The Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) is yet to resume full services on the Abuja-Kaduna rail, one year after it was attacked by terrorists, Daily Trust reports.
Yesterday marked one year since the train, carrying 398 passengers was attacked by terrorists. The attack on March 28, 2022, which shook the nation, led to the death of nine passengers and the abduction of over 60 others.
Daily Trust reports improved security measures along the route, even though only one train, with a reduced capacity now plies the Abuja-Kaduna train corridor.
In December 2022, the federal government ordered the resumption of the train service on the premise that it has overhauled the security architecture, to safeguard the lives of passengers and the infrastructure worth billions of naira.
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The government has incorporated passengers’ profiling in ticketing, with the use of machine-assisted verification of their information.
Similarly, security at the nine sub-stations through which the train plies has been beefed up with military personnel, while the train has cameras and other communication devices.
With the train making a single round-trip daily, several passengers say it does not give room for proper planning of activities. Adamu Ibrahim, a passenger said anyone who missed a scheduled trip would have to wait till the next day to travel.
“Nobody is happy with the situation. Days like Mondays and Fridays, which used to attract large passengers see little patronage. We can’t convey huge passengers again. So we hope the second train is deployed as soon as possible,” said a staff of the NRC.
Terrorists make another attempt on train despite security measures
Despite the improved security, sources confirmed to Daily Trust that terrorists made another attempt on the train in late January.
The attack was however averted due to intelligence report. About 20 terrorists were gunned down between the Rijana and Dutse sub-stations.
“About 20 of the bandits or terrorists were killed by security agents and four motorcycles and weapons were recovered. The security agents had sighted the terrorists and communicated with soldiers from Rijana who engaged them. Passengers were not aware of the incident because the train did not stop,” he said.
This, sources said, led to the February 3rd leaked memo, written by the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, calling for an urgent meeting with the minister of defence and other stakeholders to swiftly act to avert another attack on the train by terrorists.
Sambo’s memo had followed an earlier letter, dated 1st February, 2023 from the Department of State Services (DSS), which drew attention to information that terrorists were planning another attack on the train.
This paper could not confirm if the minister of defence had convened the meeting.
Deploy more technology – Victims urge FG
Some of the victims of the March 28, 2022 attack have urged the federal government to deploy additional technology to ensure that train parameters are more secure.
Musa Bashir Usman and Adama Aliyu, both victims of the train attack said they still use the train due to lack of a better alternative.
While Usman confirmed increased security measures with occasional deployment of helicopters and military presence along the train route, Aliyu told Daily Trust that he was not impressed with the security measures.
“The first time I saw the NIN verification, my question was, can this stop anything? No. Because these people are Nigerians and they could also have NIN. Unless in cases where the person is on the security watch list, how would you know that the person is Boko Haram?” said Aliyu.
“I think the government should do more. There are GIS and remote sensing to monitor these things and we can do better. It’s about strategising, planning and employment of technology,” Adama said.
According to Usman, “sometimes you see a helicopter escorting the train and it gives one a sense of comfort. There was a day the train broke down and within a few minutes, soldiers had surrounded it. But we need to go beyond these manual strategies to deploy technology.”
Lack of central lock poses new threat
Some workers of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), confided in Daily Trust that the train presently plying the Abuja-Kaduna rail corridor has no central lock.
Experts say this can pose a security challenge and provide terrorists and passengers access to commit criminality.
Sources at the train station said this is because two other trains are not working. “The train in operation at the moment was the first train introduced to the corridor in 2018 and is now the oldest. The other train that was bombed is yet to be fixed while the new train derailed in January. The new train has been repaired but is yet to be deployed for use,” a source from the train station said.
“The new train has a central lock and though it has been repaired, the minister is yet to approve its usage. We heard it will be deployed after elections,” the source said. Security and intelligence expert, Prof. Oyesoji Aremu, said all over the world, train locks are controlled by train drivers or anyone tasked with such responsibility as passengers could commit suicide when the train is in motion.
Aremu, a Professor of Criminology at the University of Ibadan, explained that: “I know of trains in Europe where someone is responsible for the lock. If the train does not have a central lock, it means at any point, a passenger on board can do something terrible.
“Also, when the train is in motion and locked, it means it will be very difficult for a criminal or bandit to enter. However, the current situation of the Abuja train entails that when it gets to a place in which it slows down a bit, at that point, anyone can enter the train with insider help.
“Thus, the security of passengers is somehow not secured. For that reason, every effort needs to be made to remote-control the lock of all the coaches in a way that it can be locked either by the train driver or someone assigned to do so. If this is not done, it means the lives and properties of people on board the train are not safe.”
NRC denies attack, keeps mum on lack of central lock
When contacted, the spokesperson for the NRC, Yakubu Mahmood, denied any attack had taken place on the train but when asked why the only train in service has no central lock, he directed Daily Trust to the manager, Abuja-Kaduna train service, Mr. Pascal Nnoli, whom he said would be in a better position to respond.
On whether the security meeting called by the minister of transport had been convened, he said only the minister was in a position to answer.
When our reporter called Nnoli and introduced himself, he asked that this reporter call him back as he was in a meeting. However, when he was called later, he did not answer his calls.
Our correspondent also contacted the Director, Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Henshaw Ogubike, but he said he was new to the ministry and therefore had no information on the security meeting that was requested by the minister.
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