Safeguarding Youths On National Service


The vulnerability of members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, to danger has  again come under sharp focus following the abduction of five of them last week Thursday.

The victims are Monsurat Odumosu, Babara Obioha, Chinwendu, Obianuju and Hassani Ali. The  hapless youths, four of them female, were taken hostage by unidentified gunmen who raided  their lodge at Umuogha Community Secondary School in Omuma Local Government Area of  Rivers State. The criminals are demanding a N50 million ransom to free the captives.  Where do they expect the victims’ parents to get that kind of money from?

This callous act by the unbridled criminals is heart wrenching and it is happening at a  time strident calls are being made to safeguard the lives of these harmless patriots on  national service. Besides, the unwarranted massacre of  youth corps members in Jos by  religious zealots not quite long ago is still fresh in our memories.

We could imagine the pains and anguish the parents and guardians of the victims who are  now held hostage are going through. The fact that the victims were spirited across the  border between Rivers and Abia states is a clear demonstration of the audacity of the  kidnappers to confront state security apparatus without batting an eyelid. It underscores  the fact that security has collapsed in the country, moreso, as the incident occurred at  a time a State Security Service, SSS, chief, Garba Bello Hadejia, his wife and three  children were murdered in Kano and a top EFCC official was also killed in Kaduna last  week.

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Everybody in Nigeria seems to be at the mercy of kidnappers, armed robbers, hired  assassins and other kinds of violent criminals as we approach the 2011 general elections.  It is the vulnerability of the youth corps members to violent attacks in communities  where they are serving that gave rise to calls in some quarters that the scheme should be  scrapped.  Now most fresh graduates yet to be called up for service look forward to the  task with fear and trepidation when they hear about the danger those already serving are  facing. Established in 1973 by the General Yakubu Gowon (retd) military administration as  a vehicle to bring about national integration, the purpose of the one year compulsory  service for graduates whithin the specified age limit seems to have been defeated given  the grim fate youth corps members now face in communities they are posted to.

Most youth corps members and their parents now influence their posting to their states of  origin because of the fear that they may be harmed in other states owing to frequent  violent religious crises that claim many lives and properties. Parents and guardians will  continue to lose sleep over the safety of their children as long as they are not  adequately protected by security agents and the host communities.

These sordid happenings have justified the call for the scrapping of the scheme. No  parent could bear losing his child to senseless killings after raising and training the  child up to university level. If the Federal Government can no longer guarantee the  safety of the youth corps members, then the scheme should be jettisoned. Of what purpose  is sending these youths to hostile environments where they cannot defend or protect  themselves? There should be a debate on whether the scheme should be sustained or  scrapped so that Nigerians could take a definitive stand on the scheme that used to be  fun participating in.

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