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We won’t use force to rescue abducted train victims – Buhari

President Buhari meets with representatives of victims of Abuja-Kaduna train abduction

President Muhammadu Buhari said Thursday that the federal government will not use force in securing the release of the remaining abductees of the ill-fated Abuja-Kaduna train.

The president said they had weighed all options and concluded that the best way to bring all the victims back home safely was not to use force. He, however, said that the federal government was doing everything within its powers to ensure the safe return of the remaining captives.

The President gave the assurance Thursday during a meeting with the representatives of the families of the victims at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. 

The meeting came two days after seven more kidnapped passengers of the March 28 train attack regained their freedom after spending 135 days in the custody of the terrorists.

The terrorists have been releasing the captives piecemeal with credible sources saying they are extorting money from the families of the victims.

Many of the victims earlier released said their families had paid ransom as much as N100m.

While some sources close to the federal government said some of the abductees were released after “prisoner swap”, it was learnt that the terrorists have been reneging on most of the promises they made.

One of the sources said while the government is reluctant to use force, many families of the victims have been pauperised because they have sold their houses, farms, and other assets to raise ransom.

According to the source, “Many families are still trying to raise the ransom because the terrorists are not willing to accept any entreaties; they operating from advantaged position.

“They have released most of their high profile members from Kuje prison; they have also secured the release of their children in custody of government through prisoner swap and they are using the remaining captives as human shield and at the same time collecting ransom from desperate families,” he said.

One of the victims released some weeks ago said that not all of them were invited to the presidency.

“I was not invited…The security operatives have our numbers but only a few were invited to interact with the president,” he said.

‘Your abduction traumatic’

Addressing those who made it to the villa, Buhari, who commiserated with the families of the victims and those who lost their loved ones, said since the “terrible and cowardly attack by the criminal elements” on March 28, 2022, the nation had joined them to endure a period of difficulty and emotional pains.

He told them that in the immediate aftermath of the incident, several actions had been taken by government to bring succour to the affected families and to prevent a recurrence in the country.

The President, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, explained his reason for discarding the use of lethal military force in extracting the remaining abductees.

“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, while speaking on his recent instruction to security and law enforcement agencies to bring an end to inhumane action against innocent Nigerians, stressed the need to take the fight to the terrorists and demonstrate that there was no hiding place for them within the borders of the country.

He said: “Each one of them will be hunted and pursued and spoken to in the language that they understand.”

Buhari said the ongoing killing of terrorists by the military would not stop.

“Judging by the available reports to me and news that have begun emerging in the last few days, I will say they (security operatives) have heard this instruction and are responding appropriately.

“In the past couple of days, you must have heard about the number of terrorists neutralized by the military, and number of hostages freed. These efforts will not stop, or reduce,” he said.

In his remarks, the 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 and updated them on all the efforts the government was making to ensure the safe return of their loved ones.

It was not clear at the time of going to press whether besides consoling the victims the president had assured them of any other support.

‘No money to pay ransom’

A representative of the victims of the train abduction, Alhaji Sabiu Mohammed, appealed to the federal government to assist families of those not yet released.

‘‘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. 

Written by Online Editor

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