President, Commander-In Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria,<br> Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR)Vice President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria,
 Prof. Oluyemi Osinbajo (GCON)Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Directorate of Technical Aid Corps, Pius Olakunle  Osunyikanmi, Ph.D

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE TECHNICAL AID CORPS SCHEME

As the programme was right from the onset, a conceived as an instrument of foreign policy, the Directorate was for obvious reasons made a parastatal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Directorate is thus saddled with overall management and general administration of the scheme. This involves the conduct of recruitment and orientation exercises for volunteers. Also included are the deployments of volunteers on their final return to the country. In carrying out these responsibilities, the Directorate is guided by the following policy goals and objectives;

I. Sharing Nigeria's know-how and expertise with other African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. II. Giving assistance on the basis of assessed and perceived needs of the recipient countries. III. Promoting cooperation and understanding between Nigerian and beneficiary countries. IV. Facilitating meaningful contacts between the youths of Nigeria and those of the recipient countries. In addition to the aforementioned objectives, the scheme is also aimed at: i. Complementing other forms of assistance to ACP countries. ii. Ensuring a streamlined programme of assistance to other developing countries. iii.Acting as a channel for enhancing south-south cooperation and; iv. Establishing presence in countries which for economic reasons, Nigeria has no resident diplomatic Missions.

In terms of comparative advantage, Nigeria share similar history in development issues with the recipient countries. The country also pays the Nigerian expatrates from its own treasure without the recipient countries contributing financially.
The strength of the TAC programme and its success is predicated on the fact that it is a people-oriented and people-centered assistance programme geared towards the development of recipient countries. The implementation of the scheme has endeared Nigeria to many countries as a facilitator of effective cooperation in socio-economic development among ACP countries.
The Federal Government of Nigeria recognizes the programme as a foreign policy tool for the consolidation of Nigeria's role in the independence struggles of some African countries. It is a catalyst for peace, progress, and development among beneficiary and non-beneficiary countries.

TAC MODE OF OPERATIONS

In practical terms, the TAC scheme operates on biennial basis. Individual volunteers are therefore expected to mandatorily serve for 24 months in their respective countries of deployment. TAC operates through the concept of legal instrument refers to as TAC country agreement. The agreement represents the legal framework, which spells out the obligations and responsibilities of both Nigeria and the recipient countries. The operation of the scheme in any recipient country is largely predicated on the signing of this agreement. It is however pertinent to point out that deployment of volunteers to the recipient countries is strictly based on the assessed and perceived needs of the States more especially as one of the main goals and objectives of the scheme is to compliment the socio-economic development of the beneficiary countries. The scheme draws from the large pool of Nigeria's well-trained manpower to provide volunteers requested by these countries. Since inception in 1987, volunteers have served in countries in Africa, Caribbean and pacific States. These includes: Fiji, Jamaica, Belize, Commonwealth of Dominican, The Gambia, Sierra-Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Brazzaville, Sao Tome &Principe, Zambia, Mozambique, Liberia, Guyana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Seychelles, Shelter Afrique (Kenya), Namibia, Djibouti, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Republic of Lesotho, Swaziland, central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Senegal etc. recently some countries outside the legally approved framework of the scheme have expressed interest to participate in the scheme. Participation in the scheme is opened to all Nigerian graduates with 3 years' post NYSC experience. As presently designed, volunteers are not expected to participate twice in the scheme, although some volunteers can be retained for a defined period of time by the beneficiary countries because of their exceptional or outstanding performance. This is indeed notwithstanding the sufficient level of job security or guarantee for volunteers especially from the public sector who are usually given a two-year leave of absence. Recruitment into the scheme is both rigid and meticulous. Right from the call for applications, through the short-listment, prospective volunteers are taken through two rigorous stages of interview and orientation exercises before being eligible for deployment. At each stage, resource persons are involved and drawn from the academia, professional bodies, Federal character Commission, Security Agencies, diplomatic corps and Civil Service. It is pertinent to note that there has been a level of fluctuations in the number of volunteers deployed over the years. The scheme started with the deployment of one hundred and two volunteers (102) in 1987-1988. The Director General inherited a figure slightly above 200 upon assumption of duty in August 2013. And with the sanity that has been brought into the entire recruitment process, countries are now showing increased interest. Our projection for 2014-2016 biennium stands at 1500 covering such fields as Engineering, Agriculture, Medical Lab, Technology, and Sport, Law, Architecture, Radiology, Accountancy, Insurance, Metrology, Lecturing, Coaching and Artisanship. .

IMPACT OF THE TAC SCHEME

The scheme has evidently provided the much-needed focus on Nigeria's Foreign Aid Technical Assistance Policy. It has given a positive boost to the conduct of Nigeria's foreign policy especially as it relates to its efforts at enhancing both sub-regional and regional cooperation. The scheme has equally invigorated the noble idea of actualizing the much needed South-South Cooperation in terms of sharing and exchanging of human resource, technology and knowledge. Furthermore, the positive contributions of TAC volunteers in the recipient countries have earned the scheme positive commendations from international bodies such as UNDP, United Nations Volunteers Service, the commonwealth and other relevant international development agencies. It is also instructive to know that NEPAD among others has identified the Nigerian Technical Aid Corps (TAC) as a case study. It is also worthy of note that in the last report of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) on Nigeria, chaired by the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, H.E. Meles Zenawi specifically identified and commended Nigerian Technical Aid Corps Scheme as one of Nigeria's contributions to the socio-economic development among the African, Caribbean and the Pacific countries. It is the only volunteer service of its kind currently operated by an African country and therefore worthy of emulation. Nigeria's Technical Aid Corps programme challenges the commonly held perception that Africa is only a recipient of aid. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has equally commended the quality and performance of Nigerian Ex-volunteers and has as a result engaged their services. The most recent was the engagement of 5 ex-volunteer pharmacists, who received specialized training in drug-detection programmes and have since been deployed to ECOWAS States.

Through the scheme, meaningful contacts have been established with volunteers from other countries such as the USA, Germany, Britain and Cuba. One may hasten to add that the international goodwill generated as a result of the positive contributions of the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) programme, could be translated into firm support for Nigeria's perceived interest in the international Arena by both the benefiting States and many others.

LINKS WITH FOREIGN ASSISTANCE PROGRAMMES

The operation of TAC Scheme had attracted the interest of International Organisations and Development Agencies such as the UN Volunteer Service (UNVS). Currently, TAC Scheme is one of the institutions being considered by the commonwealth for participation in capacity building in Transitional and post-Conflict Countries.