Nigeria is in mourning following the Monday night bombing of the Kaduna-bound train by hundreds of terrorists.
The train was forced to a halt after the terrorists planted bombs on the tracks. Witnesses said the attackers later surrounded most of the coaches and opened fire before they forcefully gained access, fired at random, which led to the death of some people.
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They also forced some of the travellers, among them dozens of women and children out of the train into the nearby bushes.
Some witnesses said about nine corpses from the ill-fated train have been recovered and deposited at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital Kaduna, while doctors have been battling to save the lives of those who sustained critical gunshot wounds.
Other sources said those killed were between nine and ten, while the Kaduna State government and the ministry of transportation put the casualty figure at eight.
Many families have taken to the social media where they announced the death of their loved ones while others said theirs were still missing because they could not be accounted for by authorities while their telephone lines could not be reached.
Sources at the Rigasa Train Station said two staff of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) were among the casualties even though our correspondent could not independently confirm this.
The train, which had been attacked in the past reportedly left Abuja, the Nigeria’s capital, at about 6 pm on Monday before it was attacked between Katari and Rijana communities in Kaduna State.
It was reportedly conveying over 350 passengers as the train service remained the “safest’ in recent times as a result of the rampant attacks by terrorists on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, which had claimed hundreds of lives in the last few years.
With the latest incident, which prompted the suspension of train services through the Abuja corridor, access to Kaduna and by extension many parts of the North West and North East have been restricted considering the stoppage of most commercial flights to Kaduna following the terrorists’ siege on the airport at the weekend.
Since the commencement of rail transportation between Abuja and Kaduna, thousands of travellers have avoided the 150km road and opted for the train, which appeared safer.
As of Tuesday morning, our correspondents gathered that about 25 victims who sustained gunshot wounds were receiving treatment at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital and St. Gerald Hospital, all in Kaduna.
“Doctors are battling to save the lives of some of the critically injured,” said a staff of the military hospital who asked not to be identified.
Our correspondents who visited the army hospital observed panicking relatives at the waiting area as they moved around the emergency section to know the fate of their loved ones. Many of them were seen praying while others were caught in deep thought while awaiting the status of their relatives from the hospital authorities.
A health worker at the hospital who pleaded for anonymity confirmed to Daily Trust that nine bodies had been deposited at the hospital’s mortuary. “So far, there are nine bodies all with gunshot wounds, in fact, one of the victim’s head was badly damaged because he was hit by the bullet on the forehead.”
Fresh attack on emergency train
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi yesterday confirmed that eight people were killed during the attack. He stated this shortly after he visited the scene of the attack.
“The numbers we have showed that there are eight casualties. There are 25 persons in the hospital and the total number of passengers is 398,” the minister told journalists.
It was learnt yesterday that there was a fresh attempt to attack one of the emergency service trains shuttling between Abuja and Kaduna.
However, our correspondents could not establish whether the attempted siege was on the train conveying the transportation minister or another one as many prominent government officials had visited the scene yesterday.
A source said military operatives succeeded in repelling the assailants based on the security report they received while on the train.
The visibly angry Amaechi told reporters that Monday’s attack would have been foiled if his colleagues (who he didn’t name) did not block the procurement of N3 billion high capacity rail track cameras and sensors that will eliminate all blind spots on the train corridors across the country.
“We knew what the problems will be. We know we needed to have digital security equipment on the corridors. We applied for it. Let me just stop here so I don’t hurt so many people. But I heard the president has given a directive that the procurement must be completed immediately,” he said.
According to him, “If we had those equipment on the tracks, you will see the entire track. And we warned that lives will be lost. Now lives are lost; eight persons dead and 25 persons are in the hospital. We don’t know how many people have been kidnapped. And the cost of those equipment is just N3bn. The cost of what we have lost is more than N3bn. We have lost track. We have lost locomotives and coaches. We have lost human beings. And the equipment is just N3bn. To fix the damages will cost more than N3bn.”
Amaechi said contacts tracing had started to identify everyone on the train. “The Kaduna State government and the Nigerian Railway Corporation are all trying to make contact with those on the manifest. There are a few persons who are not on the manifest like the staff of the NRC, staff of the cleaning contractor, they are not on the manifest and we may not be able to completely account for them but those on the manifest, calls are being made to reach them.”
On his part, the Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan said the Kaduna State government had received from the NRC, the detailed passenger manifest.
