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52 days later, where are 68 train passengers

By Editorial Board
18 May 2022   |   3:55 am
Today, exactly 52 days ago, dare-devil terrorists in Katari, Kaduna State, ferried 68 rail passengers into captivity. Clearly, the government and security agencies technically know these abductors and what they want.

[FILES] The train attacked on the Abuja-Kaduna Railway at Rijana Kagarko LGA, in Kaduna.

Today, exactly 52 days ago, dare-devil terrorists in Katari, Kaduna State, ferried 68 rail passengers into captivity. Clearly, the government and security agencies technically know these abductors and what they want. It is bad enough that the criminal gang showed superior intelligence than the Nigerian State to earn the commanding position. Most unacceptable is the laidback approach of the government and security agencies to recover abductees by whatever means necessary. Yet, failure to do so is not a credit to the floundering ruling class; rather, it again affirms this current administration as one deficient in compassion, competence and sincerity.

Except for family members that continue to hold vigils and media briefings toward abductees’ safe return home, the March 28 dastardly attack on innocent citizens has nearly flame out of notoriety. The Federal Government has seemingly moved on, though occasionally mouths what needed to be done without any inclination of security agencies searching the forest to rescue anyone. And the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has fixed its bombed coaches, and now warming up to resume Abuja-Kaduna operation as if March 28 didn’t happen. It did happen and the reason scores of abductees are still missing and much to the agony of relatives. But where is the Federal Government, especially the president that swore to keep Nigerians safe and secured? Where is the Commander-in-Chief in all these?

Shortly after the attack that killed eight persons and injured 26, the criminal gang had demanded the release of some of its detained commanders and financiers in exchange for abductees. The Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Hassan, was released following the payment of huge ransom. One of the abductees had been delivered of a baby in exile, with the abductors showing photos of the newborn for the world to see. Reports have it that the gangs even invited a doctor to take delivery of the newborn. These pieces of information, when put together, frame a well-coordinated yet a near-by network of criminal enterprise that a determined security agency should burst rather quickly. Without any denial yet, the government has valuable members of this terrorist group in its custody. Note that the police in Kaduna recently arrest a serving councillor with evidences of transporting firearms to bandits in the forest! These high profile suspects and detainees are pointers to operations and abode of the larger group(s), if the security agencies are interested in crackdown. It is therefore untenable that 52 days had gone by without headway for the freedom of the abductees.

Perhaps it borders more on the lack of compassion and competence of the current administration. President Buhari was in 2015 elected into office both as a rebuke for the maladministration of Goodluck Jonathan and for promise to do a better job on security than the incumbent. But Buhari settled in office in betrayal of the peoples’ devotion. Nigerians have not seen fulfillment of his promise but they can feel him exerting more energy at creating a dreadful and wild country. That foreclosed other promises of socio-economic development long time ago, even as the country becomes the poverty capital of the world. In the general lack of compassion and sincerity, the government has forgotten 109 out of 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, that were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents a year before Buhari came to power. Leah Sharibu, a Christian who resisted renunciation of faith, is still left behind four years after. These girls and their parents have been abandoned to their fate, contrary to Buhari’s promises and expectation of his powerful office. Needless to say, thousands of Nigerians captured by bandits and terrorists in less prominent circumstances are still languishing in captivity, if they are alive. But the 68 recently abducted should not add to the toll of the lost and forgotten. Indeed, lives of all Nigerians held in captivity should matter to a responsible and compassionate administration and a fatherly Commander-in-Chief too. Failure of Buhari’s government to, for once, be empathetic to Nigerians has rightly fuelled speculation that he is conniving with and protecting the marauders who are believed to be fellow Fulani.

Of symbolic profundity is the narcissistic attitude of the political elite. It is all about their selfish interest. Except when directly touched, they are rarely bothered by the plight of citizens that they claim to represent. In the last 51 days that the abductees have been marooned into the kidnappers den, the political class has looked the other way. They are rather jostling for relevance in the next dispensation. Head of the legislative arm that is saddled with checks and balances, Ahmad Lawan, and ministers have been scheming to replace Buhari in 2023, to, from every indication, elongate same inefficiency. Otherwise, why are they completely oblivious of the plight of Nigerians that this administration and its handlers have failed disastrously? Why do their pains and agonies fail to elicit questions from the National Assembly that consistently railroad billions to security yearly? Why is the legislature all too comfortable with failed policing system, completely withdrawn armed forces and aloof Commander-in-Chief? Why didn’t the House of Representatives as well summon a stakeholders’ meeting for the release of innocent Nigerians, in the manner it hastily intervened in the jet fuel crisis between private airlines and their marketers? Or is it because air travel shutdown will affect elite more than torments of scores in kidnappers’ den would do? Governance is all about problem-solving to deepen common humanity. Why has this one failed in that remit and the same set of miserable failures are angling to succeed this atrocious regime of their making?

It is disastrous that 21st Century Nigeria has sunk into this quagmire where common criminals are holding innocent citizens to ransom and dictating to a constituted authority of the so-called giant of Africa. Government must accept responsibility for this situation and do everything to ensure safe return of abductees. Insofar as the elected officeholders value their tenancy and not ready to let go, they owe Nigerians that constitutional duty of security and welfare. Not too many Nigerians will care how the abductees are released. Just bring them home safely to their families and forestall a recurrence. It is a duty expected of a leadership that has a modicum of honour and allegiance to the people. Enough of excuses please!