Kidnapping: NYSC’s unsavoury advice on ransom payment

Of the various insecurity issues plaguing Nigeria today, kidnapping seems to be a lesser evil, though not without its own traumatic impact on victims and their relations who live, die and live again while the victims remain in the abductor’s den. So, nobody wishes to be abducted even for a minute.

Recently, many families, especially those whose children have graduated from school and preparing for their national service, were jolted by a section of the National Youth Service Corps’ (NYSC) pamphlet containing security tips for its staff and intending corps members.

That section of the pamphlet which has now become, not only infamous and unsavoury, but also embarrassing, advises corps members and their parents to prepare for ransom payment in case they are abducted while plying high risk routes.

Specifically, on page 56 of the pamphlet titled ‘Security Awareness and Education Handbook for Corps Members and Staff’, the corps members and staff are told to “alert family members, friends and colleagues to have someone on hand to pay off the ransom that could be demanded” in case they are kidnapped.

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The advice did not end there. On page 57 of the pamphlet, NYSC also advises both the staff and corps members to conduct themselves well when kidnapped, saying, “do not antagonise your captors, be polite and operate with reasonable regards.”

Continuing, it says, “show reasonable cooperation to the abductors and establish personal relationship with your abductors as soon as possible,…take no risk by attempting to escape; do not attempt to be a hero by making efforts to escape; make no statement to the media after your release without official clearance but share your experience with close associates.”

These are terrible security tips and, for us, it smacks of a government and its agency that have given up on an embarrassing security situation in which the country finds itself at the moment.

We wonder what message the NYSC and its managers are sending to Nigerian youths and their parents or guardians. While this sends cold shivers down the spines of corps members and their parents, it also sends good news and encouraging signals to the kidnappers that ‘business’ is coming.

If the kidnappers know, as they have been told by default, that money has been gathered and kept for them by potential victims, they will be daring, brazen and brutal in dealing with their victims. That kind of information has the unfortunate tendency to raise ransom value.

This is a tacit way of encouraging parents to protest the posting of their children to those areas where the high-risk roads lead them to. No parent can risk the life of his or her child in the hands of kidnappers where chances of life and death are 50-50.

Again, even if the parents have all the money to pay ransom, their last wish and prayer for their child is for him or her to spend an hour with kidnappers which is not in any material way different from finding him or her in the midst of wolves.

President Muhammadu Buhari in his 61st independence anniversary broadcast to the nation talked glowingly about the Nigerian youth, describing them as “propellants for our today who provide guarantees that we would have a secure tomorrow.” He promised to remain focused on expanding opportunities for their participation in politics and governance.

We always feel pained listening to politicians who go out of their way to say what they don’t mean, but mean what they don’t say. It remains to be seen how the president is going to tackle the problems of Nigerian youths who, for lack of decent jobs, have taken to robbery, kidnapping and prostitution.

It is all the more painful that somebody somewhere, by an act of omission or commission, is encouraging kidnappers who are young people to kidnap fellow young people (corps members) because the parents have been advised to make provision for their release by paying ransom.

It smacks of a government and its agency that have given up on an embarrassing security situation in which the country finds itself at the moment

We are as worried as we are surprised that the president who sees the youths as “guarantees that we would have a secure tomorrow”, did not consider it necessary to devote just one out of his 101-paragraph independence speech to talk about the security situation in the country, which is largely a youth-based problem. Be it kidnapping, banditry, robbery or sectarian insurgency.

As a matter of course and as far as we are concerned, the best route to a guaranteed future for the country, especially for the youth, is addressing the insecurity problem that has crippled the economy.

Corps members constitute a veritable tool not only for Nigeria’s economic growth, but also for national integration and cohesion. Today, their safety is no longer guaranteed because kidnappers are now going to be on the lookout for them for the ‘prepare and keep ransom’, which NYSC has advised.

We admire and encourage the probe into the NYSC advice, which the House of Representatives has promised. But, we are of the view that a lot more needs to be done to ensure the safety of corps members and the guarantee for that has to come from the federal government.

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