PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has said the Federal Government refused to use lethal military force to rescue passengers abducted on the Abuja-Kaduna train in order to ensure their safe return.
The President who said this when he met with representatives of the victims at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Thursday noted that the priority of the government is to ensure that the victims return safely and unhurt.
According to a statement released by Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, Buhari told representatives of the families that in the immediate aftermath of the incident, several actions have been taken by the government to free the abductees and to prevent a recurrence in the country.
He disclosed that 31 passengers are still in captivity, following the release of some of the abductees by the terrorists.
‘‘I have been informed that at last count, there remain about 31 people in the hands of the kidnappers, and our determination is to work towards returning these 31 people to their families.
‘‘It is understandable that emotions typically run high, we have received several suggestions about the deployment of lethal military force in extracting those still being held in captivity. This option has indeed been considered and evaluated. However, the condition to guarantee a successful outcome and minimize potential collateral damage could not be assured and therefore that course of action had to be reluctantly discarded.
”My primary concern is to get everyone released safe and unhurt,’’ he said.
The President said the security and law enforcement agencies are responding appropriately to his recent instruction to bring an end to inhumane action against innocent Nigerians.
‘‘In the past couple of days, you must have heard about the number of terrorists neutralized by the military, and a number of hostages freed. These efforts will not stop or reduce. We must take the fight to the terrorists and demonstrate that there is no hiding place for them within the borders of our country.
“Each one of them will be hunted, and pursued and spoken to in the language that they understand,” Buhari said.
The President also used the occasion to commend the bravery and gallant actions taken by members of the Police Force who were onboard the train on that fateful day.
According to the President, ‘‘It is clear that their actions saved many lives and by making the ultimate sacrifice, they must be recognized for their bravery.’’
Buhari assured that his administration was committed to the security of all Nigerians.
‘‘I also would like to use this opportunity to say that we are cognizant of events that have unsettled our citizens in various parts of our nation and in the Capital.
‘‘I would like to comfort those who were traumatized by these tragic events and pledge that our response is to protect all Nigerians wherever they are.
‘‘My dear country men and women, we thank God that none of the released passengers died due to the severe trauma they passed through in the hands of the terrorists, showing that the efforts of the government in securing their release were not in vain as Government continues to do its best to secure the release of the remaining abductees and ensure the overall security of all citizens in the country.’’
In his remarks, Minister of Transportation Jaji Sambo said in the first week of his resumption in the ministry, he met with the relatives of the victims of the Kaduna train attack, updating them on all the efforts the government is making sure of the safe return of their loved ones.
He described the audience with the President as a manifestation of the efforts by this administration to secure the release of all captives and proof that the government is not resting on its oars.
A representative of the families of the abductees, Sabiu Mohammed, appealed to the Federal Government to ensure the release of those still in captivity.
‘‘Please we want to see our loved ones and many have found themselves in very critical situations. We do not have the money that they (kidnappers) are demanding. Please, Mr President, we know you are doing your best. Please, please we want to see our loved ones,’’ Mohammed said.
Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in the society. You can shoot him a scoop via email@example.com and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.