With the heart-rending image of the innocent baby delivered in a terror dungeon, it should dawn on members of the National Assembly who recently criminalized payment of ransom how dead that legislation will be if eventually signed into law. Which father or relative won’t give an arm or a leg to prevent their offspring from being born into the hands of terrorists? Pictures have since gone viral of the newborn girl dressed in a thick pink dress and a light lemon sweat cap, with her eyes closed. The chilling image queries how low it can get before the authorities wake up to their responsibilities. Nigeria failed her and her expectant mother.
The woman, in her eighth month of pregnancy, was among captives taken into the bush that fateful night by terrorists operating in Kaduna State. These terrorists, suspected to be Ansaru, a breakaway faction of the Boko Haram sect, had on March 28, 2022, planted explosives on the rail track which demobilized an AK9 Abuja – Kaduna train, enabling them to kill at least nine passengers and injuring several others.
Out of the 63 abducted train passengers taken by them into captivity after the attack, only the Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA), Alwan Hassan, was released after purportedly paying N100 million ransom. The abductors however did a video to say his release was because he is an elderly man and in the spirit of Ramadan. As for the other captives, the terrorists pegged their freedom on the government releasing some of their commanders being incarcerated.
Nigerians have endued different shades of the horrors of terrorism but the sight of a hapless infant born into captivity is quite sombre. Her mother’s only crime was that she boarded a public train from Abuja to Kaduna even as the infant’s only undoing is to be in this clime. The terrorists, in a showboating move, have chosen to tug at everyone’s heartstrings by releasing the pictures of the healthy-looking baby who they saw to her delivery right there in the forest. A bundle of joy expected to be born into the warmth of loving arms has turned into a source of concern as regards how well-being in that most harrowing and harshest of conditions.
Naija News is alarmed that the state of insecurity in Nigeria has so degenerated that unborn babies and infants are allowed to remain under the tight grip of terrorists. How more brutish can life be? We recall that relatives of the abducted victims had embarked on protests, tasking the government to see to the release of their loved ones. After a video of the abductees urging the federal government’s intervention surfaced online, the traumatized relatives addressed a press conference.
According to their spokesperson, “We are appealing to them to open a channel of discussion with the bandits and get our loved ones out as quickly as possible. We have been in serious anguish over the past 15 days. Many of us have not been sleeping. We are like living corpses”. They followed this up with a trip to the Headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), where one of them collapsed overwhelmed by misery. Their leader, Aliya Mahmoud, said, “There is a two-year-old. For God’s sake, we can only imagine what they’re going through. We have an aged woman of 85 years she is there helplessly just like the others”.
The distraught families cited the case of two pregnant abductees one of whom was said to have a history of delivering through cesarean section. While it’s unclear if the woman that has just been delivered of a baby is the one with a CS antecedent, it is highly reprehensible for the federal government and security agencies not to be moved by the condition of these women into going all out to secure their release. These are people who paid and were onboard the Nigeria Railway Corporation train when they were attacked.
Without taking away the primary responsibility of government to the citizens, the government shouldered the double duty of safely taking these passengers to their destination as part of the terms for their patronage of the public parastatal’s services. It is a thing of wonder how the Minister under whose watch this sad event happened could still be all over the place prosecuting his presidential ambition!
Unfortunately, this is one instance where the affected Nigerians can’t help themselves. While the families are eager to pay ransom for the release of their loved ones, the terrorists only want a swap deal with the government. Why shouldn’t the needful be done when pregnant captives are now giving birth in captivity despite President Buhari’s month-old matching order for security operatives to secure the release of all abducted Nigerians? Naija News demands that the government urgently speaks the language that these terrorists understand. It is either they smoke out these criminals with heavy bombardment or resort to backchannels to free these Nigerians. It is foolhardy for a government that hasn’t shown the capacity to route terrorists to grandstand on non-negotiation despite the grave risk such stance poses to citizens.
That these terrorists could get doctors and medical supplies into the forest for the safe delivery of a captive in labour shows that these terrorists have formed a community and operate an entire ecosystem inside Nigeria as if the sovereignty of ungoverned spaces has been ceded to them. How can citizens see and yet be expected to trust the state rather than pay ransom for the release of their loved ones? The way we see it; by the released images, the terrorists are passing across the message that they have become lords unto themselves in Nigeria.
We, therefore, expected the Nigerian Senate to be more concerned about demystifying the terrorists before amending the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013 to prohibit the payment of ransom to kidnappers in the country. While they are not expected to go and fight the terrorists, members of the Red Chambers are better placed to mount pressure on those who should. The Senate has not been as passionate as the House of Representatives in decrying the heightened insecurity in the country.
While the Reps at some point threatened to shut the chambers, their colleagues in the Red Chambers carry on as if they are living in a different world. It is therefore not surprising that the Senators have now come up with this legislation against the payment of ransom, the implementation of which remains to be seen. Is it not those in their league that are quick to part with millions when abducted as was reported about the BoA boss? They must know that they won’t be in power forever!
Naija News reiterates to the government the two options before it: take the battle to the terrorists’ enclave or negotiate with them. Either way, freedom must come the way of all Nigerians in captivity. President Buhari’s matching order to the service chiefs must count for something, lest history judges him as a lame-duck President who could not assert himself in the most important leg of his tripod agenda, particularly as his performance in the other two has been no less calamitous.
Meanwhile, this newspaper cannot but point out that Nigeria’s social media community also failed the poor infant. During their protest at the NHRC Headquarters mid April, relatives of the abducted victims urged netizens to us #SaveAK9Trainpaseengers in putting the federal government on its toes towards facilitating the rescue of the abductees. The hashtag did not trend. If only it had got a slice of the attention being given to the thespian who came clean with his second marriage, perhaps the government would have forced to ensure that a she-goat did not suffer the pain of childbirth while tied to a tether. After all, the Governor of the State in question had revealed that security agencies know the location.