lower Court, Hon. Justice Nonyerem Okoronkwo, JCA in delivering the lead judgment of the Court of Appeal sitting at Ibadan, dismissed the appeal in its entirety for lacking merit. The Appellate Court agreed with the submissions of Prof. Fabian Ajogwu SAN, Counsel to the President, that there can be no inconsistent provisions of the constitution itself, and held that the NYSC Act was a part of the Constitution by virtue of Section 315 (5) of the Constitution. The Court was of the view that since the Constitution was the supreme law of the land and the validity of all laws was measured by their reference to it; the NYSC Act having been incorporated into the Constitution could not be said to be inconsistent with the Constitution or any provisions thereof. 

The Court stated that the NYSC Act could not be abrogated except by an alteration of the Constitution in the manner specified in Section 9(2) of the Constitution. His Lordship took the view that “the NYSC Act appears to be a piece of legislation that conforms to the essence of section 4(2) of the Constitution i.e. for the peace, order and good government of the Federation”

The Appellate Court also held that the Appellant lacked the requisite locus standi to maintain the action, and had failed to show that the NYSC Act was inconsistent with sections 33 and 35 pertaining to right to life and liberty or “was in anyway inimical to the life or good livelihood” of Nigerians.. 

The Court held that nothing is shown in the NYSC Act that impinges on the right to life under any law, and the calling up of members of the NYSC under section 2 of the Act is not a deprivation of liberty and any person so affected may apply for exemption under section 2(2) & (4) of the NYSC ACT. 

In this landmark decision, the Appellate Court has put to rest the question of the constitutionality of the NYSC programme. 

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