There was an outrage on Sunday over the brutal whipping of some of the 43 passengers abducted from the Kaduna-Abuja train by their captors.
No fewer than eight persons were killed and 61 others kidnapped during the attack at Katari, Kaduna, on March 28.
In a viral video posted on social media, the hoodlums were seen flogging the male victims who wailed in pain as their female counterparts watched helplessly in horror and fear.
The 10 minutes, 51 seconds video which was captured on a mobile phone showed a leader of the abducted passengers soliciting the assistance of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and other members of the international community.
The video generated widespread anger from the victims’ families and Nigerians who berated the Federal Government over its failure to rescue the hostages who had been in captivity for about four months.
The terrorists, who were demanding a N100m ransom for each of the 43 abductees, were said to have been annoyed by the delayed payment of the ransom.
As part of their demands, the militants had requested the release of 15 terrorist commanders, including their children detained by the military and an undisclosed amount of cash.
The Managing Director of the Bank of the Agriculture, Alwan Hassan, was the first to be released after reportedly paying a N100m ransom on April 7.
On June 12, the terrorists released 11 hostages after 75 days in captivity, through the assistance of the Publisher of Kaduna-based Desert Herald newspaper, Mallam Tukur Mamu, who has been negotiating with the militants.
Another seven regained their freedom on July 9, few days after the Islamic State West Africa Province attacked the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre, Abuja, and freed the masterminds of the train attack, including 64 terrorist commanders in custody.
One of the terrorists in the video vowed to abduct the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Kaduna State Governor, Nasiru El-Rufai, senators and other prominent Nigerians, including Senators and governors and destabilise the country if their demands were not met.
The terrorists also threatened to kill and sell off some of the abductees as slaves.
He said, “This is our message to the government of Nigeria and just as you have seen these people here, by God’s grace, you will see your leaders; your senators and governors will come before us. These ones you are seeing here, we will keep some as our slaves and sell them off just as our Imam told you in the past.
“Just like the Chibok girls that were sold off, we will equally sell these ones as slaves. If you don’t adhere to our demands, we will kill the ones we need to kill and sell the remaining. By God’s grace, El-Rufai, Buhari, we will bring you here.”
Kuje escapee boasts
One of the terrorists was also seen celebrating his escape during the attack on the Medium Security Prison, Kuje, Abuja. “Government should know, I am part of those who escaped from Kuje. They said they would exchange me for these (train passengers), but look at me, God brought me out safely. I am holding a gun again. We would destroy this land completely. If you want to become a Muslim, come and become a Muslim now’ he stated in Hausa.
Speaking while the beating was going on, the abductees’ leader who was not identified, stated, “We are part of those who were kidnapped from the Kaduna-bound train. Our family members were supposed to come for us but the Nigerian government hindered them from coming to receive us.
“This is why we are calling on the international community and greater countries such as England, America, France and Saudi Arabia to intervene to ensure that we receive our freedom because these terrorists, they don’t intend to keep us here for up to a week. Pay them the ransom they have demanded and let them set us free. But the Nigerian Government botched this matter and showed that it was not concerned.
“Because of this we are once again calling on the bigger countries of the world such as Saudi Arabia, England and France and the rest of the international community, ECOWAS, AU to help us ensure we return to our families.”
A family member, whose younger brother was among those flogged in the video, Hassan Mohammed, said her mother collapsed after seeing the video of her son being flogged mercilessly by the terrorists.
According to him, the video has devastated him and his family.
Mohammed stated, “I have been demoralised after seeing that video. I don’t know what to do next. Since yesterday night that we were sent the video I have been thinking of what the next line of action should be. I could not believe my younger brother was part of those that were flogged.
“It demoralised everyone in the family. Our mother fainted after seeing the video. Initially, we didn’t want her to see the video but I knew that she would get to see it on social media so a neighbour told her about the video and she called me immediately to confirm.
“At that point there was no need trying to hide it from her. Since the incident occurred, she has not been feeling well and we have been consoling her to keep praying but she could not bear her son being beaten. I can’t call his (brother) wife to tell him about the video as a result of this. Our government has failed us.”
The leader of the victims’ families under the umbrella of relatives of AK9 Abuja-Kaduna train kidnapped passengers, Aminu Othman, said the interception of the ransom by the military infuriated the terrorists.
He called on the government and the military to allow them to pay the ransom to free their loved ones since they could not rescue them.
Othman said, “You saw the video and you heard what they said. Three of the victims’ relatives arranged with them for their release; when they went (to the terrorists’ camp), the military stopped them from getting there. That was what triggered this video.
‘’The government is not doing anything and those that want to pay you are not allowing them. For over 120 days they beat them only once and that was yesterday, just to show you how angry they are. Our plea to the government and the military is that if they know they cannot rescue them, let them allow the family members to go by themselves to free their relatives. It is a very sad situation.”
Another family member, Idayat Yusuf said, “I could not stop crying after seeing the video. These people have been in the bush for over 100 days; nobody thinks we still have people there, everybody has their mind on the 2023 elections.
‘’Many of them who want to be president have never said a word not to talk of meeting with us. It is unfortunate the kind of country we are in.”
Military, DSS, police
The military and other security agencies did not respond to requests for reactions to the video on Sunday.
The Director, Defence Information, Defence Headquarters, Maj Gen Jimmy Akpor did not pick calls to his phone and was yet to respond to a text message sent to his line.
Also, the Department of State Services spokesman, Peter Afunanya did not respond to calls and a text message sent to him on the threat to the President.
The police spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi, declined comment when contacted for reactions.
But reacting to the incident, a security expert, Chidi Omeje, advised Nigerians to seek divine intervention, noting that the Federal Government has failed in protecting her citizens.
The analyst observed that the threatened abduction of the President was significant, noting that no country would laugh over the issue.
Jackson Ojo wondered why the government could not track the terrorists despite its access to an array of technologies.
In his assessment of the video, a security risk consultant, Kabir Adamu, noted that the terrorists were getting desperate because they have not obtained what they were looking for.
He noted, ‘’There are a couple of things that became very clear with that video: First, the abductors are getting desperate that they haven’t gotten what they wanted. At least, we have an idea of what the demands were: they wanted 10 of their members released which has been done but it appears they want more of their members who are in custody of the government released.’’
The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Dare-Ariyo Atoye, blamed the Federal Government for failing to address the issue with the seriousness it deserves.
The Spokesman of the Coalition for the Northern Groups, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, urged Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves, noting with regret that the terrorists are exploiting the failure of the government to protect Nigerians.
Abdul’aziz said, “In the face of the latest development, Nigerians would be right to resort to self-protection because obviously the bandits and insurgents have sensed a huge vacuum in the capacity and political will to challenge them.’’
The Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, contended that the president has shown that he is unwilling to solve the security issue.