23 Freed Abuja-Kaduna Train Passengers, Nigeria Security Forces and Used Clothe Sellers
By David-Chyddy Eleke
Last week, the news of the release of the remaining 23 hostages taken by bandits during the attack on Abuja-Kaduna bound train was received with joy.
The jubilation was high, and mostly from the officials and supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and members of the Nigeria security forces, the military particularly.
In a press release by Chief of Defense Staff Action Committee (CDSAC), led by Prof. Usman Yusuf, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor was generously praised for facilitating the release of the hostages.
Now, let me refresh your minds; on 28 March this year, bandits attacked an Abuja-Kaduna bound train. Train had become a more secure source of travel, since after bandits overran the Abuja-Kaduna highway, where they lay siege on a daily basis, and shepherd as many travellers as they can take, into the bushes, where they negotiate and receive ransom for the freedom of the passengers.
When it looked like everyone was afraid of using the Abuja-Kaduna highway, with many rich people abandoning their flashy cars to struggle for train tickets with the poor, the bandits sought to prove again that even rail travel was not safe. They attacked the train, killed about 10 persons and shepherded about 70 into the bush, from where they negotiated and collected ransom for the release of most of them.
On Sunday morning, I watched as Prof Usman Yusuf, chairman of the Chief of Defense Staff Action Committee (CDSAC), spoke on Arise TV, almost thumbing his chest for credit of the recent release of the 23 remaining hostages. He praised the military to high heavens for cooperating with his committee, to ensure their release. What really got me thinking was how he eulogized his committee, albeit for being able to secure the release of the hostages without payment of ransom.
Hear him: “We kept begging the military to give us more time to engage the bandits, to be able to secure the release of the hostages. Many times, the military wanted to strike, but we kept begging them. The military knew where the hostages were, and they even flew drones over the location, but we didn’t want a situation where the military will attack the location, and kill 50 people, and release 13 people. So, we kept begging them until we were able to secure the release of the remaining hostages. No ransom was paid.”
Did you all read that? No ransom was paid to secure the release of the 23 remaining hostages. Please, can we all clap for Prof. Yusuf’s committee.
Now, I had an experience long ago in Aba, Abia State, where my uncle sold used clothes, popularly refered to as Okrika or OK.
My uncle will go to an importer of bales of used clothes. He will pay N20,000 for a bale and take it to his shop. There are three methods of sale. First is, he can open the bale and sample the clothes in shop and sell to customers who need them. Second, he can open the bale and sell few very beautiful clothes in it at exorbitant prices, before discarding the rags among them. Third, he can negotiate with boutique operators, who will pay a certain amount of money and will pick an agreed number of the best clothes in the bale, and leave back the dregs.
Let me use the methods of sale to illustrate the kidnap of the Abuja-Kaduna Train Passengers to you. My uncle (bandit) buys a bale of used clothes (total 70 kidnapped passengers) for N20,000. In his shop, he opens the bale, and of course, a bale is a mixture of beautiful clothes, and useless rags all in same package. He either sells the very beautiful clothes (high value passengers among the hostages who could pay ransom) in the bale, or gives a boutique operators the chance to select the very best at an agreed amount.
For a N20,000 bale, my uncle could sell the few beautiful clothes in the bale and make up to N25,000 or even N30,000. The remaining which are not so good are auctioned for any amount, but the very last grade are so bad that no one buys them. My uncle and his other Okrika sellers refer to those ones as CONDE. This is short for condemned dresses, and in order to decongest the shop for a new bale that will arrive the next day, the conde dresses are rounded up and taken to charity homes or sold at a very ridiculous price to some people, dashed out or thrown away. The reason is that My uncle has made his profit, and needs to clear the shop for a new bale.
Does Prof. Yusuf or the Nigerian Army need to rejoice? After over over six months in captivity, the bandits have made good profit, releasing the passengers who could pay ransom in hundreds of millions, and when it was like the conde were choking the shops where new consignments could be brought, they packaged them and sent it to us for free and we rejoiced (apologies for referring to humans as CONDE).
Our leaders must sit up. We are no longer fooled by all these rhetorics. I will stop here, so that I won’t be accused of undermining the war against terrorism, but we already know why ransom was not paid for the remaining 23 hostages.