Damilola Oyedele writes that a year since the launch of the Naija Green Card, its spread has shown its national acceptance among young people, as a tool to help cushion the effects of economic hardship
Uchechi Nwosu (not real names) suddenly took ill at the village near Ado Ekiti where she was undergoing the mandatory one year national youth service. She needed emergency surgery, as her appendix was on the verge of bursting, but unfortunately doctors at the general hospital were on strike. Her parents, resident in Enugu quickly sent in some money, but she was afraid of patronising just any private hospital.
Enter the Naija Green card. Nwosu discovered that one of the most reputable private hospitals in Ekiti, Olives hospitable, was offering a whooping 30 per cent discount to the card holders. She was taken to the hospital, had the appendectomy done, with a short period of recovery at the hospital.
The Nigerian Student and Youth Corper Discount Card (NSYCDC) accessible to young people between the ages of 18-35, have been alleviating the effects of economic recession, and cushioning economic status since it was launched one year ago. Holders of the card benefit from discounts in various percentages, some up to 70 per cent on goods and services from merchants on the card's platform.
At its inception in 2016, the card had a few hundreds signed on, it has now grown to 9000 card holders and about 10,000 partners across all sectors of the economy including healthcare, aviation, transportation, hospitality, merchandise, restaurants, leisure and entertainment and many others.
While it is a new development in Nigeria, it is very popular in different parts of the world like the United Kingdom, United States, China, Germany and other countries, where students enjoy discounts on every imaginable good and service.
Initiated in Nigeria by the Chief Executive Officer of Bridge Concepts Ltd, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, said several tertiary institutions and the National Youth Service Corps have endorsed the card. This is in addition to some eminent personalities. For instance, the Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has enrolled Sokoto State students' from Senior Secondary School Three (SS 3) to those in tertiary institutions and those undergoing the mandatory NYSC across the country, on the discount platform.
Daramola, a former member of the House of Representatives, in an interview with THISDAY said the decision of the Sokoto State government may have been borne out of a desire to alleviate the pressures of the existing economic recession among young people.
"When Tambuwal decided to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sokoto State government and Naija Green card to place its students from SS3 to youth corps members on the project, it is to tell the world that he does not want destitute, prostitutes, fraudsters, and other preventable crimes among his youths, but a bunch of young people who are not under pressure. He does not want his youths to deal with the socio-economic pressures that are likely to push them off the cliff," Daramola said.
He added that Tambuwal should be celebrated, not just for being reflective, but for taking a necessary step to safeguard the future of his state citizens, beyond the building of schools.
The discount card has also been endorsed by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi.
"Atiku's endorsement of the card is very significant because it lends credence to the fact that we are doing something noble. If not, the Atiku we all know, with his political clout and global business network, will not dare touch it. He always says that he could not have been where he is today without the opportunities Nigeria gave to him. While we were making the presentation to him, at a point, he looked over to one of his aides and said, we need to sign this on, he mentioned one of his business interest. Atiku Abubakar endorsement will go a long way to assuage the fears of our cynical and skeptical society about the card," Daramola said.
Arrangements are currently being put in place to ensure that students of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) owned by Atiku are signed onto the platform.
The company is also in talks with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and several universities across the country, to enroll its members and students on the platform so they can benefit from the advantages it offers.
Beyond mitigating the effects of economic hardships for it students, enrollment on the platform also offers states, a credible database of that vulnerable segment of its society, which can be used for development planning.
"This platform also provides for state governments who are barely managing to give bursaries or support schemes in one form or the other, to use this as an opportunity because in the next one month this card will go fully integrated. It can be used as Point of Sales (POS) and other add ons. As a matter of fact, we are almost through with one of the banks. With this the card can be used for all transactions. As such the state government can put its bursary on it and this will enable it to profile those that are using the card, provide data on statistics of students the state has, determine how many students are graduating in one year, how many are offering one course or the other, and so on.
"Government can plan with the data made available through the data generated as a result of its enrolments on the platform. Beyond adding value to card holder's life, it also provides back end value, given through data we provide that, the state governments can plan with towards the development of their states," Daramola said.
The card is however not elitist despite its growing popularity in major cities across the country. In Kubwa, an Abuja suburb, it is accepted by a buka where local foods are served, while in Calabar, it is accepted by a keke NAPEP tricycle operator.
"Let's say our SS3 card holder in Calabar must get to a location for an important appointment, only to discovered that the transport fare she has may not likely take her to the appointment and back to her destination. The card comes to the rescue, as definitely taking chartered or regular taxi is out of the equation. Wouldn't our tricycle partner come handy?" Daramola added.
In the next one year, Bridge Concepts projects five million card holders on its platforms, and is set to embark on a massive sensitisation tour at tertiary institutions across the country. The initiative is a laudable one, which when embraced by governments and agencies, would serve to ensure young people have a sense of belonging.