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EXPLAINER: What NYSC’s ‘ransom payment’ advice indicates

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In what appeared to many as shocking, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has reportedly advised corps members traveling high-risk roads — including Abuja-Kaduna, Abuja-Lokoja-Okene, and Aba-Port Harcourt — to alert their family members to prepare ransom in case of abduction.

This now-infamous advice was contained in a section of a handbook titled, “Security Awareness and Education Handbook For Corps Members and Staff” which was distributed to corps members in 2021 Batch B stream I and II cohort of the scheme — though not all.

Expectedly, the section which surfaced online has attracted criticisms from Nigerians on social media, as many argued that it gave an indication that the country was heading towards destruction and failure.

Meanwhile, NYSC, in a statement on Thursday by its spokesperson, Adenike Adeyemi, denied giving such advice as contained in the handbook, describing the claim as “antics of mischief-makers out to ridicule the scheme.”

It read, “The attention of the management of the National Youth Service Corps has been drawn to a fake release making the rounds on the social media to the effect that corps members travelling on “high risk roads” should alert their families, friends and colleagues in order to have somebody to pay off the ransom that could be demanded in the event of being kidnapped.”

However, Premium Times on Friday, reported that the NYSC spokesperson said that there were different copies of the said handbook in circulation, adding that the agency would investigate the matter.

Amid the denial and its accompanying controversy, one fact that stands tall is the rising spate of insecurity in the country.

From schoolchildren to travellers, many Nigerians have had to cough out millions of Naira to secure the release of their abducted loved ones. Not even corps members have been spared, despite assurance of their protection from the Director-General of the scheme, Brigadier General Shuaib Ibrahim.

About a week ago, five members of the National Youth Service Corps who were travelling to their orientation camps in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states were abducted by bandits on the Owerri-Port Harcourt Expressway.

The Commissioner of Police in Imo State, Dasuki Galadanchi, while confirming the incident, said the kidnappers established contact with the families of the corps members and demanded N5m ransom.

From experience, this happens to be one case out of many. Reports of abductions have become regular stories in many parts of the country, particularly the volatile Northern region where Boko Haram insurgency and banditry are thriving.

Quoting a January 2021 report by Businesday NG, “In the last 20 years, corps members have been victims of election violence, kidnapping, abduction by terrorist groups and rape, with many being killed while serving their fatherland.”

Recent calls from concerned Nigerians that NYSC shouldn’t send graduates to violence-prone areas were ignored. According to THIS DAY newspapers, about 9,100 corps members were deployed to the troubled North-west zone where the spate of insecurity is relatively high.

More than ever, the big question boils down to the safety of these young Nigerians which had prompted a House of Representatives member, Awaji-Inombek Abiante, last June, to propose a bill seeking to scrap the scheme created 48 years ago to boost national integration.

Though the move suffered a setback owing to the stance of the National Assembly that the scheme has come to stay, it however reflects the growing disinterest in NYSC by many Nigerians. This, more importantly, calls for concerted efforts by the government.

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