The National Youth Service Corps has advised members to be ready to pay abduction-for-ransom syndicates currently on rampage across Nigeria.
A security advisory introduced in March 2021 asked college graduates serving as corps members to inform their family members and friends before embarking on a road trip. This would enable them to prepare sufficient ransom that may be required if abducted and save them from untimely and brutal death in the hands of the violent criminals.
“When travelling in high risk road such as Abuja-Kaduna, Abuja-Lokoja-Okene or Aba-Port-Harcourt road, then alert your family members, friends and colleagues in order to have someone on hand to pay off the ransom that could be demanded,” Security Awareness and Education Handbook for Corps Members and Staff said between pages 58 and 59.
The NYSC issued a statement to deny the manual as fake news after it circulated on social media on Thursday, boosted by known personalities, including UK-based medical doctor Olufunmilayo Ogunsanya.
“Management wishes to emphatically state that the clause quoted is not embedded in NYSC Security Tips pamphlet which was put together by a highly respected retired security expert,” the NYSC said in a statement sent to The Gazette on Thursday night.
But corps members who spoke with Peoples Gazette confirmed the manual, sent screenshots of their own hardcopies and separately confirmed receiving the handbook from their respective camps in Taraba and other states in March 2021.
“I received my own copy in March 2021 before I left the camp,” said John Elochukwu, who recently concluded his youth service. “I did not even read the document until I saw online comments and I went to open my own copy to check and found that the paragraphs were exactly the same as those posted online.”
The handbook also warned corps members to desist from travelling with their laptops, tablets and mobile devices, saying whatever banking information found on such devices might be used to examine a victim’s financial worth.
Kidnapping has become a multibillion-naira venture in Nigeria, with thousands of youth streaming into the criminal act. A ransom could range from about N50,000 ($100) to as high as N20 million ($40,000).
Security agencies and state laws imposing death penalties for abduction convicts have failed to curb the crime.
Youth corps members have fallen prey to kidnappers along Nigerian highways in recent years, with many losing their lives in the process. The crisis has prompted many to call for a review of the NYSC statute, which was first introduced in 1973 to institutionalise national unity after the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-70.