By Ike Willie-Nwobu
The hapless corp members who have spent about a month in the lair of criminals deserve justice as does every other victim of the catastrophic insecurity crippling Nigeria.
Nigeria’s scandalous state of insecurity took a turn for the worse when eight corp members traveling from Uyo to Sokoto State for the mandatory one-year National Youth Service were abducted on August 19, 2023, on a highway in Zamfara State.
About a month later, they are yet to be released as concerns grow about their safety and well-being.
In many ways, to say that Nigerians do not feel safe in their country is to put it mildly. For many Nigerians, there is no promise of the next day, not even the next hour.
Every day in Nigeria somehow manages to bring fresh security challenges. Nigeria’s rural communities have borne the brunt of this insecurity.
Tucked into unfavourable terrains and far removed from serious security operations, many of them have been forced to navigate the chilling squeeze of poverty and insecurity.
But who is to blame? For years now, as insecurity has gained traction in Nigeria, blame has become the name of the game.
Security personnel within the country have hardly hesitated to blame vulnerable Nigerians for attacks on them, whenever convenient.
It has quickly played out in this situation too with the NYSC blaming the corp members for traveling at night.
When the father of one of the abducted corp members complained that the scheme was not doing enough, the NYSC quickly reacted by blaming the corp members for traveling at night and getting abducted.
While the distraught father and the hard-pressed scheme may each have had a point to make, the roots of the problem which have turned the young graduates into victims run deeper.
Why can’t Nigerians travel at anytime of the day without fear? Why are the roads so patently unsafe?
Night travel always comes with a measure of risk because under the cover of darkness, the worst version of men usually manages to somehow emerge.
In Nigeria, night travel has somehow become akin to signing one’s death warrant. With ruthless criminals crawling all over the country, Nigerian roads have, in addition to being deathtraps no, thanks to their yawning potholes, also become lairs for terrorists.
But to blame the young graduates for their plight is to divert attention away from the fact that there is hardly anywhere that is safe in the country.
No matter the gravity of the rather unfortunate attempts to deflect attention from the situation, the truth remains that Nigerians need security. It is as simple as that.
Sources have said that there have been ransom demands made on the families of the Corp members. One source put the ransom demand at Four Million Naira.
In Nigeria’s current crunch economic climate, it is anyone’s guess how the families of the Corp members are expected to raise money to meet the extortionate demand of the kidnappers.
The law In Nigeria also criminalizes the payment of ransom to kidnappers. When the legislation was passed last year, many Nigerians could not help but laugh at the irony of it all. Many were at pains to point out that unless kidnappers were forced out of business, such a legislation was not only impracticable but unfair.
Many months later, Nigerians are still kidnapped at will and forced to cough out millions of Naira in ransom.
Nigerians need to feel safe, wherever they are within the country. To achieve this state of security, security agencies need to step up their game.
The security agencies to step up their game, the government in Abuja and in every state must accord security the highest priority.
When people are picked up at random by criminals and held for days with enfeebled security personnel doing nothing to rescue them, the message sent is that the state is weak. Surely, a country battling insecurity on all fronts cannot afford to be perceived as weak.
Then, the criminal justice system of the country must be seen to be at its absolute best. From detention, investigation, prosecution and incarceration, there is a bounden duty on the government to ensure that the criminal justice system works optimally.
The hapless corp members who have spent about a month in the lair of criminals deserve justice as does every other victim of the catastrophic insecurity crippling Nigeria. Without this, life in Nigeria will remain nasty, brutish, and short.
Ike Willie-Nwobu can be reached at [email protected]