How to Rescue Abducted Train Passengers

Ring True BY Yemi Adebowale

Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

Terrorists are still holding no fewer than 68 innocent Nigerians abducted 20 days ago after the bombing of an Abuja-Kaduna bound train; the attack left eight persons dead, with several others injured and scores kidnapped. Those in charge of the security and welfare of Nigerians are going about as if nothing heinous happened.

The coldblooded people running the show in Abuja and in the states are unperturbed by the cries of the abductees and their families. Children, a pregnant woman, elderly people and medically-challenged Nigerians are being traumatised by the terrorists in the forest, yet, those elected to tame such madness are busy with politics.

Our political leaders seem only interested in maneuvering to grab positions in 2023. These callous people are scheming to become president, governors and legislators in 2023, while 68 innocent people are still in captivity. In sane societies, all attention will be focused on rescuing the abductees. The reverse is the case in beloved Nigeria. How did we get to this level?

I woke up last Monday with my pillow drenched in tears after watching the video sent out the previous day by terrorists showing the abducted train passengers in anguish. In the two-minute video, scores of abductees were seen sitting in a forest, including men and women.

Behind them, a group of gunmen stand in a line. One of the tormented detainees said: “We are the passengers who left Abuja for Kaduna on March 28. We were seized on our way. Since then, it is only us that know the dire situation we are in, there are women and children here; there are aged people with health challenges.”

Some other captives pleaded with the federal government to meet the demands of their abductors. In all, there are 41 women, 22 men, 5 kids in the cell of the fanatics. The released Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture, BOA, Alwan Hassan took a good mental note and provided the exact figures of the captives while recounting his ordeal a few days back.

The BOA boss reliably informed that the abductees were made to trek for five days, resting intermittently in transit camps, before they arrived at the main camp of the attackers suspected to be around Shiroro LG of Niger State. Some of the abductees suffered gunshot wounds and are struggling to survive. The terrorists, to tell you how well organised they are, brought medics to treat injured abductees.

Families of the abductees are also in pain. They staged a protest at the Radio House in Abuja early this week, appealing to the government to do more to free the sufferers. One of them said: “I have my sister who is seven months pregnant with her husband with them. Words cannot explain what they are going through and what we are going through. Please, the government should do the needful and let this come to an end as soon as possible. Only God knows what they are going through.”

Another protester, Aminu Uthman, said: “My immediate younger brother and his wife are among the victims. It is a nightmare and the most difficult 10 days I have had in my life. I cannot sleep or eat. A lot of things are going wrong. The bandits called only once and they gave him the phone to speak to us. They are yet to make any request but they called and he is with them. We voted for this government because of insecurity. We had the trust that they would address insecurity. This protest is not for the family members alone; it is for Nigerians generally. This thing can happen to anybody.”

Now, to the main focus of this piece: The abductees must be freed alive. Their relations are anxious to have them back. President Buhari directed security agencies to arrest the terrorists and also ensure, without further delay, the release of all the kidnapped passengers. Nothing has happened in this direction in the last 20 days. This country has had enough of Buhari’s rhetoric. Our security agencies lack the capacity to rescue these people alive. This is the truth. Technology, intelligence, equipment and quality manpower required are lacking.

Nigeria needs help from countries that have been a success in this regard, in order to rescue these abducted Nigerians. If Buhari is genuinely interested in taming terrorists, this is the time to call on friendly developed countries to assist Nigeria. It can happen in 48 hours if this government gets its act together.

The first friendly country that comes to mind is the United States. This is home to the Special Warfare group popularly addressed as Navy SEALs – The United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL). The team effectively monitored (with drone) and rescued a US citizen, Philip Walton, held hostage in Northern Nigeria in 2020. The mission was clinically undertaken by this elite Special Forces. This is a good example of a government committed to the safe return of citizens taken captive.

The Navy SEALs has a strong reputation for clinical operations. In May 2011, it was the Navy SEALs that captured and killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against the US.

There is also the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force famed for hostage rescue and counter-terrorism. I challenge Buhari today, to explore all diplomatic means and get the US SEALS or Delta Force to rescue our abducted train passengers.

Buhari can similarly look towards the Israelis. They are very good when it comes to clinical rescue operations. I can still vividly recall Operation Entebbe, an Israeli hostage rescue mission that took place in July 1976 in Entebbe, Uganda. An Air France airplane was hijacked by militants and flown from Israel to Uganda. The Israeli forces rescued almost all the 102 hostages within an hour after clinically landing at Entebbe airport. Only three abductees died.

The Buhari government can likewise go for Israeli or American private military contractors. They will get this job done in a jiffy. Rescuing the abducted train passengers is a task that must be clinically done.

