…As 8 Akwa Ibom corpers still in captivity 4 months after abduction
…Governorship candidate in Anambra still missing
…FG continues to revel in promises, assurances
The general insecurity in the country has continued to be of great concern to many Nigerians and there is no indication that there will be an improvement anytime soon.
Reports of kidnapping for ransom and killings are reported across the country. One particular incident that has attracted national concern is the kidnap of eight Akwa Ibom corps members while travelling to Sokoto State for the one year national youth service programme.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) itself has come under severe strain and challenges in recent years like many other agencies of government and it requires urgent restructuring to keep pace with the lofty ideals that gave birth to the scheme.
But unlike other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the scheme which revolves around the posting and deployment of young Nigerians that have completed their training in institutions of higher learning both in Nigeria and abroad to their places of primary assignments seems to have outlived its usefulness and is facing the risk of losing its values and character.
Established in 1973 during the military regime of Yakubu Gowon which was desirous to forge a semblance of national unity after the devastating civil war that left a section of the country in ruins and traumatised, it provided manpower to many parts of the country and was a major tool in cultural assimilation and promotion of our heritage.
However, recent events involving prospective corps members have left many Nigerians in a state of anxiety, apprehension and despair. For instance, eight corps members from Akwa Ibom state who were kidnapped in Zamfara state while travelling to Sokoto State for their orientation in August this year, have yet to regain their freedom despite the ransom reportedly paid.
More worrisome is the fact that some other corps members from Akwa Ibom were also abducted in Kogi State last month but were however, released after the intervention of security personnel. In addition to the frequent kidnap incidents. With hundreds of corps members going for the NYSC programme each other month and Akwa Ibom corps members travelling to states in a section of the country ravaged by insecurity, there is the growing fear that the scheme potends clear and present danger to the country.
Furthermore, given that most of the corps members who have been kidnapped are usually from humble families without much financial resources that would have enabled them to fly to their various orientation camps, it becomes a sad reality that only the children of the poor have become more vulnerable to the kidnap saga. Apart from abductions, corps members travelling for the scheme have been killed in car crashes severally. Many families in Akwa Ibom State were some years ago thrown into mourning and lamentation.
On Saturday, August 17, 2023, some eight young men and men travelling from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State to Sokoto to begin their yearlong national youth service were kidnapped in Zamfara State, they have remained in captivity ever since.
Some of the victims included Betty Udofia, Victoria Udoka, a graduate of communication arts, University of Uyo, Solomon Bassey Daniel, Akwa Ibom Polytechnic, Daniel Etim Bassey, University of Nigeria and Victor Udofia, a graduate of the University of Uyo.
Others included Sabbath Anyaewe Ikan who graduated from the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Glory Etukudo Thomas from Heritage Polytechnic, Eammanuel Esudue and Abigail Peter Sandy from Maurid Polytechnic.
In all three female corps members and five males have spent the last four months in the kidnappers’ den.
In Cross River State, over 65 incidents of kidnap with more than 20 of the victims dying occurred between January 2020 and September 2023, according to the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives.
“In July 2023, for instance, according to the report, a medical doctor with the University of CalabarTeaching Hospital was said to have been kidnapped from his residence in Calabar, the state capital.
Addressing journalists in Uyo, a group known as Ibom Peoples Congress (IPC) appealed to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to ensure the prompt release of the abducted corps members from their captives.
“IPC respectfully requests the President to note the long term mental, emotional and physiological damage of the hostage situation on the corps members, their patents, family members and even their entire communities,” John Okon, group leader which comprises people of Akwa Ibom based in the US, said.
Quite concerning is the apparent silence by the Akwa Ibom State government since the corps members were abducted in August this year. Equally, the security agencies have been less-forthcoming with information about the safety or the whereabouts of the corps members. Though it is believed issues of lives and death should not be discussed in the open as it were, the lack of information on the kidnapped prospective corps members has not helped matters.
While several groups, journalists and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have called for the intervention of the Federal Government to intervene and secure the release of the corps members, nothing positive has yet to happen. According to some journalists in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state, under the aegis of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), members suggested that the “scheme should be scrapped if lives of prospective corps members could not be guaranteed.”
