Eighty-five days after the terror attack and abduction of passengers on the Kaduna- bound train, about 50 women, children, men are still languishing in the bandits’ den.
There are indications that their condition has been aggravated by snake and scorpion bites, and reports that nine of them may have died as a result.
This was revealed by the media consultant to Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, Malam Tukur Mamu, who mediated the release of 11 of the kidnapped train passengers recently.
According to him,the hostages are facing snake and scorpion attacks in the bushes as the rainy season persists. The report also alleged that about nine of the victims may have died from the harsh conditions of the environment they are subjected to.
Mamu further said most of the remaining victims of the train attack can hardly survive the next few weeks due to their deteriorating health conditions and the inhumane condition they are subjected to in the forest.
This is just as he said efforts to rescue them must be treated as a national emergency if the government wants most of them to come back alive.
LEADERSHIP recalls that terrorists attacked Kaduna-bound train on March 28, 2022 and killed nine of the passengers and abducted no fewer than 63 of the passangers on board, including the managing director of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), who was released some days after upon alleged payment of N100 million.
Mamu, who is the publisher of Desert Herald newspaper, said he was alerting the leadership of the country, particularly the security agencies and concerned Nigerians, that something very urgent must be done immediately to save the remaining suffering victims.
“This is not the time to politicise issues. Lives of very promising, innocent Nigerians are involved in this. Their health is deteriorating by the day. Even animals without proper care will hardly survive in the environment they are forced to live in for nearly three months now. I believe the government is aware and has taken note of the testimony of the 11 victims who were secured. It makes me sad when issues like this are not treated with dispatch, with the seriousness and speed they require,” he stressed.
He urged the government to adopt diplomacy to resolve the matter, and to prioritise their rescue and other cases of insecurity over 2023 elections.
Mamu said in addition to lack of diagnosis and treatment coupled with poor nutrition, poor sanitary condition and how they are exposed to unbearable forest life, most of the hostages have lately developed a series of life-threatening complications with some vomiting blood. He revealed that the condition of those with already underlying illnesses is fast deteriorating and called on the federal government to act fast before it is too late.
He said, “I can confirm to you that there are many snakes in that forest. Some of them are victims of snake bites as they appear frequently in the night. They only depend on local solutions (herbs) to treat it.
“The bites as we know can be life threatening. Government is the only authority with the means and powers to end this crisis as soon as possible. And with the right approach I can assure you it can be achieved within days or weeks. We have proven that in the release of the 11 victims.
“If we can tolerate corrupt officials that are stealing billions every day as a result of which poverty and insecurity increase, for me it is not out of place to use negligible part of such stolen resources to secure such victims whenever the need arises. And if for any reason the government did not act promptly, since it has been alerted, they must be prepared to take full responsibility.”
Victims’ Families Lament Neglect, Warn Against Train Resumption
Meanwhile, some family members of the abducted passengers have said the train service must not resume until all the abducted passengers were rescued and adequate security measures are put in place to guarantee the safety of prospective passengers.
Speaking through their spokesperson, Dr Abdulfatai Jimoh, the families of the abducted passengers accused the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) of disregarding Buhari’s directive to engage with them, minute-by-minute.
The families, however, warned the NRC against attempting to resume train services without rescuing their loved ones who were kidnapped by the terrorists.
Jimoh also acknowledged the government’s efforts, saying, “we are happy that the government has started discussing with the abductors of our relatives,” and called on the government to speed up the process of the negotiation for the release of their loved ones by the bandits unhurt.
He also said it had not been easy for the families since the attack even as he warned the NRC against the proposed resumption of train services without first rescuing the kidnapped victims.
According to him, “We are grateful to God that we heard from the federal government through the Minister of Information that the government is already on top of the situation with what has happened.
“We acknowledged it and we appreciate it. But what we want to add is that the government should speed up the process of discussion with them so that they (our people) can come out to release our people soonest. This is our appeal now.”
“The NRC should not be talking about reopening their services now when our people are in captivity, because what is the assurance that if they start services now that people that will be boarding the train are safe. What measures have they put in place to guarantee the security of those that are going to patronise their services. We don’t want the recurrence of this.”
He stated that the first thing should be to get the captives out and then the government can put adequate measures in place and resume service so that this kind of attack does not happen again in future.