Lawmakers Must End Persistent Harassment of MultiChoice

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In this country, many go to bed without supper and wake up not sure of breakfast. The World Bank recently reported that millions of Nigerians had fallen below the poverty line in the last seven years. In this same country, daily, scores of people are killed by terrorists. To what extent have legislative interventions by the Senate and the House of Representatives curbed these killings of innocent Nigerians? To what extent have they helped to reduce poverty? No result to show.

Our lawmakers just grandstand on the floor of the National Assembly and everything ends there. Rising poverty rate in Nigeria is frightening. Likewise, over 300 Nigerians were killed by terrorists in last March alone. Thousands of innocent souls have been destroyed by terrorists in the last seven years across Nigeria. This ignominy should challenge these lawmakers.

But our muddled federal lawmakers seem more interested in getting cheap pay television for Nigerians, instead of legislative interventions to reduce poverty, create jobs and curb insecurity. Pay TV, a luxury and non-essential service cannot be the priority of traumatised Nigerians. These Federal lawmakers that claim to represent the people and love them so much, think otherwise.

They are unperturbed by killings and poverty. This is why they have declared war on MultiChoice Nigeria, the main player in the Pay TV industry, in their drive for “cheap” pay television.

Just 48 hours after a Kaduna-bound train was bombed, Senator Abba Moro was busy moving a motion for MultiChoice to reverse its price increase on its DStv and GOtv platforms. How could MultiChoice price increase be the priority for the senate at that time? People had been killed and dozens abducted on a train and Moro was talking about Pay TV price slash. What a country!

In any case, why is MultiChoice, a private business, the only one whose prices must be controlled? The airlines have recently doubled their fares and the Senate is not talking about sanctioning Air Peace, Max Air and others. There are no committees to investigate increases in air fares. A bag of cement is now N3800; the senators are yet to direct the producers to revert to N1500.  The prices of food and other essential things of life have quadrupled. Even local Rice is now about N25,000 per 50 kg bag. Electricity tariffs have gone up astronomically and the NASS isn’t saying anything about this. The lawmakers are always interested in only MultiChoice price increase and a specified billing model for the firm.

MultiChoice said its March tariff increase was on the grounds of increased operational costs and inflation in Nigeria. Is this not rational? Are these lawmakers saying the Pay TV business of MultiChoice is insulated from the economic situation in the country? Are they saying this company has not been impacted by Nigeria’s mounting inflation and growing cost of doing business? Are they saying MultiChoice’s operations are not impacted by diesel selling at almost N650 per litre?

The Senate committee set up to probe the tariff adjustments by MultiChoice is therefore unnecessary and disgusting. The lawmakers are simply pretending to love the people. A Senate that has not probed the bombing of the Kaduna-bound train that claimed human lives is probing Pay TV price hike. Is this not preposterous?

The Senate also directed MultiChoice to revert to the old prices “in tandem with the prevailing reality of economic situation in Nigeria” as well as the adoption of pay-per-view billing model. This shows insensitivity and ignorance on the part of the Senators. The senators are aware of the rising cost of running businesses in Nigeria. MultiChoice is not an exception. The Naira has depreciated considerably. It is the same battered Naira that will be exchanged for USD to purchase content. To what extent has legislative interventions helped the value of the Naira in the last seven years?

Senator Moro and his colleagues also want MultiChoice and other pay TV companies to adopt a pay-per-view model. This applies to a one-off broadcast of high stake games. I guess what Moro really meant is “pay-as-you-go” as in telephone and electricity. The argument of MultiChoice against this makes sense. Telephone services are exclusively provided by the companies involved. But MultiChoice pays third parties for rights to contents.

An example is the recently concluded African Cup of Nations. MultiChoice paid for the rights to all the matches over four weeks. So, it does not make business sense for a subscriber paying to watch for just one day. We should not forget that MultiChoice is running a business and must make profit. This is not charity.

The persistent assault on MultiChoice by our lawmakers is clearly an attempt at curtailing free enterprise and must end in the interest of this country. Nigeria can’t, on the one hand, be searching for foreign investors, while on the other hand pummeling those in the country. This is why investors are leaving Nigeria in droves.

The most recent victim of Nigeria’s harsh operating environment is Africa’s biggest grocery retailer and the South Africa-owned chain of stores, Shoprite. They left. British multinational banking, HSBC, and Swiss multinational investment bank, UBS have closed their representative offices in Nigeria. South African Tiger Brands and Truworths have exited Nigeria. Oil and gas multinational companies have been gradually selling onshore assets since 2010. All UAE shareholders of Etisalat exited and left the board and management of the Nigerian brand.

The National Assembly must stop harassing MultiChoice in the interest of Nigeria’s economy.

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