Members of the National Youth Service Corps ( NYSC ) have been told to be prepared to pay abduction-for-ransom syndicates now on the loose in Nigeria.
Before departing on a road trip, college graduates serving as corps members were required to notify their family and friends, according to a security advise issued in March 2021. This would allow them to prepare enough ransom in case they were kidnapped, saving them from an untimely and brutal death at the hands of vicious criminals.
Between pages 58 and 59 of the Security Awareness and Education Handbook for Corps Members and Staff, it says, “When traveling on a high-risk road such as Abuja-Kaduna, Abuja-Lokoja-Okene, or Aba-Port-Harcourt road, notify your family members, friends, and colleagues in order to have someone on hand to pay off the ransom that may be demanded.”
After the handbook surfaced on social media on Thursday, backed by well-known figures such as UK-based medical expert Olufunmilayo Ogunsanya, the NYSC issued a statement denying it as fake news.
“Management wishes to declare unequivocally that the clause stated is not contained in the NYSC Security Tips brochure, which was put together by a highly regarded retired security expert,” the NYSC said in a statement issued to The Gazette late Thursday.
However, corps members who communicated with Peoples Gazette confirmed the guidebook, shared screenshots of their own hardcopies, and acknowledged getting the handbook in March 2021 from their individual camps in Taraba and other states.
“I got my own copy before I left the camp in March 2021,” said John Elochukwu, who recently completed his youth service. “I didn’t read the document until I noticed online comments, and when I proceeded to open my own copy to double-check, I saw that the paragraphs were identical to those uploaded online.”
The manual also advised corps members to avoid traveling with laptops, tablets, or mobile devices, stating that any banking information discovered on such devices might be used to assess a victim’s financial worth.
Kidnapping has grown into a multibillion-naira business in Nigeria, with thousands of young people joining the criminal enterprise. A ransom could be anything from N50,000 ($100) to N20 million ($40,000).
Security agencies and state laws that punish abductors with the death penalty have failed to deter the crime.
In recent years, kidnappers have targeted youth corps members along Nigerian highways, with several of them dying as a result. Many have called for a reform of the NYSC legislation, which was established in 1973 to institutionalize national unity following the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70.