HomeNewsAnguished Parents Plead for Return of NYSC Members Kidnapped in Zamfara

Anguished Parents Plead for Return of NYSC Members Kidnapped in Zamfara

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In an unfolding human tragedy, the parents of seven National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, kidnapped in Zamfara State and held captive for over four months, are imploring the Federal Government for urgent intervention to secure their children’s safe return. The prolonged ordeal began on August 17, 2023, when an 11-seater bus operated by Akwa Ibom State Transport Company (AKTC), carrying fresh graduates from Akwa Ibom State to Sokoto for their compulsory one-year NYSC program, was ambushed by bandits on the Zamfara State Highway.

The attack led to the abduction of eight passengers and the bus driver, while others managed to escape. Since then, two of the passengers have been released after a ransom was paid, but six youths and the bus driver remain in the kidnappers’ clutches.

The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of N70 million, having already received over N30 million from the distraught parents. Despite this substantial payment, the captives’ release remains uncertain, leaving their families in a state of despair and helplessness.

The first victim released was shot in the leg shortly after being abducted, suspected of being a disguised security agent by the captors. Another female victim was later freed following the payment of a N17.2 million ransom. Yet, even after the combined ransom payments totaling N30.8 million, six of the captives and the bus driver continue to endure captivity.

Families’ hopes were further shattered last week when the kidnappers threatened to start executing the captives unless the additional N70 million ransom was paid promptly. This harrowing development has intensified the fear and desperation among the families.

In a poignant display of anguish and frustration, the families recently convened in Uyo for a street march, appealing to both the government and the public for assistance. Solomon Emmanuel, one of the bereaved parents, expressed deep disappointment in the government’s and security agencies’ inaction. He stressed that the current ransom demand is far beyond the families’ financial capabilities, urging the government to step in decisively.

Mrs. Idongesit, another parent, recounted the pain of sending her daughter off on the ill-fated journey. She lamented the irresponsibility of the AKTC driver who, despite warnings, chose a dangerous route. Since the abduction, the families have had no communication with their loved ones, adding to their torment.

The parents’ appeals extend to Governor Umo Eno, Senate President Godswill Akpabio, and other state and federal lawmakers, pleading for urgent intervention to prevent a tragic outcome. The families’ desperation has led them to various avenues, including reaching out to Paramount Rulers and writing letters to Governor Eno, but to no avail.

The incident has sparked widespread criticism of the response by the governments of Akwa Ibom and Zamfara, the NYSC, and the police. The lack of transparent communication and perceived indifference has been particularly distressing for the families. Security experts suggest operational precaution as a reason for the silence from state actors, but this provides little consolation to the families facing the potential loss of their children.

Some citizens and groups, including the Niger Delta Peace Coalition and Ibom Peoples Congress (IPC), are calling for a review or even scrapping of the NYSC scheme, citing the dangers posed to corps members, especially in volatile regions. The IPC, in a recent briefing, urged President Bola Tinubu to direct relevant agencies to collaborate and keep families informed. They advocated for a reevaluation of the NYSC scheme to better align with Nigeria’s current security and economic realities.

The situation has become a source of national concern, with former members of the House of Representatives and student associations adding their voices to the calls for action. Hon. Peter Umoh criticized the NYSC for blaming the corps members for traveling at night and questioned the scheme’s value in light of the persistent threats in certain parts of the country.

The National Association of Akwa Ibom State Students recommended that NYSC should consider deploying graduates within their region of study to prevent similar incidents in the future. This suggestion reflects the growing unease about the safety of corps members posted to areas with high insecurity.

Amidst the outcry, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Chief Udom Ekpoudom, described the incident as embarrassing and serious. He criticized the Zamfara State Government for its inadequate response, highlighting the responsibility of the state government to gather information and take action since the incident occurred within its jurisdiction.

The prolonged captivity of these young Nigerians and the apparent inaction of relevant authorities have laid bare the vulnerabilities and challenges faced by citizens in parts of the country plagued by banditry and insecurity. It also raises serious questions about the safety protocols and support systems in place for NYSC members serving across Nigeria.

As the deadline set by the kidnappers looms, the anguish of the parents and relatives of the abducted NYSC members grows. Their plight is a stark reminder of the broader issues of security and governance in Nigeria. The incident calls for not only immediate action to secure the release of the captives but also a comprehensive review of policies and measures to protect citizens, especially those serving the nation in capacities like the NYSC.

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