By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari says the Federal Government is doing everything within its powers to ensure the safe return of the remaining abducted passengers of ill-fated Abuja-Kaduna train.
Mr Femi Adesina, the president’s media aide, in a statement on Thursday in Abuja, said that Buhari gave the assurance when he met with representatives of victims of Kaduna train abduction in Abuja on Thursday.
He said since the “terrible and cowardly attack by the criminal elements” on March 28, the nation had joined the victims’ families to endure a period of difficulty and emotional pains.
The president, therefore, condoled with the families of the victims and those who lost their loved ones.
He told representatives of the families that in the immediate aftermath of the incident, several actions had been taken by government to bring succour to the affected families and prevent a recurrence in the country.
He also explained his reasons for discarding the use of lethal military force in extracting the remaining abductees.
‘‘I have been informed that at last count, there remain about 31 people in the hands of the kidnappers, and our determination is to work towards returning these 31 people to their families.
‘‘It is understandable that emotions typically run high; we have received several suggestions about the deployment of lethal military force in extracting those still being held in captivity.
‘‘This option has, indeed, been considered and evaluated.
‘‘However, the condition to guarantee a successful outcome and minimise potential collateral damage could not be assured and, therefore, that course of action had to be reluctantly discarded.
“My primary concern is to get everyone released safe and unhurt,’’ he added.
On his recent instruction to security and law-enforcement agencies to bring an end to inhumane action against innocent Nigerians, Buhari said:
‘‘Judging by the available reports to me and news that have begun emerging in the last few days, I will say they have heard this instruction and are responding appropriately.
‘‘In the past couple of days, you must have heard about the number of terrorists neutralised by the military and number of hostages freed. These efforts will not stop or reduce.
‘‘We must take the fight to the terrorists and demonstrate that there is no hiding place for them within the borders of our country.
‘‘Each one of them will be hunted and pursued and spoken to in the language that they understand,’’ he stated.
The president also used the occasion to commend the bravery and gallant actions taken by the policemen who were on-board the train during the attack.
‘‘It is clear that their actions saved many lives and by making the ultimate sacrifice, they must be recognised for their bravery,’’ he said.
Buhari stressed that he had never doubted the ability or confidence of those who had presented themselves to defend the country and the Kaduna train incident had reinforced the belief and faith of the nation in this special group of Nigerians.
‘I also would like to use this opportunity to say that we are cognizant of events that have unsettled our citizens in various parts of our nation and in Abuja, the capital.
‘‘I would like to comfort those who were traumatised by these tragic events and pledge that our response is to protect all Nigerians wherever they are.
‘‘My dear country men and women, we thank God that none of the released prisoners died due to the severe trauma they passed through in the hands of the terrorists,’’ he said.
According to him, this has shown that the efforts of government in securing their release are not in vain, as government continues to do its best to secure the release of the remaining abductees.
He assured that government would continue to ensure the overall security of all citizens in the country.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Jaji Sambo, said that in the first week of his resumption in the ministry, he met with the relatives of the victims of the Kaduna train attack.
According to him, he updated them of all the efforts the government is making to ensure safe return of their loved ones.
He described the audience with the president as a manifestation of the efforts by this administration to secure the release of all captives and a proof that ‘‘government is not resting on its oars’’.
A representative of the victims, Alhaji Sabiu Mohammed, however appealed to the Federal Government to expedite action towards the release of their remaining loved ones still in captivity.
‘‘Please, we want to see our loved ones and many have found themselves in very critical situations.
“We do not have the money that they (kidnappers) are demanding.
“Please, Mr President, we know you are doing your best…please, please we want to see our loved ones,’’ he pleaded.