However, NRC spokesman, Mahmood Yakub, dismissed media reports claiming the NRC would soon start train service on the affected railway.
Yakub said, “We are doing everything possible to ensure their safety from captivity. Seriously we are on top of it and we are reaching out to the victims’ families through the chairman of the relatives.
“We are working very hard to ensure that they are not only released but they are released safely. We are doing our best to ensure that all of them are released.
“We stated this in our press release. We don’t want to enter into any altercation with them in the media. We are sympathising with those in captivity and we are even organising prayer for them for God to intervene in hastening their release.
“We are giving total consideration into efforts towards ensuring their release. We feel their pains also. They are our brothers, they are our sisters, and they are our children. We are sympathising with the plight they found themselves in. We are contacting the families.
“We have been discussing this with the chairman since we set up the situation room as directed by Mr. President. We are doing everything possible to ensure their freedom. And we didn’t say we are going to start running trains. We didn’t say so.”
The Force PRO, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the police were not involved in the rescue operations as the military was coordinating. He also confirmed the deployment of police personnel to secure the Abuja to Kaduna highways.
The IGP had toured the highway to monitor police personnel deployed there on several occasions in order to boost the morale of those traveling on the road.
Meanwhile, the NRC has confirmed the complete repair of the damaged tracks, concrete sleepers and rails on the Abuja-Kaduna railways.
The managing director, NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, who confirmed this, said intending passengers will now be required to present their National Identification Number, NIN as part of the requirements for the purchase of train tickets when the train service resumes.
The NRC managing director further explained that the Abuja–Kaduna Train Service (AKTS) would resume soon with additional security measures put in place, and that the NIN requirement would help to improve passenger profiling and safety on board.
Attackers Of Kaduna Churches Demand N100m Ransom
Meanwhile, terrorists who attacked Maranatha Baptist Church and St Moses Catholic Church in Robuh, Ungwan Aku, Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State on Sunday have made a ransom demand of N100 million to free about 36 worshippers in their custody.
Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan had on Sunday confirmed that three persons were killed in the attack launched by the bandits who reportedly stormed the communities on about 30 motorcycles.
The traditional leader of Angwan Fada of Rubu community, who was one of the kidnapped victims in the Sunday attack, Elisha Mari, told newsmen yesterday that he was released by the abductors and asked to go and look for N100m to secure release of others.
He spoke to newsmen when heads of security agencies and a Kaduna government delegation visited the area to assess the situation yesterday.
He said the bandits stormed their villages on over 30 motorcycles and shot sporadically to create tension before whisking them away.
He further explained that it took them about two hours before they arrived at the bandits’ camp where the hostages were kept.
According to him, he was freed because he is the traditional leader but was asked to raise at least N100 million ransom before those in captivity would be freed.
Another eyewitness, Bashir Usman, told journalists that the three persons who were killed made attempts to repel the terrorists.
According to him, one of the abducted women had one of her ears cut off by the terrorists.
District Head Kidnapped In Plateau
Gunmen suspected to be bandits have kidnapped a traditional ruler in Plateau State, His Royal Highness, Aminu Derwan, after attacking his palace in Panyam, Mangu local government area of the state.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the gunmen took away Derwan, the district head of Panyam, after scaring residents with gunshots yesterday morning.
The kidnap of the district head is the latest in a series of abductions targeted at traditional rulers and clergymen in the state.
A resident of Panyam community, Pius Garuba, confirmed the abduction of the monarch to our correspondent in Jos, yesterday.
He said, “It was last night around 2am that the bandits, who were more than 20 and heavily armed, surrounded the district head’s palace in Panyam.
“Because his house was not fenced, some villagers who saw how his house was surrounded by strange people alerted other members of the community through a community bell. But immediately the bandits heard the bell, they started firing gunshots and eventually went away with the traditional ruler, leaving the community helpless.”
Some residents, who condemned the attack, said that the incident had been reported to the police division in the locality
The spokesman for state police Command, DSP Alabo Alfred, has confirmed the incident.
According to him, the state commissioner of police, Bartholomew Onyeka, has deployed an anti-kidnapping squad with a directive to comb the surrounding hills with the view to rescue the kidnapped district head.