The Nigerian Military has released 144 out of 486 Port Harcourt – bound travellers suspected to be members of the extremist Boko Haram group.
The men were arrested last week in Aba, Abia State, along the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, while travelling at night in a convoy of 35 buses from Northern Nigeria.
The defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, had said that a wanted Boko Haram suspect was identified during the screening of those arrested. He did not name the suspect.
But a security source told PREMIUM TIMES after the arrest that in addition to the lone suspect, 86 of the travellers were identified as suspected terrorists.
The Coordinator of the National Information Centre, Mike Omeri, said on Wednesday that 144 out of the 486 arrested have been released after preliminary examination.
He disclosed this Wednesday at a press briefing on efforts made by the government to secure the release of the abducted more than 200 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram.
Mr. Omeri said that one of the suspected sponsors of the travellers has been identified by security agents.
He, however, declined to state the name of the alleged sponsor.
“144 of the number have been released. It is expected that the media and the general public will be kept abreast of further developments,” said Mr. Omeri.
“Importantly, one of the (suspects) connected with the package of the trip has been named and investigation is painstakingly continuing to unravel the issues involved in the incidence,” he added.
On reports that about 60 women and children were abducted last weekend in Borno State, Mr. Omeri said that there was “nothing on the ground to prove any act of abduction as reported.”
“It is on record that our findings were also corroborated by the position of the Borno State Government as conveyed by Governor Kashim Shettima who said that there are no sufficient facts on the alleged abduction of 60 persons,” Mr. Omeri said.
“We hereby wish to state that based on available facts before us there was no abduction of 60 persons in Borno State,” he added.
Mr. Omeri also assured Nigerians that troops have continued to carry out surveillance around the areas where the abducted Chibok girls are suspected to be held.