Eight members of the National Youth Service Corps and a driver with the Akwa Ibom Transport Company are spending their second week under obviously traumatized conditions with their unknown abductors.
They were travelling from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State to Zamfara through Sokoto for NYSC Orientation Camp when they were forced into captivity by gunmen. Their abductors have since contacted their families, demanding N4 million ransom for each person.
Except for its mention in the media, there has not been sufficient show of resolute concern to secure the release of these unfortunate Nigerian youths who answered the mandatory call to serve the country.
It is very regrettable that the authorities have failed these patriotic Nigerian youths. The nation they served has deserted them in their most critical hour of need. Management of the NYSC has not displayed adequate pragmatism in coming up with a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term solution to this problem which is capable of destroying the trust of Nigerian youths, not only in the NYSC scheme alone, but in the capacity of authorities in their country to protect them.
It is a sad commentary to note that neither the government of their home state, Akwa Ibom nor their scheduled host state, Zamfara, have initiated any move to secure their release from their abductors or mitigate their harrowing experience. Management of the NYSC was reported to have encouraged parents of the kidnapped corps members to pay ransom demanded by the kidnappers. The police have been complacent, mainly for lack of capacity to go after the kidnappers and bring them to book.
Memories of the March 28, 2022 attack by bandits on the Abuja-Kaduna train, resulting in the death of about 14 passengers while 65 others were abducted are still fresh. The victims, among whom was a member of NYSC suffered untold indignities in the hands of their captors for over six months.
This year, these innocent young Nigerians on national assignment have been abducted in different incidents across the country.
Seven members of the NYSC were abducted on their way to Port Harcourt, Rivers State from the orientation camp in Ondo State.
In the same month of May 2023, it was reported that 12 corps members were abducted by armed men along the Rumuji axis of the East-West Road, Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Gunmen kidnapped 15 members of the NYSC in Anambra State. The corps members were abducted by the hoodlums at a filling station in Ihiala Local Government Area of the state.
It is a sad commentary to note that neither the government of their home state, Akwa Ibom nor their scheduled host state, Zamfara, have initiated any move to secure their release from their abductors or mitigate their harrowing experience
They had just completed their three-week orientation programme in Imo State, and were travelling to Lagos when they were abducted.
On August 16, an NYSC member, Miss Esther Akande, with Call-up No: NYSC/IFE/2023/201810 (Batch B stream 2), was kidnapped on her way to the NYSC Permanent Orientation Camp, Magaji Dan Yanusa Keffi, Nasarawa State.
NYSC members have become the latest target of evil-minded people who make a living from the proceeds of kidnapping.
It is true that the Nigerian state is battling internal insecurities on different fronts. The country’s security agencies may be overstretched from many combat engagements.
This is hardly the time to allow bandits to become comfortable with the notion that kidnapping has become a lucrative business.
There was a seeming ray of hope that the forces of good have overcome evil when the NYSC camp reopened in Borno State after 13 years to evade plunder from Boko Haram insurgents. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the NYSC, it made the landmark truly worth celebrating, for accomplishing one of the aims of its founding fathers.
The NYSC was created in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), on May 22, 1973 as a way to help heal the wounds of the war and to promote national unity. It was created by then military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon to promote reconciliation, reconstruction and rebuilding of the country.
The scheme enabled graduates of Nigerian tertiary institutions to render one year compulsory service to their fatherland in a state in Nigeria other than their state of origin. This period is sometimes called the National Service Year.
Recent incidents of frequent attacks and kidnap of NYSC members have led to renewed vociferous calls for its scraping by persons who are justifiably pained by the unwarranted suffering and sometimes death that have become the lot of these corpers.
Another strident call that is gaining momentum comes from those who want the scheme properly designated as a reserve military troop for national emergencies.
The NYSC has been aptly described as “the most unifying national institution running at full steam.” Therefore, the gains for its sustenance and strengthening far outweigh arguments for its disbandment.
While the Nigerian civil war ended over 53 years ago, the nation is still living with many challenges that need a scheme like the NYSC to address. Nigerians are still suspicious of one another. Ethnicity and religious cleavages have become more pronounced.
Governments of the various states must work out ways to guarantee security to the corps members posted within their jurisdictions.
These sub-national governments cannot deny the immeasurable contribution of NYSC members to solving basic education, health and social problems in their places of primary assignment.
It behooves them, therefore, to ensure the security and safety of these young Nigerians in order not to turn their mind against the country.