ISSN 2330-717X

Kaduna Train Attack: 100 Days In Captivity – OpEd

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The 100 days ritual has become a common practice among public office holders during which they give an account of their stewardship and enunciate their vision and plans for the future. The 100 days tradition was first started in the United States under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression in 1933. Roosevelt first used the term on July 24, 1933 “to refer to the exactly 100 days (apparently a coincidence) that elapsed between the opening of the special session of the 73rd Congress on March 9 and its closing on June 17, a session that produced a record-breaking volume of new laws.” The “15 major bills passed by the U.S. Congress in FDR’s first 100 Days was widely seen then (and since) as a historic achievement.”

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Most often the first hundred days in the life of an administration is a clear pointer of what the direction of an administration will look like and how it will deliver on its plans and promises and how it may eventually end up. As they say, morning shows the day. This 100 days ritual which originated in the United States of America has since been adopted in most parts of the world by political office holders.

Back in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari also indulged in the 100-day ritual. Though in his first hundred days in office he was still struggling to find his feet, as he picked his way gingerly through the labyrinthine complexity of the federal government in a bid to form his cabinet. Because of his previous experience as a military head of state, many had expected him to hit the ground running, instead, for the most part, he was persistent in his outcry and lamentations on how he met an empty treasury and how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration had run the nation into the ground. It would take close to four months before Buhari would constitute his cabinet. Now it is glaring that Buhari’s tentative steps at the onset have robbed off the general performance of his administration.  

However, this is another form of 100- day ritual not connected with an administration but by a citizen- patriot for some of our compatriots who have been in the den of terrorists for more than 100 days. In this sense, let’s spare a thought for victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack who have been in captivity for more than 100 days. Precisely the abductees have been in captivity for 110 days since when they were abducted after the Kaduna-bound train was attacked on March 28 by terrorists. During the train attack, 8 persons were reportedly killed while 140 people were abducted by the terrorists with whom they later disappeared into the night. Thereafter the captives have been released piecemeal by the terrorists, mostly those whose families have been able to secure their freedom by paying a ransom.

On his part, the former minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi on whose watch the attack took place had turned his back on the captives as he went on to seek nomination for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket. Amaechi had consigned that event to the back burner, concentrating his energy on seeking the highest office in the land. He has since set off into the political sunset after losing the APC presidential ticket to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

At any rate, on July 9 another batch of seven captives was released after a reported payment of 800 million naira ransoms by families of the victims. According to a Daily Trust news report, six of the abductees were levied 100 million naira each while the Pakistani among them was alleged to have regained his freedom after the payment of 200 million naira ransom. Most of the ransom was reportedly delivered to the terrorists in dollars. In all this, the negotiation was done behind the back of the government as it continually watches helplessly as bandits set their own terms for freeing the abductees. A publisher of the Desert Herald, Tukur Mamu had acted as a go-between the terrorists and members of the families of the train attack victims.  

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Earlier the terrorists had on June 11, released 11 of their victims following negotiations by Mamu. According to the Desert Herald report, those released last Saturday were handed over to the military to be reunited with their families. The report also quoted Mamu, saying that no ransom was paid for the release of the seven victims. However, Mamu’s claims have been contradicted by reports of Daily Trust which claimed dependable sources had told the newspaper that ransom was actually paid before the kidnapped passengers were released. 

Indeed it is curious that freedom came the way of the train victims after the attack on Kuje Prison which was believed to have been masterminded by members of the ISWAP terrorist group with linkages to the terrorists who kidnapped the Kaduna train victims.  

However, Mamu ascribed the release of the train victims to the power of mediation that has always been championed by Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, adding that the release of the victims was achieved  with full support and prayers of his principal, Sheikh Gumi.

According to him, “There is no military solution to the current security debacle in Nigeria. When you sincerely engage them, these guys even though wicked with misguided religious beliefs, but they listen.”

Indeed Mamu deserves some praise for daring the lion in its lair, so to speak. Ordinarily, the assignment he took upon himself ought to be the responsibility of security agents. In this respect, when the government shirks its responsibility it gives room for ordinary Nigerians to step in and play the role expressly reserved for the government and its agents.

Notwithstanding, there’s palpable relief and joy for those whose loved ones have been released because the terrorists had on several occasions threatened to kill the victims if the government failed to meet their demands. Part of their demand includes the release of their colleagues held in various prisons across the country, among other things.

At the moment, 43 persons are still being held by the terrorists, and the terrorists demanding the payment of 100 million naira for each of the abductees before they will taste the air of freedom once again. Also, it will be recalled that the students of Bethel College, Kaduna  kidnapped more than a year ago remain in captivity up till now, with 28 students still in the den of bandits. Again, Leah Sharibu, a student of Government Girls Science Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State, has been in captivity for about five years. Not to be forgotten are the remaining Chibok girls who have spent almost eight years with terrorists. 

Over the years, the government has failed to demonstrate sufficient political will to tame bandits and terrorists who have continued to spread their lethal trade across the northeast, northwest, and parts of the north- central, as well as other parts of the country. Even many security experts have also alluded to this several times. This explains why Nigerians have resolved to secure the release of their loved ones in the den of terrorists by selling their houses and other properties, despite a bill  to criminalize payment of ransom for kidnap victims.

 It’s important to note that the Senate had passed a bill seeking to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013, which will prohibit the payment of ransom to kidnappers in Nigeria. Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, in his presentation, said the bill seeks to outlaw the payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers, and terrorists for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned, or kidnapped. According to the lawmaker, “the overall import of this bill is to discourage the rising spate of kidnapping and abduction for ransom in Nigeria, which is fast spreading across the country.”

Despite the passage of this bill, kidnapping has become more rampant and it has turned into a lucrative business with reports that Nigerians have paid several billion naira in ransoms  between January to June.  

Now, any expectations of a frontal battle against the terrorists seem to have been lost because President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have given up on the battle as he reportedly said during the Sallah celebration in Daura that he was eager to leave office having done his best for the nation. He admitted that the challenges confronting the nation were onerous. In this case, little store should be set on this administration finding a lasting solution to the problem of insecurity that has bedeviled the nation for the past ten years. It would be misplaced optimism to hedge a bet on the president to smoke out the bandits from their lair since he has expressed the desire to return to his farm in Daura. From all appearances, the bandits and terrorists have overwhelmed the president. Though lately, he has charged the military to wipe out the terrorists. But this seems to be coming a little too late. Yet it is inconceivable that a general will be easily browbeaten by a ragtag army.

Kola King

Kola King is a Nigerian journalist and novelist. He worked for more than two decades as a reporter, correspondent and editor in major national newspapers in Nigeria. He's the founder of Metro newsletter published on Substack. His debut novel A Place in the Sun and was published and released in 2016 by Verity Publishers, Pretoria, South Africa. His writing has appeared in Kalahari Review, The Missing Slate Literary Journal, The New Black Magazine and Litro magazine. He earned a Bachelors degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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