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How 23 remaining abducted Kaduna train passengers were released

From Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos) After months of intrigues and horse-trading, the remaining 23 passengers abducted from the Abuja- Kaduna train regained…

From Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)

After months of intrigues and horse-trading, the remaining 23 passengers abducted from the Abuja- Kaduna train regained their freedom yesterday.

Their release was sequel to intervention by a committee set up by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabo.

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Some family members of the victims yesterday confirmed the release of their loved ones to Daily Trust in Kaduna. 

The Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff Action Committee (CDSAC), Professor Usman Yusuf in a statement issued on Thursday announced that the federal government has secured the release of the remaining 23 victims of the train attack. 

“I am pleased to announce to the nation and the world that at 1600Hrs. (4:00pm) today, Wednesday 5-10-2022, the seven-man Presidential Committee assembled by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General L E O Irabor, secured the release and took custody of all the 23 remaining passengers held hostage by Boko Haram Terrorists. 

“The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Nigerian military under the leadership of the CDS who conceived and guided the operation from start to finish. 

“All sister security agencies and the federal ministry of transportation contributed immensely to this operation.

“The unwavering support of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari is what made it all possible. Members of this Committee are grateful for the rare honour and privilege to be part of this humanitarian operation. May God Almighty heal our wounds and bring peace to our land,” Prof. Yusuf said. 

Daily Trust recalls that on March 28th, 2022, a Kaduna-bound train was attacked by gunmen with several persons killed, injured and abducted. 

Since the incident, there had been a series of negotiations, protests and ransom payments to secure the release of the victims. 

Daily Trust recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had sometime in August, met with the relatives of the abducted victim in Abuja, where he assured them that efforts were being made to ensure the safe rescue of the remaining persons in captivity. 

However, Yusuf said the seven-man Presidential Committee assembled by the Chief of Defence Staff secured the release and took custody of the remaining 23 passengers held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists following the attack on the Abuja to Kaduna train. 

What is not yet clear is whether ransom was paid or not before the release of the abductees. 

Over N2bn was reportedly paid in ransom before the release of those who earlier regained their freedom. 


Our brother is back 

Confirming the release of their loved ones to our correspondent, Muhammadu Sabiu, whose younger brother, Abdullahi Muhammad, a National Youth Corps Member (NYSC) was on the train that faithful day, said, “Yes, I can confirm to you that the head of the committee called to break the news to us.” 

He said though he has not seen his brother face to face, he told Daily Trust that the victims were on their way to Kaduna from Abuja. 

“I can only confirm to you that the victims have been released and they are on their way back to Kaduna. We are right now praying for their safe arrival and reuniting with them. I also want to commend the government’s efforts.” 

Tasiu Muhammad Barau also confirmed to Daily Trust that his brother, Abdullah was receiving treatment at a hospital in Abuja. 

 He said, “I spoke with my brother Abdullah who is one of the Kaduna train victims and he told me he is receiving treatment in a hospital in Abuja.” 

 Also, a family member of Aminu Usman popularly called Dan Nasarawa, confirmed that they were contacted. 

He said, “We have been contacted that Aminu has been released. We are now waiting to know when he will be handed over to us.” 

He said he could not confirm whether the released victims were in Kaduna or had arrived in Abuja adding. “What is important is that he and the other passengers have been released.” 


How negotiators sealed deal 

A source privy to the negotiations that led to the release of the captives described the process as torturous. 

He said months of talks on both sides culminated in a nod from the terrorists, at the weekend, for representatives of the government to go to an agreed rendezvous to pick up the victims. 

“But on arrival, the negotiators were shocked to face another round of talks as some gunmen, the bandits working with the insurgents, kicked against releasing the victims without any ransom payment. 

“The deal was that the kidnappers had their own demands on government. This was agreed in principle but at the last minute they shifted the goal post.” 

Daily Trust gathered that it took another round of pleadings and assurances before the victims were released to the negotiators. 

“One of the agreements reached was for the government to open a dialogue with them for a broader resolution of some issues,” the source said. 


NRC to unveil plans on train resumption 

There was excitement in the NRC yesterday following the release of the remaining 23 kidnapped passengers of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack. 

Officials who spoke with our correspondent said the NRC had been looking forward to the release of the remaining victims to enable it to resume train service on the route. 

It would be recalled that the NRC had planned to resume the train service on May 23 before suspending the plan indefinitely following pressure from families of the victims who insisted on the rescue of their relatives before the resumption of the service. 

Afterwards, the former Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi declared that the train service would not resume until all the kidnapped victims were released. 

The new Minister, Muazu Sambo, also reiterated the stance, saying it would be insensitive to resume the train service while the victims were still in captivity. 

The NRC Managing Director, Engr. Fidet Okhiria had told reporters last week that over N530m was lost in six months to the suspension of the Abuja-Kaduna train service. 

“Regrettably, due to inactivity on the Abuja-Kaduna train, which was caused by the last terrorist attack, we have recorded a shortfall of N531 million on the Abuja-Kaduna route from March to August 2022.

“The shortfall is from expected income following the disruption occasioned by the train attack,” he had said. Also, the news of the release of the remaining 23 abducted passengers triggered excitement in the NRC yesterday. 

Though the MD could not be reached as of press time, a source close to him said the NRC would soon unveil plans to resume the train service. 

“As soon as we have a plan, we will share it with you. We are happy with the news though we are still trying to confirm the authenticity. We don’t want to dwell on rumours. But like we have always maintained, the train service would resume as soon as possible,” the official said. 


Buhari welcomes release of hostages  

President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the safe release of the remaining 23 kidnapped train passengers held in captivity by Boko Haram terrorists.

The president, in a statement issued on Wednesday by his media aide, Garba Shehu, expressed his happiness and satisfaction, and that of the entire nation with the military as well as other security agencies on the development.

He directed that the relief that came to the nation arising from the closure of this unfortunate saga must be sustained at all times, all over the federation.

President Buhari also credited his government for resolving the issue and the de-escalation of the terrorism, banditry and kidnapping that surged recently, giving assurances that the efforts will be sustained.

The President said the nation owed the military and all other security and intelligence agencies a debt of gratitude for the successful conduct of the operation leading to the safe release of the hostages in line with his earlier directives.


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