Others have also suggested that NYSC could be restructured such that corps members could be posted within their geographical region. For instance, corps members from Akwa Ibom State could be posted within the South-South region of the country until the security situation in the country improves while the scheme itself should be optional.
Again, if the scheme was introduced when the country was in need of critical manpower in key sectors of the economy then, does it still need such in today’s society where all parts can boast of one institution of higher
learning or the other?
Almost all states have at least three institutions of higher learning in a state that do produce all the needed manpower. So, the idea of posting corps members from one part of the country to another part may no longer hold water.
Though it provides temporary employment, the scheme needs a total overhaul, restructuring and the Act that established it should be amended and made to serve the interest of Nigerians. There is no need for parents to be thrown into a state of endless sadness about the fate of their children travelling to the orientation camps or worrying about their safety while in places of their primary assignment. Sadly, Nigeria does not seem to have the ability to track down those who kidnapped the 8 Alwa Ibom corps members, four months after they were kidnapped.
It is terrible that “Nigeria has happened to the eight corps members from Akwa Ibom State,” who were eager to respond to a clarion call to serve their fatherland but have now been forgotten and abandoned by the same fatherland.
Don’t let our children die in kidnappers’ den – Parents beg govt
FOR the umpteenth time, the parents whose children were victims have appealed to the Federal Government and Akwa Ibom State government for help.
Some of the affected parents expressed lack of confidence in security agencies to rescue those prospective corps members after four months they were kidnapped and kept in Zamfara forest.
One of the parents, Solomon Emmanuel was quick to point out that two of the victims (a male and female) only regained their freedom after they (parents) raised the ransom the kidnappers had demanded.
“I feel so bad when government particularly security agencies say they are doing something to rescue those children. We only hear such things in the news, but we are not seeing results. The N70m those people are demanding currently is beyond us. We cannot afford that amount of money.
“So, this is the time for government to show that they are truly doing something about rescuing our children they were going to serve their fatherland in Sokoto State and on their way were kidnapped. That is why we decided to gather today and collectively appeal to government for help,” he said.
Another parent who identified herself as Idongesit expressed fears over the kidnappers’ threat last week that if they (parents) fail to raise the N70m ransom they would start to kill their children one after the other.
“The last time I saw my daughter was at the motorpark when I saw her off. That day at the motorpark I felt happy when I saw other corps members travelling with her. How could I have known that my daughter would not be safe?
“We were told that the driver was told not to go through that route once it is 6pm but he didn’t listen. And after that first week the incident happened I have not been able to talk to my child again because they collected their phones from them. It hurts when I think about the punishment, suffering those children are passing through in the bush.
“These days I don’t sleep, I hardly eat I spend the nights anguishing why nobody, not even our own government has abandoned us in this situation. It’s sad, and painful. We (parents) are helpless and desperate because all the people we have contacted have not given us any hope.
” We have met with even the Paramount Rulers to help us reach out to the Governor but since then no feedback. I personally used other avenues like using some Governor’s Aides but I doubt if governor Umo Eno saw those letters we wrote to him for help more than one month ago.
“And I am telling Governor Eno, our federal and state Lawmakers especially Godswill Akpabio, the senate president that we will not rest, we will continue to appeal to them to help bring back our children to us alive. Don’t let them die in Zamfara bush. We the parents are Helpless. We need your urgent support because we have just few days to pay the ransom. There is no time.
“Some of us borrowed money, some took loan, some sold their property to raise over N30m ransom but unfortunately, those children are still in captivity. If you are well placed individual in the society, we need your support. Help us to rescue our children abducted for over three months by Zamfara bandits. I have been restless since we were told that our children are weak?”
Agbamsimalo, Anambra LP guber candidate, still missing 2 years after abduction
For over two years now, Obiora Agbasimalo, governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), in the Anambra State election in 2021, has been missing following his abduction before the election.
Agbasimalo, a chartered banker, was abducted at Lilu, a community in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, while on a campaign tour to Azhia, another community in the state.
His abduction occurred less than a month before the governorship election in the state which was held on 6 November 2021.
Despite the legal gymnastics and promises of intervention from various quarters, his whereabouts have remained unknown.
The wife, Eucheria, has continue to call on powerful individuals, security agencies and government at all levels to bring back her husband, all to no avail.