Abuja-Kaduna Train Attack: We’ve freed 11 abducted passengers, striving to free more – Negotiator 

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Abuja-Kaduna Train Attack: We’ve freed 11 abducted passengers, striving to free more – Negotiator

The publisher of Desert Herald and communication consultant to Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, Malam Tukur Mamu, has said that ongoing negotiations with terrorists that attacked and abducted passengers aboard Abuja-Kaduna train has resulted in the freedom of 11 persons, while efforts have been intensified to rescue other victims eighty five days after the attack.

Manu, who has been involved in the negotiation with the terrorists to enhance the safe release of the passengers told The Punch Newspaper in an interview that the terrorists are making different demands and not asking for money to free the passengers.

“What I can confirm for now is that no issue of money is involved. No money exchanged for the ones that were released. We didn’t give them a single Kobo. But one cannot predict the next one since we are expecting that this will be the final one. 

“But for now, no issue of money is involved and that’s what makes it interesting.  By and large, I think the wide publicity we gave the threat by the group to stop feeding the abductees and ultimately execute them put the government under intense pressure to act. So, in this mission, we’ve got the support and cooperation of the Federal Government and the security agencies, firstly, to help in building trust and understanding; and secondly, to explore the possibility of give-and-take. 

“And so far, so good, we thank God because even if it’s just one innocent life we succeeded in rescuing, I think it’s a very good start, not to talk of 11 lives that we have been able to bring out. 

When asked about the group that the attackers operate under, Manu said “These people are not bandits. They are a Boko Haram affiliate but with a different religious ideology because in the case of Boko Haram, the target are people who believe in Western education, irrespective of whether they are Muslims or Christians. 

“Boko Haram believes it is justifiable to kill anyone who believes in Western education. But these other people, from our communication with them, say they are on a mission to spread their own belief and ideology but they do not force their belief and ideology on anyone.  They said the reason they struck was because government attacked them first and killed several of their comrades while some of them were taken into custody, including their teenage children. 

“They said they decided to go violent because of the pains, to revenge what government had done to them. They insisted that prior to this development,  they had never carried out any attack except to spread their ideology. So, that’s why we believe there is a need for government to understand the genesis of this issue and see if there is a justified reason to address some of the legitimate grievances and give peace a chance in the country in order to ensure security for the whole country, especially on the Abuja-Kaduna road. 

“These are people with misguided religious beliefs; they don’t care to die. The security agents saw them when we went to the forest for the release of the 11 victims. These are people going about with explosives strapped to their body; they are ready to detonate the explosives whenever there’s an emergency. So, they don’t care about even their own lives. 

“This is something that has no military solution because if you insist on the military option, there will inevitably be collateral damage and that is what the nation cannot afford, especially at this time. The captives are promising Nigerians, among them, we have people who have contributed in no small measure to national development; so many important people. 

“So, I think the government should understand the delicate situation. I still insist that the government must be ready to take very painful decisions since we still have majority of the victims with the abductors. Some of the painful decisions may go against the policy direction of the government, but I think it’s worth it.

The negotiator said the terrorists are disheartened how they have been neglected by the government with no social amenities while corrupt officials steal billions from the country’s treasury without consequences, he said the victims are in a very dehumanising and sad condition, hence government need to put in more efforts so they can be rescued.

“They told us they listen to news on radio and hear about people stealing public funds without consequences. They said they heard that someone stole N80bn. They said people steal billions while they have been neglected with their children, who do not go to school. 

“I think government must address the issue of out-of-school children; it’s alarming because most of these out-of-school children are vulnerable to being recruited by terrorists. I can assure you that a lot of recruitment is going on in the North and this is a potential time bomb.

“But apart from addressing insecurity or trying to suppress terrorists or bandits, I think it is important to equally tackle the issue of corruption, so that national resources will spread evenly. As long as poverty remains endemic and unprecedented, I can assure you that we have not seen the worst in terms of insecurity.

“It will take only God’s grace or will for anyone to survive the kind of condition in which they are being kept. Most of us could not hold back tears when they brought out the 11 victims that they released to us.  They brought them on motorcycles. Everybody cried when we saw their condition. There is no amount of description that will capture the agony, the pain. 

“That’s why I said rescuing the remaining ones should be treated as an emergency national issue. It should be at whatever cost. When the government is done and they release the rest, I believe you guys (journalists) will have access to them and ask them about the kind of condition they were subjected to. It’s really inhuman, dehumanising and anything can happen to anybody in that kind of environment. This is rainy season; their clothes will get wet, dry up and get wet again. There is no proper medication, food.

“Honestly, with the kind of system that we have and from experience, I can tell you that government needs to do a lot before we can see an end to this. It’s not a one-sided issue because even on the side of the security agencies, for example, there is so much corruption in military spending; lack of accountability. 

“We must accept the painful fact that some unpatriotic elements are benefiting from this insecurity issue. So, naturally many will not want it to stop. We must also accept the fact that there are issues of ignorance and poverty that must be addressed. There is also the issue of injustice. On this banditry issue, we have done so much analysis. We have been to many forests. 

“There’s a genesis to it. It started with cattle rustling that had been exploited by the highest level of security agencies. A situation where a law-abiding Fulani with over 1,000 cows that he had reared for so many years would just be taken overnight. If you dispossess someone like that and he got an offer to be recruited into something that can fetch him millions of naira, coupled with his ignorance, what do you expect? Even the cows being recovered are being extorted by security agencies. We have documented evidence on that. 

“As long as all this official injustice and official extortion are not addressed, honestly, if you have ignorant people, they can easily take the laws into their own hands and unfortunately, the victims will be innocent people in society because if they don’t have the means of attacking the security agencies, they will vent their anger on innocent people, and that’s what they have been doing, especially in the North.

“If I tell some stories, you will lament and you will pity this country. The people we are expecting to give us support officially end up frustrating us because we have explored what the government cannot; we have achieved what the government cannot.  These people have respect for Sheikh Gumi; it is left for the government to show goodwill by meeting some of the legitimate demands of these people. 

“We have consistently informed government about the grievances of these people whenever we meet with them in the forests. For example, they said since the country got independence, they haven’t had access to even pipe-borne water or even schools for their children. And this is the reality, if you go to some of the places. If you start providing these social amenities, I can tell you it will go a long way. 

“But the reality is that even the security agencies are frustrating us. To even see the President after making frantic efforts is a problem. In a serious democracy, people that sacrifice their lives the way we do, should be entitled to national honour and given due recognition. 

“And the only interest we have is not for us. Sheikh Gumi is not looking for money or name. He has passed that stage. What is he looking for? Just the peace of the country and nothing else. And most of us who engage in these efforts have our legitimate businesses. We don’t need anything from anybody.”

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