Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has doubted the rebuttal made by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) over the ransom payment tip it proffered to corps members in a handbook.
The NYSC, on page 56 of the handbook entitled: ‘Security Awareness and Education Handbook For Corps Members and Staff,’ had advised corps members travelling on “high-risk” roads to alert their “family members, friends and colleagues to have someone on hand to pay off the ransom that could be demanded” in case they are kidnapped.
The service, however, denied knowledge of such advice in the handbook.
Bringing up the matter during plenary on Tuesday, Ndudi Elumelu, the House Minority Leader, moved a motion to probe the reported tip made by the NYSC.
According to Elumelu, the inclusion of such a tip in the manual indicates a lack of concern for the safety of corps members and complete collapse of the country’s security architecture.
He said: “The House is concerned that in the last few days, reports have surfaced with picture evidence of an embarrassing provision under Section 65(e) of the NYSC Security Tips pamphlet, advising corps members to tell their families to make ransoms available in case they are kidnapped on the road.
“Then House is also concerned that the inclusion of the said section shows a complete collapse in the architectural system of the country’s security forces and a major worry for friends and family as to why their children should be allowed to participate in this compulsory exercise.
“The House is further concerned that the provision shows a lack of concern for the safety of corps members, as against the provisions of Section 19 of the Public Officers Protection Act which places the welfare and security of Corp members on the Federal Government;
“The House is disturbed that the insertion of such a clause by the NYSC in its security tips manual portrays the inability of the government to provide security on the highways, as well as surrender by the government to kidnappers and bandits.”
The Minority Leader subsequently prayed the House to mandate its Committee on Youth Development to investigate the inclusion of such tip.
Gbajabiamila, however, noted that the NYSC had denied that such advice was in its handbook.
But Elumelu responded: “I am aware that they tried to deny it but I have before me the pamphlet – the public document – which I got from the NYSC certified and Section 65(e) is very clear and unambiguous. And this is the pamphlet that they have been using everywhere.”
Gbajabiamila, thereafter, noted that the inclusion of the said advice and the official denial of the advice by management of the corps is “problematic”.
The Speaker stated that the NYSC seemed to have lied in its official response, especially if the security tip was included in the official handbook.
He said: “If that is from NYSC, it is definitely problematic…if it is. But where an institution has come out publicly, not privately, and officially denied something, we must also take cognisance of the fact – which is a problem in this country – about documents, even the Constitution – unfortunately, you find fake (copies of the) Constitution being sold on the streets – and something needs to be done about that.
“I find it difficult that if they (NYSC) truly put that in there – and I am not holding a brief for them; maybe they did; if they truly have that in their official pamphlet and they still come out and deny it; that is not a denial, that is a lie. There is a difference; that is actually a lie if they actually did that.”
Gbajabiamila, however, ruled that the House verifies the authenticity of the handbook. “If it is authentic, then, there is a problem,” he stated.
The motion to investigate the matter was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers.