By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
A lot has been said and done since the first quarter of this year when this unmitigated disaster hit the country like thunder. A lot of water has passed under the bridge. The only thing that is yet to happen is the rescue of the victims and the arrest of the criminals who perpetuated the dastardly act. Rather, the violent non state actors who have in recent months become progressively audacious have stormed the Medium Correctional Centre in Kuje and rescued many of their top commanders, in what many observers see as a cruel irony.
While Nigerians seem to have moved on with politics, soccer, entertainment and other areas of national life, pretending as if some of our compatriots are not in the hands of murderous criminals, it took a fresh video released by the terrorists to wake everyone from deep slumber to face reality. In that video released last Sunday, the monsters were seen flogging their victims, calling on the government to do the needful or they will slaughter the captives. They equally threatened to abduct President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state.
It all started in the evening of Monday, March 28, 2022, as a terrorists’ syndicate belonging to Boko Haram factional group, Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), in collaboration with some notorious bandits attacked the Abuja-Kaduna K9 Train with 398 passengers on board by planting explosives on the rail track which forced it to derail.
The ill-fated train was ambushed around Rijana-Katari axis, which is a few kilometers to its supposed destination, i.e. Rigasa train station in Kaduna, a journey of about 186km from Abuja.
The unprecedented attack resulted in the death of about eight passengers, while scores of others sustained various degrees of injuries, as the terrorists did not hesitate to abduct the 63 men and women, adults and children in sight.
Notable fatalities recorded in the incident were Musa-Lawal Ozigi, secretary-general of the Trade Union Congress (TUC); Akin Akinsola, Kwara chairman of TUC; Abdul Isa Kofar-Mata, a Kano indigene, who was a director at the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and Chinelo Nwando Megafu, a young dental surgeon who had tweeted after being shot but who was mocked by supporters of the administration for allegedly lying just to embarrass the government.
Majority of these captives are still languishing in these bandits’ enclaves under harsh weather conditions with a slim hope of regaining their freedom soon.
Captives Released in Batches Amidst Ransom Payment
Traditionally, immediately when terrorists abduct victims, they communicate their demands to their respective families and relatives for ransom negotiation and payment.
However, the case turned out to be different for the Kaduna Train captives as the perpetrators kept mute for days before they finally opened up.
It was on Wednesday, April 06, which was exactly 9 days after the attack when they released Alwan Hassan, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), on compassionate ground. They cited his old age and the manner in which he has conducted himself while in captivity as reasons for his prompt release.
However, Daily Trust reported exclusively that Alwan’s family had to cough out a humongous sum of 100 million naira before they secured his freedom from the bandits.
In a short clip they released, in which Alwan was featured, the terrorists said they did not carry out the attack to get money, stating that the federal government knew of their demand, which was not stated in the video. However, it was later gathered from authoritative sources that the terrorists were asking for the release of their detained commanders.
Also, on May 15, the terrorists released one of the two pregnant women they abducted based on compassionate ground as they claimed. We can’t independently verify whether a ransom was paid for her release or not.
“They look at our conditions, especially like me who’s continued stay there may pose danger to our health, especially considering the fact that my pregnancy has reached an advanced stage, that is why they decided to release me on compassionate grounds.
“I call on the government to consider the plight of the people (passengers) left in the bush with the bandits. They (government) should sit with them (bandits) and listen to their demands so that they could understand each other even for the sake of those still in captivity,” she said.
Recall that the other pregnant woman was reported on April 28, to have given birth to a child in captivity. Reports had it that she delivered with the help of doctors brought in by the terrorists.
Again, 75 days after attack, specifically on Saturday, June 11, a series of negotiations facilitated by Tukur Mamu, the publisher of (the Desert) Herald Newspaper, who is also a media consultant to the controversial Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmed Gumi, resulted in the release of 11 captives to the Nigerian government.
The released victims were made up of six females and five males. Mamu identified the released victims to include Jessy John, Amina Ba’aba Mohammed (Gamba), Rashida Yusuf Busari, Hannah Ajewole and Amina Jibril.
Others were Najib Mohammed Dahiru, Gaius Gambo, Hassan Aliyu, Peace A. Boy and Danjuma Sa’idu. However, the name of the 11th victim was not disclosed.
NRC Shelves Service Resumption as Captives’ Families Kick
While the captives were still suffering untold hardship in captivity, the corporation announced that it will resume services on May 23. This development did not go down well with the victims’ families who threatened to disrupt operations.
