Train attack: 117 days after, relatives of abductees block transport ministry

FOLLOWING the release of a new video in which passengers abducted during the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train were being brutalised, their relatives staged a protest at the Federal Ministry of Transportation in Abuja on Monday.

The protesters, who expressed their frustration with the prolonged stay of their family members in captivity, threatened to remain at the scene till the abductees were released.

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Speaking to journalists on behalf of the protesters, Imran Ahmed, whose brother has been in captivity, said they had lost faith in the government’s commitment to rescuing their loved ones.

“We don’t have confidence in the Federal Government. This is not the first time the Federal Government is saying they are on top of the situation. If I remember, I’ve seen the President’s directives on four occasions, directing the security chiefs that they should do whatever is necessary to rescue our family members.

“But you can imagine, today is 117 days that they have been in captivity. This has been very gruesome for family members. Nigerians should understand that we are not here to see the Minister. We are here to get our family members from the Ministry that they boarded the train to Kaduna,” he said.

In an interview with The ICIR, Aisha Musa, mother of an abductee Hafsat Abdullahi, who is being held captive with her two-year-old child, narrated her ordeal.

“When her children saw the video yesterday, the first son fainted. Now he is in the hospital. When this thing happened, we thought she was dead. We did not hear from them since they said they killed some. We went to Forty-four hospital in Kaduna. They gave us a list of those who were dead and accident victims. She was not among the corpses in the mortuary.

“It was two days later that the abductors called her husband and spoke to her. That was the day we heard their voices last till today,” she said.

For another relative identified as Aruwan, there were fears that the abductees could be eliminated following the release of more than sixty terrorists from the Kuje Medium Security Correctional Centre in Abuja.

“Our fears are the imminent danger facing them. The danger of them being eliminated. Those people see them as liabilities. After all, the people they were bargaining with that were in prison, they summoned courage, and they came and released them.

“Now that their people have been released, they see those people as liabilities, and they can eliminate them. That is why they flog them, machete them, and give them all sorts of treatment.

“Assuming it was Yusuf Buhari that is incarcerated, will Buhari and his wife still be like that without doing anything? Assuming it was one of their children, they would have gone ahead to secure this release. And this is not something that is beyond them,” he said.

After hours at the protesters camped at the gate of the Ministry of Transportation, the minister Mu’azu Sambo came to the scene to address them.

Noting that he had just resumed office, Sambo asked the protesters to afford him some time to get acquainted with the details of the case. He assured that the abductees would be released.

“My first intention was to hold a dialogue with you and empathise with you. The government is made up of individuals. We have families. We feel for the families of this unfortunate incident.

“I want to tell you, please, give me the opportunity, let me resume in this office. This will be the first matter I’m going to tackle by the grace of God. I have asked God to guide me, to lead me in this assignment, and I know God will not fail me and God will not fail Nigeria. You have been very patient. The government itself has not been sleeping from enquiries I have made.

“I took time to come here this morning because I wanted to get in touch with the right people who have been handling this issue. There are some things you don’t say in public. I’m sure you appreciate that. But I want to beg for one thing: I have just resumed and I’m going to receive the necessary briefings this morning. I want you to give me time,” he said.

The minister requested the contacts of the affected families and promised to be in communication with them henceforth.

“In the meantime, I want contact names and addresses. If you have a formal association with telephone numbers that I can reach, I can assure you that we are going to be in constant engagement until this matter is sorted out, until every single person in captivity goes back home to his family members,” he said.

Responding on behalf the families, Imran Ahmed argued that the government has had enough time to free the abductees.

“It’s been four months today that our loved ones have been in captivity. I don’t think my father has time, I know how I left my father at home. How much time do you want us to give you? How much more time do we have? The two-year-old baby there with her mother, how much time does she need to survive? How much time should we give the authorities, sir?” he asked.

After some persuasion, however, the protesters agreed to grant the minister time to be briefed on the issue. He proceeded to meet with some of the family members in his office.

Terrorists had attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train carrying hundreds of passengers, killing nine and kidnapping several others in March.

While some of the abductees had been released, over forty persons have remained in captivity since then.

A new video had surfaced on the Internet over the weekend, showing victims being flogged and brutalised.

Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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