Buhari Meets 23 Freed Kaduna Train Victims, Charges Service Chiefs to Replicate Success
*Appreciates military for bravery
*Lists unprecedented acquisition of military platforms, hardware in seven years
*Says he inherited nation at crossroads, with bombs going off at frightening frequency, even in cities
*Gbajabiamila commends FG, armed forces
*CAN hails president, security agencies over release
*Military vows to track down train bombers
*Reveals it adopted non-kinetic approach in securing release of hostages
*Bombs illegal refining sites, deactivates 88
Deji Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, met with the freed 23 passengers of the March 28 Abuja-Kaduna train attack at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) hospital in Kaduna.
Buhari charged the service chiefs to replicate the success recorded in the fight against insurgency in the North-east in other parts of the country. He said his administration had bolstered the armed forces with unprecedented acquisition of military platforms and hardware in the past few years, despite inheriting a dispirited nation.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, also expressed joy at the news of the release of the remaining 23 hostages abducted from the Kaduna-bound train. In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, Gbajabiamila urged Nigerians to be relentless in their pursuit of peace in every ramification.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said it was pleased with the safe release of the remaining 23 kidnap victims. A statement signed by CAN president, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, commended Buhari for the development, saying it signposts the efforts of the federal government to tackle the country’s common enemy, insecurity.
The military high command, yesterday, declared that the terrorists who bombed the Abuja-Kaduna train and killed eight passengers would not go unpunished.
Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a statement, disclosed that Buhari made the impromptu visit to the hospital to see the victims of the train attack after inaugurating Cadets of 69 Regular Course (Army, Navy and Air Force) of the Nigerian Defence Academy at Afaka, Kaduna State.
Before boarding the presidential aircraft, NAF 001, back to Abuja from the Kaduna International Airport, Buhari went to the hospital, where he also thanked the Nigerian military for their brave services in securing the safe release of the hostages from Boko Haram terrorists.
Members of the Chief of Defence Staff Action Committee, led by Major General Usman Abdulkadir (rtd), who facilitated the release of the train victims, were present at the hospital.
Others in the team included Major General Adamu Jalingo (rtd), Brigadier General Abubakar Saad (rtd), Dr. Murtala Ahmed Rufai, Ibrahim Abdulllahi, Ambassador Ahmed Magaji, and the committee’s secretary, Professor Yusuf Usman.
Earlier, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Leo Irabor, introduced the committee members and briefed the president.
Speaking earlier at the passing out parade of the Cadets of 69 Regular Course, Buhari restated the commitment of the armed forces, under his command, to fulfilling the promise to neutralise Boko Haram terrorism in the North-east. He pledged that they would not relent in resettling and rehabilitating the victims of the tragedy.
However, Buhari acknowledged that although successes had been recorded in the fight against the insurgency inherited by his government, especially in the North-east, the security challenges in the country had evolved and assumed other dimensions in some areas.
According to him, “We have devised both military and non-military methods to intervene, and even rolled out an amnesty programme to rehabilitate repentant terrorists who surrendered and laid down their arms unconditionally.
“Our tasks as the guardians of the nation are to prepare for the evolving and complex security situations and make sure that no terrorists can threaten Nigeria’s sovereign integrity.
“In this regard, I have instructed the service chiefs to replicate the successes in the North-east in other parts of the country, and I call on all Nigerians to continue to support our armed forces and security agencies.”
The president charged the military to continue to safeguard the economic and military capabilities of the country and not allow terrorists and insurgents destroy the investments in key national infrastructure.
The president stated, “Our interventions, and even where we dealt with saboteurs, were designed to prevent the collapse of the economy and revitalise the armed forces, and this is the legacy we are handing over to the next administration.
“This is an important point we must acknowledge, especially as the election year draws closer. I am utterly committed to ensuring that the forthcoming elections are peaceful and transparent, and it is our collective responsibility to continue to work towards building a united and prosperous country.”
He highlighted the comprehensive and systematic acquisition of weapons for the military by his administration within seven years, describing them as unprecedented in the past 38 years.
Buhari told the cadets that it was an honour to serve as the Reviewing Officer of the Passing Out Parade of 69 Regular Course for the last time as, “President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
He explained, “When this government came in 2015, we inherited a country at crossroads, with bombs going off at frightening frequency, even in our cities, and we came in to confront and manage the crisis.
