Families of people kidnapped from a train in Nigeria’s Kaduna state two months ago are protesting a decision by authorities to resume service on the railway next week.
Officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) said trains would begin running between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna city again on Monday.
Relatives of kidnapped victims met Thursday morning to protest the planned resumption of train service on the Kaduna-Abuja line.
Authorities suspended service indefinitely on March 28, the day armed men blew up tracks in Kaduna and attacked a train. Nine people were killed during the attack and scores are still missing.
During Thursday’s protest, the spokesperson of the group, Abdulfatai Jimoh, said at least 61 people were believed to be held captive, including Jimoh’s wife.
He said the government has been insensitive to the families’ plight.
“Our relatives kidnapped are still in captivity and we want them to be freed first before they can start thinking of that,” he said. “We want the NRC management and the Ministry of Transportation to put adequate security measures in place to guarantee the safety of passengers before train services can resume. These are the minimum conditions we require from them.”
Idahat Yusuf’s two sisters, both in their 50s, are also among the abducted passengers. She does not understand why the NRC would restart train service.
“It’s a national pain, it’s not only the families’ pain, so why would they choose to move on like that?” she asked.
The NRC said the decision to resume operations was not a sign of insensitivity to the situation and said efforts to have the captives released were continuing.
Security experts said negotiations have been deadlocked since the kidnappers demanded that authorities release members of their gang in exchange for the abductees.
Jimoh said the families have been given few details about the talks.
“We have information from government sources that discussions are ongoing with the abductors,” he said. “We just don’t know the extent or how far they have gone in these negotiations.”
The kidnappers have freed only three abductees, including a pregnant woman who told local news organizations that she was freed out of pity.
Northern Nigeria has seen a wave of kidnappings for ransom over the past 18 months.
This week, police arrested 31 people on charges of abducting students from a school in Kaduna state last year. Authorities also recovered 61 firearms, 376 rounds of ammunition, 22 cartridges and $5,000 cash.