Kaduna train attack: ‘FG on top of the matter’ – Lai Mohammed, says Boko Haram, bandits abducted passengers


Following the abduction of over 100 passengers on the Abuja-Kaduna train shuttle, on Monday, March 28, by terrorists, the Federal Government says it is on top of the matter, adding that security agencies have intensified efforts to secure the release of the passengers from the ill-fated train.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture

 Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this, Wednesday, while fielding questions by State House correspondents at the end of the virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), in Abuja.

The meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The terrorists have since the attack release a series of videos urging the federal Government to meet their demands, which is said to the release of their commanders in detention, in addition to money.

Already, some of the abducted passengers have secured their freedom after paying ransom.

Only last week, a hostage captured during the train attack, the Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Ali-Hassan, was freed after his family reportedly paid N100 million as ransom, even as the terrorists claimed he was released as ‘we felt pity on him because of the month of Ramadan.’

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) confirmed that 22 passengers on the ill-fated Abuja-Kaduna shuttle train attacked by terrorists, Monday night of March 28, were abducted by the attackers.

Eight people were confirmed killed and 26 others injured in the attack, with over 100 unaccounted for.

 It would be recalled that a Kaduna-bound train, which left Abuja 6pm on last week Monday, was attacked by suspected terrorists around 7.45 pm, with just 15 minutes drive left for it to arrive Kaduna.

The terrorist had reportedly planted explosives believed to be IEDs on the rail track around Katari, Kaduna state which caused the Kaduna-bound train to derail from track.

It was gathered that the train which took off around 6 pm from the Idu train station at the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja on Monday hit an explosive device about 30 minutes to Rigasa train station in Kaduna.

However, Managing Director of NRC, Mr Fidet Okhiria, in a statement, said 146 of the confirmed 362 passengers onboard the ill-fated Abuja-Kaduna train are unreachable six days after the train was attacked by terrorists.

He, however, said the number of safe passengers had risen to 186.

Okhiria said 51 phone numbers on the manifest are either switched off or unreachable since Tuesday morning and 35 phone numbers on the manifest are ringing, but no response from the other end.

He also noted that 60 phone numbers on the manifest when called, responded non-existent.

The NRC boss clarified that 22 persons are reported missing by their relatives and eight persons were confirmed dead.

The terrorists had declared in a video posted by the assailants last Wednesday that the government knew what they wanted and threatened to murder the victims if their demands were not granted.

The video was created in response to the release of one of the victims, Mr Alwan Hassan, Managing Director of Bank of Agriculture.

According to one of the terrorists, who spoke in Hausa, the MD was freed owing to his age and in the spirit of Ramadan.

“We are the group that recently abducted passengers on the train. Among them is this man that has been pleading with us due to his old age and we felt pity on him because of the month of Ramadan, so, we want to give him back to his family,” they said in the video.

Another bandit, who was amongst others in military uniform, concurred with what their leader said, and asked the FG not to investigate them, else, the victims will be killed.

He said, “I want to reiterate that what he said is true. Don’t try to try to investigate us immediately or to rescue them because killing them is not an issue for us.

“We don’t want your money, if we wanted money, we wouldn’t have carried out the attack. You know what we want”.

Addressing journalists, Wednesday, Alhaji Mohammed said security agencies are working hard to unveil the group behind the attack and the abduction of the victims, urging Nigerians to also collaborate with security personnel to smoke out the criminals.

“What the Federal Government is doing won’t be the subject matter of a press conference, because we have lives at stake.

“The various arms of security are working night and day to unravel the mystery surrounding the attack as a whole.

“What I can assure you is that as we speak, the respective arms of government are actually engaged in getting those victims released.

“It is natural for a father or a mother of a kidnapped person to be worried and to be concerned.’’ the minister said

Mohammed stated that the Kaduna-bound train was attacked by a combined team of Boko Haram insurgents dislodged from the Northeast and bandits operating in Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara states.

“What is happening now is that there is a kind of an unholy handshake between bandits and Boko Haram insurgents.

“Preliminary report of what transpired at the Kaduna train attacks shows that there is a kind of collaboration between the bandits and Boko Haram terrorists dislodged from the Northeast.

“I can tell you very confidently that the Federal Government is on the top of this matter,” he added.

The minister assured that the military, in collaboration with other security agencies, had put in place measures to bring to an end the frequent attacks on innocent citizens.

“At the level of government, we appreciate the concerns of citizens and we are leaving no stone unturned, but we’ll not tell you specific steps we’re taking.

“I think it will be counterproductive and not going to aid or help those who are kidnapped or help the security forces who are tracing and ensuring that there’ll be no repeat of such attacks,’’ he stressed.

Also commenting on the security situation across the country, Minister of Defence retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, emphasised that the military would soon unravel those behind the incessant attacks and banditry.

“Honestly, I think the security chiefs are working hard to unveil those that are involved, and we will tell you very soon those that are carrying out these attacks.

“Both in Jos and in Kaduna, we will come and explain to the public what is really going on and our efforts to ensure that all these activities are stopped once and for all.

“We are really on top of the situation; we are planning hard and we will get it out as soon as possible,’’ he said.

Magashi also said the Council approved the purchase of more operational vehicles for the military.