“This administration has since coming on board procured over 550 naval platforms, out of which 319 have been delivered, as part of the aggressive fleet recapitalisation of the Nigerian Navy.
“We have also increased the number of Nigerian Air Force platforms by more than 38 per cent and enhanced the serviceability rate of aircraft in the NAF inventory by over 70 per cent.
“In pursuing this same objective, the Nigerian Army has received more than 2000 units of various armoured fighting vehicles, guns, and equipment. These are in addition to improved funding of the three services along with other security and intelligence agencies.
“These comprehensive and systematic acquisitions within seven years are not only unprecedented in the past 38 years, but they also align with our pledge to safeguard and strengthen the security architecture of our country.
“Although this is not a forum to introduce you to the military hardware you are stepping out to inherit, it is imperative to identify the magnitude and complexities of conflicts surrounding us.
“While acknowledging that our measures have yielded results and we remain ever grateful for the sacrifices of members of the armed forces, we must brace up for the dimensions this conflict has taken.”
On the release of the train victims held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists, the president hailed the kinetic and non-kinetic approaches adopted by the military in tackling the country’s security challenges.
He said, “This feat was not achieved without our military, as the interventionist Chief of Defence Staff Action Committee set up by General LEO Irabor was at the centre of the development, along with sister security agencies. I say bravo to our soldiers, officers and gentlemen.”
The president, while congratulating the graduating cadets, noted that their journey and career as officers in the armed forces of Nigeria had begun.
He stated, “There is no better time to prove your valour and demonstrate the virtues upon which this academy was founded in the defence of your fatherland, and I trust you to do so with uncompromising dignity and honour.
“Your convergence here symbolises our national unity, for you were all admitted into the academy from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to co-exist and master the arts and science of building and defending your fatherland.
“You are required to replicate the social cohesion you experienced during your time at the academy and be the unifying and incorruptible models of those you were trained to protect and bound by esprit de corps and love for your fatherland.”
Buhari also lauded the commandant, staff, instructors, and gentlemen officer cadets for an outstanding parade, declaring that the country would continue to count on their valour and celebrate their willingness to serve their beloved country.
He said, “What sets this academy apart is not just the primacy of discipline, but its first-class training curricula designed to transform young cadets into professionals with extraordinary skill-set and knowledge to prevent, confront and neutralise the contemporary and emerging threats facing our country and West African sub-region.
“I am aware that you are, perhaps, the most highly-trained course since the establishment of this academy in 1964, having completed our most methodical corporeal and academic training in line with the new capacity-building philosophy of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“You emerge in an era of expanding global security threats, and in the past seven years, we have set aside high-tech platforms and prioritised your needs to facilitate your training and commissioning.”
Gbajabiamila expressed joy at the news of the release of the 23 hostages. In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, the speaker urged Nigerians to relentlessly pursue peace in their daily undertakings.
He said, “Yesterday, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced the release of fellow citizens kidnapped by terrorists in the unfortunate attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train seven months ago.
“This is comforting news for the kidnapped victims and all Nigerians who carried them in our hearts, praying and hoping for a resolution to this unfortunate saga.
“Now begins the process of healing and recovery for the victims and their families. This will not be easy. These victims and their families deserve and will receive the support of this House of Representatives and the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as they work to rebuild their bodies and spirits and restore normalcy to their lives.
“This morning I remember the ones we lost in this attack. I pray for the repose of their souls. And for the families who still mourn and miss them, I know that words will never be enough to convey your loss or reduce your grief.
“I pray that you will find peace and healing through the grace of God. Like all the other terrorist attacks of the past two decades, this attack on the Kaduna-bound train has devastated lives and caused untold suffering.”
The speaker said the prevailing security challenges should not dampen the spirit or discourage Nigerians from being attentive to their personal and collective security, adding that the incident should renew commitment to end the scourge of terrorism in Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila stated, “Too many people have suffered for too long. It’s past time to end this pain and suffering. We owe the victims, their families and all Nigerians a debt. That debt will only be fully paid when the perpetrators of this attack are identified and punished for their grievous sins against the nation.
