Light in the tunnel of train abductees


The train attacked on the Abuja-Kaduna Railway at Rijana Kagarko LGA, in Kaduna

The withdrawal of the threat by kidnappers to kill passengers of the ill-fated train along Abuja-Kaduna is certainly a big relief to Nigerians, particularly the distressed relatives of the abductees. For whatever it is worth, the decision at least provides a ray of hope for hapless citizens caught in the kidnap web for more than two months now, by heartless groups that have in the recent past carried out horrifying attacks on thousands of innocent Nigerians. It certainly was a pathetic situation for the captives, their relatives and most Nigerians following threat by the kidnappers to starve their victims and subsequently kill them if government failed to meet their demands.

However, whatever gain in time that Nigerians and government may have secured will come to nought unless government can quickly follow up and ensure the release and safety of the victims. It is lamentable in the first place that the terrible incident was allowed to happen in a country supposedly with a responsible government; and it is unfortunate that government allowed itself to be forced into a weak position. The current situation is exactly why government’s recent law outlawing payment of ransom to abductors is like placing the cart before the horse, because the question now is: what options has government, if it is not desirous of losing precious Nigerian lives, than to negotiate with the terrorists?

It is a humanitarian disaster that two months after the abduction of the Abuja-Kaduna train passengers, there appears to be no effort towards their rescue, prompting the abductors to threaten, with a seven-day ultimatum, to kill the captives one after the other unless government negotiated with them. Although, the abductors claimed the Federal Government has contacted them on how to secure the release of the abducted passengers, they also believed that there seems to be insincerity on the part of the government. Terrorists attacked the Abuja-Kaduna bound train on March 28, 2022, kidnapping close to 70 persons.

This is a tragedy of monumental proportion and raises the question – how much is the life a Nigerian citizen worth in the eyes of duty bearers, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces? Buhari cannot seat aloof, especially looking at the antecedents of the abductors. To appear unconcerned, as government has so far portrayed, is to indicate that the lives of about 67 Nigerians are worthless. Government should not take this threat to the lives of the abductees with levity, because life has no duplicate! In this case, the government’s silence is not golden.

So far, the terrorists have maintained that the Federal Government knows what the abductors want, which is not centred on money; but the return of some terrorists and their wards reportedly in the custody of security agencies; but government was yet to negotiate with them. The government should seize the moment because in reality, the country is in a war situation and the nation needs to use what she has to get what she wants. A stitch in time saves nine!

Malam Tukur Mamu, the ‘Dan Iyan Fika and spokesperson of Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, broke the news that the earlier threat by abductors of the ill-fated train passengers to start killing them in a week’s time has been withdrawn. Mamu was privileged to open a channel of communication with the terrorists through one of their leader, Abu Barra. In his words:

“This was as a result of ongoing engagement with the ‘Abu Barra’ led abductors. This is a good development, even though for issues that have to do with the safety of the victims, to ensure continuation of engagement with the abductors and to build confidence, we would not elaborate on this latest development which comes less than 48 hours after the release of another threatening video of the kidnapped victims.” Mamu, reportedly with the active support and interest of the security agencies, was able to identify the location of eight children of the terrorists in government custody and eventually sent a proof of life and their children existence to the terrorists, a development that has seemingly helped to restore confidence and led to a temporary truce. Government does not seem to have a choice but to show commitment to this demand because the lives of innocent citizens are involved.

Surely the situation government finds itself is not the best, but it must take the full blame and responsibility. The President should rise to the occasion and rescue the remaining abductees. Notably, one of the abductees, the Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture, was released after negotiation and reported payment of ransom. And similarly, the kidnapped Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, His Eminence Samuel Uche, has revealed that a total sum of N100 million, raised by the church, was paid as ransom before he was released. Government needs to demonstrate equity and justice; and fully clear the moral guilt that hangs over Nigeria on this issue. The government should follow through, till it is Uhuru for all the abductees.

Against this backdrop, it is imperative that as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Buhari explores all available means including negotiation to secure the release of the abductees. Security and welfare of the people of Nigeria is the primary constitutional responsibility and purpose of government. As such, the government should prove pessimists wrong and prove to Nigerians that it is alive to its responsibilities in the area of security and welfare of the people, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended. Buhari should move swiftly to secure the release of the abductees. Their agony and that of their relatives for over two months, is more than enough to touch and inspire government to positive action. Nigerians do not want to contemplate the consequence of government failure to rescue the victims of Abuja-Kaduna train attack.

The Guardian

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