Train attack: ‘How we contend with our relatives’ absence’ | Dailytrust

Train attack: ‘How we contend with our relatives’ absence’

One month after a brazen attack on the Nigerian railway service that derailed a Kaduna-bound train from Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, the fate of...

Some of the abducted passengers of the Abuja-Kaduna train, in a recent picture released by their captors
Some of the abducted passengers of the Abuja-Kaduna train, in a recent picture released by their captors

One month after a brazen attack on the Nigerian railway service that derailed a Kaduna-bound train from Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, the fate of about 62 passengers who boarded the ill-fated train, alongside over 300 others, has remained unknown. 

The terrorists who attacked the train had killed at least nine people had communicated once with families of the abducted passengers to let them know that their relatives were in their captivity. Since then, relatives say the terrorists have ceased further communication, demanding instead, to negotiate directly with the Nigerian government.  

What started as a day’s traumatic wait went into weeks and is now a month of uneasy silence for relatives of the 62 passengers of the Nigerian Railway Corporation’s (NRC) train, AK-9. Left with only third-party information and assurances from the federal government that it was taking action on the incident, relatives say what is worst for them has been the deafening silence and refusal by the terrorists to negotiate with them.

Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday, one of the relatives, Dr Jimoh whose wife is among the 62 persons in captivity, said they would live with the unpleasant memories of the daring attack of March 28, 2022. 

He said that since the release of the video showing the captives, they had expected that negotiations would commence but were disappointed that the government was not doing enough.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that two weeks after a video of the captives went viral, the terrorists had released four pictures in batches, with a total of 62 captors, comprising 39 men, 18 women and five children. The image, which circulated on the social media on Tuesday, brought both relief and pain to the families of those in captivity.

 

With the first picture of women and children released on various social media platforms, Dr Jimoh said they had feared the fate of the male captors until another set of pictures were released and circulated. 

“Thankfully, the pictures of the men were released in batches; first, 17, then six, and eventually, 16. In fact, one of our colleagues who saw his brother in the last picture that was released heaved a sigh of relief because he had been terribly worried. So, the pictures gave us consolation. We counted their number as 39 men, 18 women and five children, making a total of 62,” he said.

He said family members had tried to reach the terrorists to commence negotiation in earnest, even before the first set of videos went into circulation. 

“They told us that they would contact us with the same phone number they called two days after the attack, but when we tried, the numbers were not reachable.

“Seeing the pictures brought mixed feelings. We are happy that they are alive, but the condition we saw them is worrisome, even though we expected that they would be in such traumatising condition. You cannot leave someone in the sun and rain for one month without sleep and living in fear and expect them to look good. Our consolation is that they are live, but their condition is a thing of worry for us,” Dr Abdulfatai Jimoh, who spoke on behalf of other family members, said.

Daily Trust on Sunday gathered from other family members that they hardly sleep since the abduction over 30 days ago. 

One of the relatives who asked not to be named said that at the early stage of the abduction, the terrorists had asked them to commence the process of raising funds to pay for the release of their family members. 

“It was a relief for us at that time because we thought they were ordinary bandits. We even sold our father’s land at N3million in readiness to pay ransom. Now, it is almost a month since they called and we have been unable to reach them,” he said.

Dr Jimoh, whose wife is among the 62 abducted passengers said, “We have to cope with the children and relatives of other victims while managing as the head of the family to keep calm. The relatives, especially the women, cry every day. Anytime they come around they are crying, which weighs us down. But as heads of the family, we have to brave up to console them, but it has been very traumatic and we hardly sleep. We do not eat well; and although it is fasting period, you are thinking of their condition.”

He said information available to them was that the captives had been fed unripe mangoes during the first few days of captivity, and later on, the terrorists fed them on white rice with palm oil once a day.  

“This is something you will not even give your dog in the house. Then you find that they cannot change their cloths, bath or brush their teeth; and they sleep on the ground. It is really terrible. Even when they want to ease themselves they will have to raise up their hands and be escorted by armed men. Honestly, one cannot describe it; that is why we are worried and praying that whatever can be done should be done to secure their release,” he said.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the release of the pictures of the victims had shelved an earlier press briefing at the insistence of the family members who felt that the terrorists were sending a signal to the government by releasing the pictures. 

“I believe it is a calculated move to confirm the number of abducted persons in their custody. I believe that by releasing these pictures, they are sending a message to the government, and we hope the government understands that time is of the essence. They need to be rescued now,” another relative whose mother was abducted said. He said they were counting on the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari had given marching orders to security agents to rescue their family members.

Work intensified on damaged rail track

One month after the daring attack that damaged a large portion of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, our correspondent reports that work is still ongoing at the Kaduna section of the rail line. Railway engineers from Abuja and Kaduna are being conveyed to and from the reconstruction site daily by a locomotive.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that in October 2021 when terrorists bombed the rail track, it had taken barely two days to complete repairs and for the Abuja-Kaduna train to resume service. However, almost three weeks since repairs commenced after the most recent attack, our correspondent gathered that the repair is taking longer than expected due to the severity of damage on the tracks.    

One of the engineers confirmed to Daily Trust on Sunday that they had moved to site sometime around April 2 to assess the level of damage on the rail tracks and to commence earnest repairs. He said there had noticed the need to reconstruct some parts of the rail line as the sleepers and rail had been severely damaged. 

“The repairs require time and expertise, which fortunately, we have in Nigeria. We have been directed to speed up the repairs, and I can assure you that it will be completed soon. However, I don’t know how soon the rail service will resume after our repairs,” he said.

It is, however, doubtful that the rail service would resume soon as relatives of the abducted passengers have warned against resumption of service on the Abuja-Kaduna corridors, stressing that focus should remain on the rescue and safe return of the abducted passengers, not the return of rail services.

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