By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—FORTY-TWO days after terrorists attacked the AK-9 train along the Abuja-Kaduna rail route, families of the over 100 persons still in captivity have urged the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, not to resume services on the corridor until all those held captive were safely rescued.
Addressing a press conference, yesterday, in Abuja, the families lamented the horrible conditions the abducted passengers had been forced to live in, even as they took a swipe at the manner the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the NRC had so far handled the matter.
Representatives of the families, Abfulfatai Jimoh and Ba’abba Muhammad, said it would be insensitive for NRC to resume operations on the route, with fate of scores of passengers kidnapped still unknown.
They stated: “Abuja-Kaduna train service should not resume until the quick and safe rescue of our family members held hostage and adequate security measures are put in place to guarantee the safety of prospective passengers. This position aligns with the prayers of the majority of Nigerians.
“It has been 42 long days of living in fear, virtually no sleep, no bath, wearing the same clothes, under the scorching sun and rain, and exposed to extreme environmental hazards.
“The emotional, psychological, mental, and physical torture arising from these conditions are only imaginable.
“Among the abducted passengers are children- some as young as three years old, pregnant women, women including an 85-year-old great grandmother, and others. Some of these victims have health challenges requiring daily medications, which they have had no access to in the last 42 harrowing days.”
In an emotionally-laden voice, Jimoh added that the story of one of the victims giving birth in the forest was difficult to accept in a sane society.
“We read in the news that one of the two pregnant women in captivity delivered her baby in the forest.
“Giving birth is supposed to be a moment of joy; how would it have been if this woman delivered her baby in the comfort of a maternity ward? In whose hands?
“What is the place of birth of this baby, the forest? While some families have their breadwinners in captivity, others have their wives, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, and aunts held down in the bush.
“We must, however, register our displeasure with the manner the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, has been handling this tragic event since it occurred. Just a few days after March 28, Amaechi was seen running around the stadium in Port Harcourt where he declared his intention to become the next President of Nigeria.
“Still, one week after this Presidential directive was issued, NRC has neither contacted the relatives of kidnapped victims nor established any Situation Room as directed by the President. This display of gross incompetence and insensitivity should lead to the appropriate punishment.”
Express readiness to negotiate with terrorists
Fielding questions from journalists, Hidayiat Yusuf, spokesperson for the families, slammed the NRC for contemplating resumption of operations on the route, saying “if there was security in place, our loved ones would not have been kidnapped.
“We are ready to negotiate with the terrorists if they are willing. If it is money they want, they should come forward and say so.’’