The passengers abducted by unknown gunmen on their way to Lagos from Enugu aboard a God Is Good Motors have secured their freedom, the transport company said in a statement on Monday.
Armed men blocked the passengers at Ore in Ondo State and whisked them away to an unknown destination, some of the victims who were released after their families paid ransom to the kidnappers had told PREMIUM TIMES last Saturday.
On Monday, the management of God Is Good Motors issued a statement saying the abducted passengers had been released.
It was the transport company’s first public statement about the incident which happened on September 13; relatives of the abducted passengers had expressed shock at the company’s failure to reach out to them more than a week later.
“On the 13th of September 2018, a couple of vehicles, including ours, were attacked by armed kidnappers and some people taken as hostages alongside seven passengers onboard our vehicle,” the company said in the statement.
“Thankfully by God’s grace and the efforts of the Nigerian Police Force, we received concrete information a few hours ago from the Police stating that the abducted passengers have been safely released, today the 24th of September 2018. We identify with the victims and their families at this time.”
The company said its priority after the incident was to immediately inform the respective security agencies who have the responsibility to secure lives and properties of Nigerians.
It also stated that it consistently communicated with the victims’ family members and shared new updates “as soon as we had them.”
“The police was also communicating directly with family members,” the statement added.
Both claims were denied by some of the victims’ relatives who had spoken to PREMIUM TIMES.
PREMIUM TIMES had obtained a copy of the company’s manifest for the botched journey and used it to contact some of the next-of-kins listed by the passengers.
The company further stated that it prioritised the obligation to the security of the passengers over calls by media platforms to make “premature statements” about the incident.
“We had to wait for all passengers to be released before making any public statement so that the security of our esteemed guests would not be jeopardised while investigations and search were ongoing, as is expected with delicate cases such as this,” the statement continued.
“We have in the course of this incident written to the Inspector General of Police, Minister of Transport, the Vice President and Minister of Defense to guarantee security on our roads and are confident that the Federal Government and concerned agencies will be galvanised to do more to secure the lives of Nigerians, while instituting policies that will enable road transport companies in Nigeria.”
A family member of one of the kidnap victims confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that his sister and her daughter were released on Monday.
“All I can say is that my sister and her daughter were released on Monday and it had nothing to do with God Is Good Motors,” the relative who wished to maintain his anonymity said.
“They had no input in their release.”
He, however, declined to say if a ransom paid for the release, promising to provide details at a later date.
Femi Joseph, the Ondo Police spokesperson, also confirmed the release of the passengers on Monday.
“We are on the trail of the kidnappers and I can tell you that some passengers have been released,” Mr Joseph, a deputy superintendent of police, told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday night.
“I can’t confirm if some of the passengers are still with the kidnappers as I have just told you what I was told by the officer on ground.
“By the time I get more facts, when I call him tomorrow he will give me more facts about the exact information.”