Thirty days after the abduction of the Abuja-Kaduna-bound train passengers, relatives and friends of the victims said they were still traumatised by the incident.
They noted that the government had yet to reach out to them.
In an exclusive interview with Punch, the leader of the families of the victims, Dr Abdulfatai Jimoh, in Kaduna on Wednesday said they were willing to discuss with the terrorists if that remained the only option to see their loved ones released unhurt.
He said, “The situation is still the same. There is no communication from them (the bandits). It was our relations that we spoke to the last time they called. We have not spoken with the kidnappers at all.
“The kidnappers said it was the government they wanted to talk to, that was why they had not called us. If there is an option, we would have explored it.
“They are not calling anybody and we can’t stretch them. It is only the government that can talk to them.”
When asked if they would be willing to negotiate should the bandits offer to negotiate with them, he said, “We will because there is nothing we can do. We don’t have the power to force them to release our relatives. If that is the only thing they want, we will discuss it with them. We understand the government is discussing with them and we want to believe that the government is talking to them. We just want the whole process to come to an end successfully and quickly.
“Just like you asked if it was an option to negotiate with the bandits, you know for now, it’s not an option, I mean, talking with the bandits. We don’t have that option yet but of course, if there is an option and it is the only option that we have, we will discuss it with them.”
Jimoh appealed to the bandits to release their loved ones unhurt as they (abductees) are innocent of what transpired between them and the government.
Meanwhile, the Senate has amended the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013, by prohibiting payment of ransom to kidnappers in Nigeria.
A breach of the proposed law may attract a jail term of 15 years.
The amendments are contained in the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022, passed by the Senate on Wednesday following the consideration and adoption of the report by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
The committee’s chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, who laid the report, said in his presentation that the bill sought to outlaw payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers and terrorists for release of any person who had been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped.
“The overall import of this bill is to discourage the rising spate of kidnapping and abduction for ransom In Nigeria, which is fast spreading across the country,” Bamidele said.
Commenting on the bill after its passage, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the proposal would complement the Federal Government’s efforts in the fight against insecurity when it is signed into law by the President.
“It is our belief here in the Senate, that this bill, by the time signed into an Act by Mr President, will enhance the efforts of this government in the fight against terrorism, kidnapping, and other associated and related vices. This is one piece of legislation that can turn around not only the security situation in Nigeria, but even the economic fortunes of our country,” he said.