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The Federal Government has stated that it paid no money for the release of 23 remaining kidnapped train passengers.
FG made the revelation on Friday, saying, plans are ongoing to resume the suspended train service soon.
It however said it will come up with a short and long-term sustainable plan in a few months to ensure the safety of the rail line and passengers.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo disclosed these in Abuja at a press briefing organised to officially welcome the 23 released kidnapped train passengers.
The Ministry had hinted that the released victims would be in the ministry but after hours of waiting, the minister explained the reason for their absence.
According to him, it was difficult to get them together after reuniting with their families on Thursday.
Speaking on the purported payment of ransom, he said: “It is not appropriate to reveal exactly what measures have been taken to secure the release of hostages of this nature.
“Now, there are two things I want you to bear in mind. Through this incident, it is the position of this government that under no circumstances should there be collateral damage.
“We all know what collateral damage is. In other words, the military and security agencies that have been charged with the responsibility of securing the release of these hostages should not act in a way that will endanger the lives of the same hostages.
“In other words, make sure that no hostage life is lost in the process of securing their release.
“There is a committee made up of some retired generals and some retired public officers of high ranking and status who assisted the military and the security agencies throughout the process of securing the release of these hostages.
“Number three, I want to state categorically that because this government does not support and approve ransom payment, no kobo was paid in exchange for the release of these 23 hostages and other ones as well.”
On resumption of the train service, he said: “I have told the press that rather than lose the life of a single Nigerian, we will rather stop the rail service.
“We could not resume with a clear conscience knowing the kind of trauma that both the victims and their loved ones were going through, we felt that it was not appropriate to resume rail services.
“Now, I can tell you, we are going to resume very soon. Now, to resume rail services, we have to put in place measures that will ensure that going forward such an incident never happens in this country.
“And so we have a short-term and a long-term plan. I’m going to address the press specifically on this hopefully next week, mindful of the fact that when it comes to security matters, there are certain categories are people who do not mean well for other people to know exactly what you are doing.
“But rest assured that the primary responsibility of any government as enshrined in our Constitution is the protection of the citizens live and property. This is what this government has always done and this is what this government will continue to do.
“The short-term measures will be put in place very quickly to enable rail services to commence and beyond a period of three months, we will put in place a sustainable plan that will ensure that our rail lines are safe and secure and people can travel on them with their minds and hearts assured of safety.”
On why the released victims were absent, he said: “The intention was for them to be here today. They were treated and looked after and made sure that everybody’s health was in good condition.
” They were also given replacement clothing. Because Mr. President happened to be in Kaduna yesterday for the passing out parade. The Nigerian Defence Academy provided an opportunity for him to meet with the 23 that were released and after meeting them, they were reunited with their families.
” It became difficult to get them back together and bring them here but the last time we spoke with their coordinator, they said they have a plan to come to the ministry to appreciate the government through the ministry of transportation. Hopefully, they will come next week.”
On whether they would be rehabilitated or compensated, he said: “I honestly have no answer for the question.”
Giving details on rehabilitation plans, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Magdalene Ajani said the victims were free to access post-traumatic treatment.
She said: “The plans for post-traumatic rehabilitation of the victims and family members are on. They have an open link with the hospitals they were treated.
“For the 23, most of them are resident in Kaduna and for the ones that were released earlier, they have open access to the hospital for such care.”
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