Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, on Sunday disclosed that 12 of the remaining 14 kidnapped victims from the Igueben Train Station attack have been rescued by a combined team of security operatives.
The operation was carried out by a Special Force of soldiers, policemen, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), local vigilance members, hunters, among others.
Travellers who were waiting to board a train from Igueben in Igueben Local Government Area of the state to Warri in Delta State, were penultimate week kidnapped by suspected herdsmen.
The suspected herdsmen, who were armed with AK 47 rifles, had invaded the train station and shot sporadically into the air before herding unspecified number of intending travellers into the bush.
In the process, some of the passengers, the state police command had revealed, sustained bullet wounds, just as it had assured that bush combing and rescue operations had begun to rescue those that were kidnapped.
The initial reports were that 31 were kidnapped but the state government later said 20 people were kidnapped contrary to the earlier reports. Prior to the latest rescue operation, seven of the travellers had been rescued.
But on Sunday, the state government said 12 of the remaining 14 kidnapped victims had been rescued by a combined team of security operatives
The victims were rescued when the security team tracked and intercepted the abductors in their hideout.
The security operatives were said to have been tactful in their approach to ensure that no life was lost in the operation.
During the encounter with the abductors, 12 of the victims were rescued, while some of the kidnappers were arrested.
However, few of the kidnappers escaped with two of the hostages. The security team, he said, was getting the needed support and encouragement to ensure the rescue of the two remaining victims.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, visited the 12 rescued kidnapped victims at the Police Cottage Hospital in GRA, Benin City, where they had been taken for medical attention and rehabilitation after the rescue operation.
The governor was joined on the visit by heads of security agencies and other government functionaries.
He reassured the people of the state that government would leave no stone unturned in securing the release of the two remaining hostages.
The governor hailed the crack team made up of various security agencies in the state, hunters and members of the Edo State Security Network.
He noted that their gallantry and tactfulness proved instrumental to the success recorded.
The Edo State government assured families of the two remaining abductees that it would deploy the full apparatus of state in ensuring their release.
The government also reassured all residents that it was committed to the protection of life and property in Edo.
Obaseki called on relevant authorities to investigate the negligence of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) which led to the kidnap attack at the Igueben train station in Igueben Local Government Area.
According to him, “How will the corporation deploy just one policeman to guard the Igueben train station after recording a kidnap incident in Kaduna.
“I must express our disappointment at the management of the Nigerian Railway Corporation because after the Kaduna incident, you would expect that they would have secured their facilities better. Six men came into their facility to kidnap people. This is something that has to be investigated.
“It doesn’t speak well of their preparedness to run an effective and efficient railway system in Nigeria and doesn’t give confidence to Nigerians that they will be safe using that mode of transportation. You can’t tell me that in a facility like the Igueben train station, you have just one policeman with one raffle guarding that facility especially after what happened in Kaduna.
“I believe that the corporation knows what it’s doing and should be investigated and ensure such incidents should not happen to any Nigerian again.”
The governor said information indicted some traditional rulers in the area who have disobeyed government directives against open grazing as they still harbour herders in their communities.
“We have information that some traditional rulers in that area do not obey and respect government decision to discourage open grazing by herders in their forests.
“I have instructed that those traditional rulers should be investigated and anyone found to be harbouring the herders will have questions to answer because that was what led to this incident. Communities that obeyed don’t have such incidents in their domain.
Asked if ransom was paid to secure the release of the victims, Obaseki said: “No money was paid for their release as our special forces engaged in the joint operation and overpowered the kidnappers and rescued 12 persons and the kidnappers ran away with two victims.”
“We are happy as a state and people that we have been able to secure the release of those kidnapped at the Igueben train Station over a week ago. It has been a very difficult situation as the might, will and security system we put in place in Edo State has been tested. We are glad the system is resilient,” he said.
On his part, the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Muhammed Dankwara, said the kidnappers operated at the Ugboha and Udo forests where special security forces laid ambush for them for over a week at the forest.
He noted that as the kidnappers were trying to move their victims around that location, they were intercepted and were only able to escape with two other victims.
He added: “We are working to ensure those two are released. We have arrested some persons who are a syndicate of this kidnapping gang. They are in our custody. Initially we rescued 10, with this 12 rescued we have just two left with the kidnappers. We assure Edo people that we will rescue them.”
One of the rescued victims, Mr. Christian Iyere commended the Edo State Government and all the security agencies that collaborated to rescue them.
Another victim identified as Aguele Betrice said the rescue operation was timely as it has saved their lives and freed their families and loved ones from trauma.
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City