Nigerians have been bewildered by some of the contents of the latest handbook of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), christened: “Security Awareness and Education Handbook for Corps Members and Staff”. On page 56 of the handbook, corps members and staff were advised to, when travelling on “high-risk roads such as Abuja-Kaduna, Lokoja-Okene, or Aba-Port Harcourt Roads”, alert family members, friends and colleagues in order to have someone on hand to pay ransom that could be demanded in the event of abduction.
The response of the NYSC was an initial denial of this document and disavowal of its existence. The subsequent volte-face by the NYSC spokesperson, Adenike Adeyemi was in a terse reply to a national newspaper stating that the agency had “realised” that different copies are in circulation and that the agency has commenced investigation.
Sadly, the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) believes the response of the NYSC was a further elaboration of the initial dishonesty and a rather pathetic attempt at cover-up. We deplore these scandalous and embarrassing missteps of the NYSC and condemn both the administrative ineptitude that led to the crafting of the offending section in an official document, and the subsequent clumsy attempts to mischievously repudiate the Handbook, copies of which were already in wide circulation and had been distributed to corps members.
It is shocking that an agency of the federal government not only acknowledges the existence of criminal elements that are in the business of abducting citizens for ransom, but strangely goes ahead to issue travel advisory prescribing cooperation with these same criminals. This unfortunate saga demonstrates both an abject surrender to such criminality, and an abdication of its own responsibility to protect citizens simply answering a national call for service.
The leadership of the NYSC must get to the bottom of this embarrassment and carry out the probe announced by Adeyemi with dispatch. The result of the probe must be made public and officials responsible for these outrageous acts of incompetence and irresponsibility identified and sanctioned. The moral and legal authority of the NYSC, to demand the patriotic service of our young citizens, is on trial here.
Nigerians will no longer be satisfied with perfunctory window dressing exercises in the names of probes with their predictable non-contributing impact to any tangible improvement in governance process
Furthermore, the NYSC leadership and the government must urgently review the wisdom in continuing to deploy vulnerable youths to high-risk areas until the entire nation can be reassured of the government's ability to guarantee the safety of those deployed for national service. A call to national service should not be answered with trepidation. It should serve its patriotic, unifying purpose, and not become a nightmarish experience for our young graduates and their families.