Buhari: Nigerians Owe Our Military Debt of Gratitude as Remaining 23 Train Victims Are Freed
•Urges security agencies to sustain momentum
•DHQ gives details of victims’ rescue
•How Mamu’s arrest may have aided safe operation
Deji Elumoye and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said the entire nation owed the military and other sister security agencies a debt of gratitude for walking the talk, as he basked in the euphoria of the safe release of the remaining 23 kidnapped Abuja-Kaduna train passengers held in captivity by Boko Haram terrorists since March 28.
In a release by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari said the agencies had shown outstanding capabilities over the period that the whole world would not fail to take note of. He urged them to sustain the momentum.
The Defence Headquarters gave a sketchy insight into how the victims, currently in hospitals for medical examination and debriefing, were released and had since been kept in its custody.
There were indications that the recent arrest, in Cairo, Egypt, of Tukur Mamu, publisher of Desert Herald, and media aide to renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, might have played a role in the successful operation to free the abductees.
The president said in the statement, “This country’s Armed Forces are as good as any. Given needed support and encouragement, as we have been doing, there is no task that they cannot accomplish. I commend them for this remarkable outcome.”
While expressing satisfaction with the successful deployment of both kinetic and non-kinetic processes, leading to the eventual safe release of the remaining hostages, Buhari also congratulated the families of the victims on having them back alive. He said the relief that came to the country from the closure of the kidnap saga must be sustained at all times, all over the federation.
The president also credited his government for resolving the train incident and for reduction in terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping, which had surged recently. He assured that the efforts would be sustained.
The traumatic experience of the remaining 23 victims lasted seven whole months after they were kidnapped in a Kaduna-bound train attacked by terrorists. Their freedom ended many sleepless nights of horror and torture in the hands of their merciless abductors.
In the attack, which occurred on March 28, at least eight persons were reportedly killed, with others either kidnapped or declared missing. The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) had put the total number of passengers onboard at 362 before the attack.
While the victims were released in batches after alleged payment of ransoms, the terrorists claimed a few of them were freed on compassionate grounds.
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) announced the release of the hostages about 4pm. DHQ said in a statement by the secretary of the joint Presidential Committee and Chief of Defense Staff Action Committee (CDSAC), set up for the purpose of freeing the victims, Professor Usman Yusuf, that the released hostages were already in its custody.
The committee stated that other security agencies and the Federal Ministry of Transportation contributed immensely to the operation. It said the committee secured the release and took custody of the kidnap victims.
The statement said, “I am pleased to announce to the nation and the world that at 1600Hrs. (4:00pm) today, Wednesday 5-10-2022, the seven-man Presidential Committee assembled by the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), General L. E. O. Irabor, secured the release and took custody of all the 23 remaining passengers held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists following the attack on the Abuja to Kaduna train on 28-3-2022.
“The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Nigerian Military under the leadership of the CDS, who conceived and guided the operation from start to finish. All sister security agencies and the Federal Ministry of Transportation contributed immensely to this Operation.”
The statement further said, “The unwavering support of the President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, is what made it all possible.
“Members of this committee are grateful for the rare honour and privilege to be part of this humanitarian operation. May God Almighty heal our wounds and bring peace to our land.”
The terrorists had demanded the release of their colleagues at Kuje Prison in a swap deal for the kidnapped passengers. But after failing to have their demands met, the insurgents launched an audacious attack on Kuje Prison and freed 40 Boko Haram members detained in the facility, a situation that triggered a bedlam in the country.
While the hostages remained in the custody of the terrorists, the Department of State Services (DSS) announced the arrest Mamu. He had functioned as a negotiator between the terrorists and relations of the kidnapped victims as it related to ransom payment.
The DSS had said, in a statement, that Mamu was in its custody as “a person of interest”. It added later that he was arrested on his way to a terrorism summit.
A subsequent statement by the DSS said findings during a raid on Mamu’s residence were mind-boggling.
Consequently, an Abuja Federal High Court later granted a request by the DSS to detain Mamu for 60 more days.