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Experts blame government for failure to secure rails

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Odita Sunday (Abuja) and Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna)
31 March 2022   |   4:30 am
Despite several signs that the Abuja-Kaduna railway was susceptible to bandits attack and amid massive resources in loans and funds voted to revamp rail transportation across the country...

• FEC observes minute silence for victims of Abuja-Kaduna train attack
• Commuters on Kaduna-Abuja route at mercy of dreaded highway with no rail, air transport
• Banditry, terrorism question our capacity to govern, governors lament

Despite several signs that the Abuja-Kaduna railway was susceptible to bandits attack and amid massive resources in loans and funds voted to revamp rail transportation across the country, the Federal Government failed to adequately protect passengers until Monday’s attack.

That incident led to the death of at least eight persons, with many injured or abducted, after several security breaches around the Kaduna axis.

Apart from last October’s incident, when terrorists blew up the rail track with explosives, other recent incidents along the corridor were warnings that it was only a matter of time before passengers on the Abuja-Kaduna route were attacked again, but the government failed to do the needful to provide protection for communities.

After the attack last October, government promised to improve security along the route. But five months after, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, blamed failure to provide the necessary security system on non/slow approvals given to procure the surveillance equipment and sensors for the effective monitoring of the rail tracks.

As more people avoided the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, which has been a haven for kidnappers, and opted to travel by air or on the train to and from Abuja, it became clear that the bandits, who are being starved of potential abductees will try to attack travellers using airport and train commuters, but no significant security measure was known to have been taken to ensure the safety of these travellers.

This is even more startling considering the heavy concentration of military installations in Kaduna State. According to SBM Intelligence, a geopolitical research consulting firm, there are at least 15 military installations around Kaduna.

Increasing terrorists’ activities in Kaduna has wrapped the state with fear and gloom. In 2021, bandits killed 1,192 people in the state and kidnapped 3348 others. Deaths from insecurity in the state in 2020 were three times higher than those recorded in the Northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa battling terrorism.

The gunmen attacked public and private institutions, schools and communities as they intensify their campaigns in the state. In August 2021, terrorists attacked the country’s foremost military institution – the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) – in Kaduna town. Five months before then, the gunmen had attacked the Kaduna Airport’s FAAN Quarters.

The sad reality of Monday’s train attack is that all Kaduna-Abuja commuters will now to travel by road pending when government restores rail services on the Abuja-Kaduna route. This follows the suspension of services by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) between the cities on Tuesday.

According to findings, commuters have no alternative other than travelling by road between Kaduna and Abuja because there is no direct flight between the airports located in the two cities. Also, the two territories do not have water linking them through which commuters could travel.

The Abuja-Kaduna highway has been a nightmare for many because the activities of terrorists who attack, kill and abduct commuters at will for years.

PUNDITS in Nigeria’s security space have blamed government for the repeated attacks of rail travellers by terrorists. Some of them said the government has no reason to build a rail system without adhering to international best practice of putting in place a top-notch security infrastructure.

To ensure safety of rail travellers, the Indian Railways in coordination with Government Railway Police (GRP) installed CCTV in 2931 coaches and 668 stations for passengers’ security. To improve surveillance mechanism for its over 202 stations, an Integrated Security System, comprising surveillance of vulnerable stations through CCTV and Access Control, were installed.

The installed systems helps in random checks of railway premises and trains against entry of unauthorised persons. Also, to improve surveillance and enhance synergy in deployments of various security forces, Station Security Plan is implemented in a phased manner at major stations.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (rtd), Taiwo Lakanu, blamed the authorities for not equipping the rail tracks with ICT gadgets. Urging security agencies to work in harmony to tackle terrorism, he said: “I wonder why police makeshift posts, equipped with technology gadgets are not constructed and spaced out along the routes? The way forward is for security agencies to collectively sit together and put in place strategies that will eliminate attacks from the bandits.

“With concurrent, constant attacks, we are definitely not winning the war. We need to take the battle to them in their enclave and rout them out. Strategic tacticians should be identified amongst the military and other agencies and proffer strategies.”

Security expert and Publisher, NewsmakersNG, Dipo Kehinde, said: “This is guerrilla warfare. It is getting more dangerous and coming close to all of us, wherever we may be living in Nigeria. It has no frontiers.