“I join all of you, all our fellow citizens and people of conscience, in welcoming home the released victims. May God bless the memory of the dead. May His love heal the wounded, and His grace comfort the bereaved.”
The leadership of CAN expressed satisfaction at the safe release of the remaining 23 kidnapped train passengers.
A statement by the CAN president commended Buhari for the feat.
The statement said, “The successful release of the remaining hostages in line with the president’s earlier directive not only indicates that the authorities mean serious business, but are ready to muster the required political will to end the reign of terror in parts of the country.
“CAN also lauds the military and all other security and intelligence agencies for the successful conduct of the operation, which led to the release of the hostages. They have shown outstanding capabilities in recent times and the whole world will not fail to take note of their good efforts.
“We believe that with the necessary support and adequate motivation, our security forces are capable of deploying world class kinetic and non-kinetic processes towards accomplishing difficult military operations that will ensure safety of lives and properties in the land.”
Military Vows to Track Down Kaduna Train Bombers
The military high command declared yesterday that the terrorists, who bombed the Abuja-Kaduna train would not go unpunished. It gave further insight into Wednesday’s release of the 23 hostages after seven months in the captivity of Boko Haram terrorists, who masterminded the train bombing.
This came as troops of Operation Delta Safe deactivated 88 illegal crude oil refining sites and apprehended 39 oil bunkerers in the Niger Delta in the last two weeks.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja, Director, Defence Information (DDI), Maj Gen Jimmy Akpor, said the insurgents would not escape justice. Akpor said elements of national power were deployed in securing the release of the hostages.
“There were elements of national power deployed and that was why they were released,” he said.
Reacting to a question on the likely action to be taken against the terrorists, he said they would not go unpunished.
Akpor stated, “But anybody, who commits any offence against the nation will definitely be brought to book.”
Speaking in the same vein, Director, Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Maj Gen Musa Damadami, said the military adopted kinetic and non-kinetic strategies to secure the release of the kidnap victims.
“These people were held captive for six months. Both kinetic and non-kinetic operations were conducted. The release was the non-kinetic part of it,” he said.
In the meantime, troops of Operation Delta Safe deactivated 88 illegal crude oil refining sites and apprehended 39 oil thieves in the Niger Delta region.
Danmadami said troops sustained pressure on economic saboteurs and denied criminal elements freedom of action in the past two weeks to ensure a conducive environment for economic activities to thrive.
He said the operation was designed to ensure the protection of oil and gas infrastructure in the region.
He said troops of Operation Octopus Grip discovered and destroyed 60 illegal refining sites, 58 wooden boats, six speed boats, 384 storage tanks, 223 cooking ovens and 60 dugout pits.
Danmadami affirmed that troops also recovered 20 pumping machines, three motorcycles, one tricycle, 18 vehicles and arrested 34 pipeline vandals.
He said a total of 3.7 million litres of crude oil, 458,000 litres of diesel, 1,000 litres of petrol and 13,000 litres of kerosene were recovered.
Danmadami stated, “In a related development, troops of Operation Dakatar Da Barawo in the sustained fight against crude oil theft and maritime illegalities discovered and destroyed 14 illegal refineries.
“They also destroyed 72 metal storage tanks, nine wooden boats, 29 dugout pits, 51 ovens and 25 reservoirs.
“Cumulatively, within the weeks under review oil thieves were denied a total of N2.1 billion in the South-South region.”
He added, “Also, between September 23 and September 28, the air component of `Operation Delta Safe’ conducted air interdiction operations at locations observed to be carrying out illegal refining activities at Ahoada in Rivers.
“The airstrike destroyed the illegal refining sites with several criminals fleeing during the engagement.
“A similar air interdiction operation was carried out on an illegal refining site with boathouse accommodation. Facilities there were destroyed while the criminals fled in disarray.”
Danmadami said troops arrested a suspected criminal logistics supplier at Amana in Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State on September 24. He said the troops recovered 20 pairs of black boots, 20 pairs of special force uniforms, two mobile phones and N15, 200 from the suspect.
He further stated that on September 28, troops arrested two Cameroonians, suspected to be Ambazonian rebels’ informants at a hotel in Ikang in Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Danmadami said in the South-east, troops discovered and destroyed several illegal refining sites, 438 sacks of illegally refined diesel, eight coking ovens, and seven dugout pits among other items.