According to the documents received, he said 398 passengers bought tickets for the trip, but 362 were validated as having boarded the train through the recognised turnstile.
“Investigations are still ongoing to ascertain the status of the passengers who were onboard the train and remain unaccounted for at the time of this update. Search operations are also being sustained,” he said.
Our correspondent gathered from sources at the Kubwa and Idu Train Stations that at least ten dead bodies were evacuated. Besides those killed, the sources said that most of those kidnapped were VIP passengers.
High profile victims
The Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria, Barrister Musa-Lawal Ozigi, was among the passengers killed when terrorists bombed the train.
President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, who confirmed the killing of Ozigi said he was killed alongside the Kwara State Chairman of the union, Comrade Akin Akinsola.
According to Olaleye, they were on their way to Kaduna for an official assignment slated for Tuesday, 29 March 2022.
Comrade Ozigi served in the capacity of General Secretary, Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA), an affiliate of TUC for almost two decades before he joined Congress in 2012.
Comrade Akinsola was a staff of Dangote Flour Mill under OLAM. They were both seasoned Trade Unionists.
“We call on the government at all levels, especially the federal government to rise up to the occasion to stop the killing of innocent Nigerians. As it stands, nowhere is safe now – we cannot travel by air, the road is not safe and neither is the rail. Is Nigeria a failed state? It is unfortunate,” he said.
Medical doctor among those killed
A medical doctor working with Saint Gerald Hospital Kaduna, Dr Chinelo Megafu Nwando was among those killed by bandits when they attacked the Kaduna- bound train.
The Secretary of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Kaduna branch, Dr Aisha Mustapha confirmed the death of the dentist saying she was to leave for Canada on Friday.
She also disclosed in a short statement sent to Daily Trust that the association was saddened by the death of the doctor.
She described the deceased as a very dedicated member and professional that would be missed.
It was learnt that the late doctor graduated in 2016 from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The late medical doctor had shortly after the attack twitted that she was shot but many commentators took her to the cleaners on the ground that she was lying.
“Her death was shocking, we boarded the same cab from Barnawa in Kaduna South to the train station around 5.30am on Monday,” said a journalist who also travelled with her on the morning train to Abuja.
“She was killed in the evening train on her way back to Abuja. I am really devastated even though it was my first time meeting her,” he said.
Similarly, a director at the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Abdu Isa Kofarmata was also killed by the terrorists.
Family sources who described the deceased as an easy-going man said he would be buried by 4 pm yesterday.
A former Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala, is currently recuperating from a gunshot injury he sustained during the attack on the train.
The former media aide to the ex-Deputy Governor, Yusuf Idris, told Daily Trust that Wakkala was shot in the leg and is currently receiving treatment in a medical facility in Kaduna.
“He is responding to treatment very well. He is answering phone calls in his bed. I spoke to him and several other people spoke to him also. There is no cause for alarm,” Yusuf said.
Among those abducted was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Hassan. Also taken away by the terrorists was, Sadiq, the son of Professor Ango Abdullahi, the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF).
How we escaped from terrorists
Many passengers who escaped by the whiskers narrated their experiences, which they prayed never to witness again.
One of them, who identified himself as Sani Carpenter, said he escaped from the terrorists hours after he and several others were kidnapped.
He said he hid in the forest and waited for security agents who accompanied the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police to reveal himself.
Our correspondents who travelled to the Audu Jangwam community along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway witnessed when the security agents returned from the bush with Sani who revealed that he had escaped the kidnappers by the grace of God.
Narrating his ordeal, he said, “The terrorists took me along with other passengers when they attacked the train in their large numbers, but as they were taking us into the bush, I managed to run away. They took many people away but I escaped through the darkness into the bush. While I was roaming in the bush, I saw security agencies that came this morning (Tuesday) to the scene so they picked me.”
He was visibly shaken as he was taken away in a police vehicle.
The driver of the train also identified as Sani and many others are still missing hours after the attack. A colleague of the driver who craved anonymity told Daily Trust that the train driver could not be reached since the incident happened.
According to him, “Sani left Kaduna with the 2: pm train and was expected back to Kaduna at 8pm. He is a friend and a colleague because we were together a day before he left and we tried calling his phone since the incident but it was not unreachable.”
The colleague further disclosed that the driver is an indigene of Bauchi State who recently relocated his family to the Rigasa community.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met behind closed doors with security chiefs after the attack during which he reportedly tasked them to rise to the occasion.