“The government announced at a time that the sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria are now known. But they are only known to the government and nothing is being done to bring them to book. Forget the rhetorics!. We are far from winning this war. Government cannot continue to play politics with the identities of the evildoers who are here in our midst.”

Assistant Inspector General of Police (rtd), Don Iroham, said: “The lacuna can be identified by the general ineptitude in governance.”

Former Director of DSS, Dennis Amachree, said the train attack is another sad episode on the on-going war against terror in the country.

According to him, the Nigerian railway authorities should understand by now that half measures will not take the problem away. “The company needs to put an enduring security system in place. Also, they have to look at their schedule. There is need to avoid night journeys, especially at this time when insecurity reigns.

“The government should heavily invest in technology. There are aerial surveillance systems with predator drones that can keep the railways and passengers safe. We are still reacting to these attacks rather than being proactive.

“I can see a connection between the attempted attack at the Kaduna airport and this rail attack. It is also noteworthy that the train was fully loaded, supposedly, with 970 passengers, who may be avoiding the airports. Government needs to take the initiative, by putting all counter-measures in place, before going for the terrorists. Enough should be enough at this time,” he charged.

THIS is coming some hours after the terrorists attacked a Kaduna-bound train on Monday night. Yesterday, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja, observed a minute silence in honour of the victims of Abuja-Kaduna train attack.

The meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, began with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, calling for a minute silence to be observed in honour of the victims.

The Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, cautioned communities against shielding suspected criminals in their midst as government strives to tackle insecurity in the state. El-Rufai gave the warning yesterday when he visited the Chief of Kagoro, Ufuwai Bonet, at his palace in Kaura Local Government Area, to condole with him over the recent attacks in the area.

He said: “It is of great concern how communities shield criminals living among them. There are criminals in every ethnic group and in every religion. If we want to end this kind of problem (insecurity), we must be ready to give up those we suspect to be criminals, even if they are our sons and daughters.”

According to him, peace can only be achieved if communities respect constituted authorities and report suspects to security agencies.

“If the traditional institutions and other officials cannot provide leadership, we might as well dissolve them and hand over leadership to the youths, if that is what will bring peace. I want to appeal to you all to rise up to your leadership roles and let us know those behind these crimes, so we can deal with them,” he said

GOVERNORS of the 36 states of the federation declared yesterday that the increasing spate of insecurity across the country has questioned the capacity of leaders to govern. They also expressed disgust over the tragic attack on a Kaduna-bound train on Monday.

In a statement signed by its chairman and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said: “The Kaduna-Abuja train attack is a horror dream orchestrated by the wicked merchants of death that we must all wake up from to address.

“This is one attack too many. It must stop. First, as leaders, we owe the victims and their relations an apology as these unwarranted acts of violence are becoming too regular and they basically question our collective capacity to govern.”

Praying God to grant those that lost their lives eternal peace and a place in the deepest recess of heaven, the NGF said: “If the intention of these murderers is to disrupt the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians, they will not succeed.

“While expressing our sincere condolences to Nigerians, particularly the government and good people of Kaduna, we want to salute the bravery of our security forces in curtailing the magnitude of havoc this attack was intended to visit on innocent travellers. Our prayers are with you.”

The NGF sought immediate installation of safeguards against insecurity. “The NGF will want to call on the authorities to immediately install all necessary safeguards to forestall future acts of banditry on our rail tracks, roads, ports and borders.”

TERRORISTS again, in a fresh attack on two villages in Giwa Local Government of Kaduna State, killed 23 people while many sustained gunshot injuries on Tuesday night. It would be recalled that the gunmen had attacked nine villages in Giwa, killing 50 and abducting many at the weekend.

Tuesday night’s attack occurred at Anguwar Maiwa and Anguwar Kanwa villages. It was the fourth attack by terrorists in the local council within a week.

A resident of the community told newsmen yesterday that the bandits came in large numbers, shooting sporadically. Many people who ran for safety were hit by gunshots. The resident said over 20 dead bodies had been discovered and subsequently buried.

The Kaduna State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalinge, was yet to react at the time of filing this report.