The NRC was, therefore, forced to shelve this earlier decision through a statement issued by its spokesperson, Yakub Mahmood, on May 20.
Terrorists Invade Kuje Prison, Free Commanders
After waiting for so long without the federal government releasing their imprisoned commanders, the terrorists on July 05, invaded Kuje Medium Correctional Facility in Abuja and freed all their members including the detained Boko Haram fighters.
Thus, with this worrisome development, it became obvious that the government has lost her only bargaining cards that can be used against the bandits to secure the release of the train captives.
Seven More Captives Released After Prison Invasion
Five days after the Kuje Prison invasion, another set of 7 (seven) captives were also released by the abductors.
Those released, according to Tukur Mamu, were identified as Muhammad Daiyabu Paki, Bosede Olurotimi, Abubakar Zubairu, Alhassan Sule, Sadiq Ango Abdullahi, Aliyu Usman and Muhammad Abuzar Afzal, a Pakistani.
Daily Trust also reported that families of each of the six Nigerian victims paid N100 million while the captors pegged the ransom for the Pakistani at N200 million which was also paid. Sources said the terrorists collected the ransom in naira and US dollars.
With this development, it was gathered that, not less than N900 million were paid to these attackers so far, in exchange for the eight victims.
Bring Captives Home Alive – Buhari Orders Security Forces
On June 22, the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, announced President Buhari’s directive in a statement titled ‘President Buhari Directs Urgency in Dealing with Kidnapped Railway Passengers’ Case.’
He charged the military and other security agencies to bring back the Kaduna train captives home alive.
Shehu said upon President Buhari’s approval, the government had continued on the two-lane approach, kinetic and non-kinetic, to secure the passengers’ safe release.
He said Buhari’s clear directive was that the hostages must be brought home alive, stressing that the country’s military and security agencies were aware of their duty to the nation and were determined to give effect to Buhari’s charge with increased urgency.
Nonetheless, President Buhari’s empty order has looked like the impotent ones earlier issued regarding defense/security, as it has so far not seen the light of day. The terrorists are still the ones ‘calling the shot’ regarding the abducted passengers.
We Were Warned Against Talking To Media – Released Captives
Recently, POLITICS DIGEST crew were in Kaduna to speak with some of the released victims in order to share their experience. They however, declined comment, saying that they were warned not to speak to the media which is part of agreements that necessitated their release.
POLITICS DIGEST also reported that some of the victims they sighted were yet to recuperate from the trauma they experienced while in captivity.
We Need N4.3b as Ransom for Remaining Captives – Terrorists Tell Families
Before the recent freeing of three additional victims after releasing of ‘flogging’ video, The Punch Newspaper report of July 11, indicated that the terrorists were demanding a N100m ransom for each of the remaining 43 abducted Kaduna train passengers, who were still in their custody. This amounts to a humongous sum of N4.3billion in total.
This came five days after the alleged masterminds of the abduction invaded Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre, Abuja, and freed their members.
A family member of the abducted victims confirmed to The Punch that the terrorists have communicated their demands to them, since the federal government had displayed nonchalant attitude towards the plight of their loved ones.
When the said amount is transmitted to these terrorists as demanded, then an exactly N5.1billion will be pocketed by these perpetrators as ransom for the train abductees.
Pundits have since argued that, one of the factors that continue fueling this kidnap for ransom is the high financial benefits attached to the heinous act.
At least $18.34m (N7 billion) was paid to kidnappers as ransom – mostly by families and the government – between June 2011 and March 2020, according to a report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analysis firm.
In order to stem this tide, the Nigerian Senate had in April 2022 passed a bill imposing jail terms of at least 15 years for paying a ransom to free someone who has been kidnapped.
However, this law seems to be like an empty threat as the government can no longer guarantee the security of lives and properties of the citizens who are being kidnapped on a daily basis.
When will 40 Remaining Captives Regain Freedom?
With the recent fresh threat by these marauders, the question that is biting the lips of Nigerians and still begging for an answer is ‘when will the remaining 40 captives regain freedom?’
They have been sleeping under the harsh weather conditions including scorching sun and heavy downpour without recourse to medical treatment or adequate nutrition, to say the least.
Despite the untold torture these people have been going through for more than 4 months, both the citizens (who can also become victims of such atrocity) and the government are moving on as if nothing terrible happened.
Today, July 26, 2022, makes it 120 days since these innocent Nigerians were taken away. It is time for President Buhari to stop issuing infantile orders and lame condemnations. It is time to brace up, to free the remaining captives.
The time is now!
▪︎ By PRNigeria