23rd September, 2010
The vulnerability of members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, to danger hasÂ 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. TheÂ hapless youths, four of them female, were taken hostage by unidentified gunmen who raidedÂ their lodge at Umuogha Community Secondary School in Omuma Local Government Area ofÂ Rivers State. The criminals are demanding a N50 million ransom to free the captives.Â Where do they expect the victimsâ€™ parents to get that kind of money from?
This callous act by the unbridled criminals is heart wrenching and it is happening at aÂ time strident calls are being made to safeguard the lives of these harmless patriots onÂ national service. Besides, the unwarranted massacre ofÂ youth corps members in Jos byÂ 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 areÂ now held hostage are going through. The fact that the victims were spirited across theÂ border between Rivers and Abia states is a clear demonstration of the audacity of theÂ kidnappers to confront state security apparatus without batting an eyelid. It underscoresÂ the fact that security has collapsed in the country, moreso, as the incident occurred atÂ a time a State Security Service, SSS, chief, Garba Bello Hadejia, his wife and threeÂ children were murdered in Kano and a top EFCC official was also killed in Kaduna lastÂ week.
Everybody in Nigeria seems to be at the mercy of kidnappers, armed robbers, hiredÂ assassins and other kinds of violent criminals as we approach the 2011 general elections.Â It is the vulnerability of the youth corps members to violent attacks in communitiesÂ where they are serving that gave rise to calls in some quarters that the scheme should beÂ scrapped.Â Now most fresh graduates yet to be called up for service look forward to theÂ task with fear and trepidation when they hear about the danger those already serving areÂ facing. Established in 1973 by the General Yakubu Gowon (retd) military administration asÂ a vehicle to bring about national integration, the purpose of the one year compulsoryÂ service for graduates whithin the specified age limit seems to have been defeated givenÂ 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 ofÂ origin because of the fear that they may be harmed in other states owing to frequentÂ violent religious crises that claim many lives and properties. Parents and guardians willÂ continue to lose sleep over the safety of their children as long as they are notÂ adequately protected by security agents and the host communities.
These sordid happenings have justified the call for the scrapping of the scheme. NoÂ parent could bear losing his child to senseless killings after raising and training theÂ child up to university level. If the Federal Government can no longer guarantee theÂ safety of the youth corps members, then the scheme should be jettisoned. Of what purposeÂ is sending these youths to hostile environments where they cannot defend or protectÂ themselves? There should be a debate on whether the scheme should be sustained orÂ scrapped so that Nigerians could take a definitive stand on the scheme that used to beÂ fun participating in.