Claim: Following the terrorist attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train on Monday, there were claims that the train carried over 970 passengers, surpassing the number of people that officially bought the train ticket.
Verdict: The claim is false. The official statement by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) stated that 362 boarded the train with a capacity of 840. The manifest of those on the train seen by Daily Trust disclosed that 398 persons bought tickets for the train. Also, it was gathered that the day did not witness massive traffic of passengers to suggest that the huge number could have been on the train illegally.
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The nation was thrown into mourning when an Abuja-Kaduna train was bombed on its way to Kaduna, leading to the death of 10 people.
The attack also left 41 persons injured and according to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), it is yet to account for 123 of the 362 people on board the train who are feared to have been kidnapped by the terrorists.
But as families wait for news of their loved ones, different figures of those on board the train is being circulated. When the news of the attack was fresh Monday, media reports put the figure at 1,000 without confirmation from the NRC.
When the fog of the attack began to clear, 970 was the new figure peddled by the media including the BBC. Official statement by the Kaduna State Government and NRC put the figure of those on the train at 362 and ticket purchased at 398. Nigerians have used the three figures to stress on the level of corruption and ticket racketeering that occurs in the NRC, with a post on WhatsApp stating, “NRC’s manifest, 398 tickets bought, 362 confirmed Boarded, 970 actually on board. Welcome to the developing story of ticket racketeering in the Nigerian Railway Corporation.”
With terrorists forcing travellers to jettison the Abuja-Kaduna Highway due to incessant kidnappings on the road, the train is often viewed as a safer means of travelling for those from the northern part of the country to the FCT.
As such, the volume of passengers seeking to travel when the train was first introduced in 2018 were more than the tickets available. Then, NRC staff were alleged to collude with touts in the stations to sell tickets at higher prices.
Some sold tickets with same seat numbers to passengers, forcing passengers to stand through out the over two hours journey. Also, some tickets were specifically designed for passengers who were to stand during the journey because they were stranded at the train station and could not afford the exorbitant price of the black-market tickets.
Respite came the way of train users when electronic ticketing was introduced on the route. Even though the technology has not solved the problem, ticket racketeering has drastically reduced.
Following the misinformation, the Managing Director of the NRC, Engr Fidet Okhiria, clarified that the number of passengers that boarded the ill-fated train was 362, while 398 passengers bought the ticket.
While adding that the capacity of the AK9 train was 840, he denied the train carrying more than 100 people beyond its capacity.
On the mode used to verify and accredit passengers during a trip, he said the “Abuja-Kaduna service is run on a fully automated e-ticket system with entry and exit turnstiles that validate every passenger on board our trains.”
He added that ticket checkers also validate the ticket of every passenger via electronic validators linked to the central system to verify the integrity of its manifest.
The manifest which was obtained by this reporter disclosed the names on the 398 passengers who bought tickets, their contact numbers and including seat numbers.
An analysis of the document indicated that nine coaches were mentioned in AK9 with the highest number of seat allocated to a passenger being number 88.
Also, a staff of the NRC, who does not want his name in print because he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said it is unlikely that the train would have ferried 970 passengers on the day.
He said passengers leaving for Kaduna usually fill the train to its full capacity on Fridays and Saturdays.
“Kaduna passengers mostly fill up the train on Fridays and Saturdays, while the one coming to Abuja is usually filled up on Sundays and Monday mornings.”
“Despite the heavy scrutiny on passengers to ensure they go into the train with tickets, some still find their way in without the tickets. If the same situation occurred on the day, the amount of those without ticket can’t double those with tickets in the manifest.”
The 970 passengers said to have been on the train when the incident occurred is not true as the NRC has clarified that only 362 persons were on the train. Similarly, the timing of the train could not suggest that the high number of passengers smuggled into the train was over 600 above the official number given by the NRC.