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One week after attack, 168 train passengers remain unreachable

By m Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Joke Falaju (Abuja) and Kehinde Olatunji (Lagos)
05 April 2022   |   3:56 am
One week after terrorists attacked a train in Kaduna State, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), yesterday, said that 168 passengers are yet to be accounted for...

The train attacked on the Abuja-Kaduna Railway at Rijana Kagarko LGA, in Kaduna.

Stop playing the ostrich on insecurity, Catholic Bishops tell Buhari
• Falana calls for prosecution of Amaechi, NRC MD over negligence
• Bandits abduct 22 villagers on Abuja-Kaduna highway hours after IGP’s visit
• FG rising to security challenges, says Lai Mohammed

One week after terrorists attacked a train in Kaduna State, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), yesterday, said that 168 passengers are yet to be accounted for.

Last week Monday, terrorists first used explosives to immobilise the Kaduna-bound train before shooting at some of the passengers. They killed some and kidnapped many other passengers.

According to the corporation, its manifest showed there were 362 passengers on board the train. In its latest update, NRC confirmed the safety of 14 more passengers on board the train, bringing the total number of safe passengers to 186.

Of the remaining 176 passengers, eight have been confirmed dead, while the families of 22 passengers have formally declared them missing. This indicates that a total of 168 passengers are yet to be accounted for, including the 22 declared missing by their families.

NRC’s Managing Director, Fidet Okhiria, in the statement, said 51 phone numbers on the manifest were either switched off or not reachable since Tuesday morning, hours after the attack. “Another 35 phone numbers on the manifest are ringing, but no response from the other end,” he said, adding that 60 phone numbers on the manifest when called responded as non-existent.

“Two coaches (SP 00016 and SP 00017) earlier re-railed have safely been moved to Rigasa Station. This brings the total number of recovered coaches safely moved to NRC stations to seven. Intensive work continues on track repairs. More concrete sleepers were moved to the site, while some sections of the twisted tracks have been straightened.

DESPITE assurances of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, bandits yesterday raided some houses at Anguwar Maji in Jere town along the Kaduna-Abuja highway and abducted 22 villagers. Baba had on Saturday led a special squad of armed security operatives on patrol of the dreaded highway, declaring it safe for motorists.

Jere, which shares a boundary with Tafa-Sabon-Wuse in Niger State, is located on the ever-busy highway. A resident of Anguwar Maji, Shehu Bala, who confirmed the latest abduction, said the incident happened at about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.

He said the bandits, who came in large numbers, invaded some houses and whisked away 22 residents, including five women.

“The bandits came in large numbers as some of them wore army uniforms. They moved from house to house and woke their victims up before they marched them into the bush at gunpoint,” he said.

IN scathing remarks, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), yesterday, urged the Federal Government to rise to its responsibility by arresting and prosecuting those terrorising innocent Nigerians, rather than playing the ostrich on matters of insecurity.

In the statement signed by its President and Archbishop-Elect of Owerri, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, the bishops called on the government to take urgent steps to unmask the marauding terrorists and their sponsors without further delay.

The statement titled: ‘Nigeria: A nation groans in pains,’ was made available to journalists through the National Directorate of Social Communications, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja.

It said: “The news of the recent attacks on trains by terrorists has attracted public outcry, outrage and grief. Nigerians are still mourning with anguished hearts over the brutal slaughtering of fellow citizens during those bloody attacks. We unequivocally condemn those brutal acts of barbarism and brazen assault on our sovereign dignity as a nation.

“The train route from Abuja to Kaduna has been the safety net for thousands of travellers commuting between both cities. Now the terrorists have proven that no one is safe on that route anymore.

“Just last week, there were also reports that over 200 terrorists on motorbikes brazenly rode through the runway of the Kaduna International Airport in broad daylight, killing at least one person. All these occurred shortly after the incessant attacks and killings by faceless terrorists in the communities of Southern Kaduna and many other parts of the Middle Belt.

“That all these atrocities against the people and the nation happen without a single arrest or prosecution, seem to give credibility to the widespread belief that the government is complacent, helpless or compromising.

“Considering the billions of naira appropriated for security and the fight against terrorism in recent times, it is difficult to imagine that a large number of terrorists, who unleashed terror on unarmed and law-abiding citizens, can disappear in broad daylight without a trace.

“It is indeed very hard to believe that our security apparatus lacks intelligence or the ability to fight and defeat terrorists in our nation. Nigerians are sick of flimsy excuses and bogus promises of the government to deal with terrorists.

“As a mark of honour, the government should rise to its primary responsibility of protecting the life and property of its citizens. Our country has long teetered on the precipice of a failed state. Government should, therefore, stop trying to play the ostrich as the nation profusely bleeds and take urgent steps to unmask these marauding terrorists and their sponsors without further delay.”

The Catholic Bishops also called on the government to take effective measures to address the hardship and suffering in the land.

IN his reaction, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has accused the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the Managing Director of NRC, Okhiria, of negligence in the train attack. He also called for their prosecution, according to a statement he issued yesterday.

The legal practitioner referenced reports of attacks on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line and accused the corporation and Amaechi of not taking enough measures to forestall the latest incident.

“Although both Amaechi and Okhiria knew that the Abuja-Kaduna train was not safe, they kept on giving passengers a false sense of security. Since both of them knew that the tragedy that befell the nation last week was waiting to happen and did not adopt measures to prevent it, the President should direct the IGP to investigate and prosecute them for criminal negligence. Meanwhile, both of them should not be allowed to continue to risk the lives of train passengers in the country.”

According to him, the corporation and the ministry is legally bound to bear the cost of treatment for those injured during the incident.

“While the Federal Government is called upon to intensify the search for missing passengers whose whereabouts are unknown, the injured passengers and family members of the deceased are advised to sue the Ministry of Transportation and the NRC for aggravated compensation as they are vicariously liable for the tragic incident.  

“For the avoidance of doubt, section 78(1) of the NRC Act provides that “the Corporation shall not be liable for personal injury to, or loss of life of a passenger unless the personal injury or loss of life is caused by want of reasonable care, diligence or skill on the part of the Corporation or its servants.

“In other words, top officials of the NRC and the Ministry of Transportation are liable for the criminal negligence that caused the bomb attack.”

HOWEVER, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said that the Federal Government is “by no means overwhelmed but rising to the security challenges facing the country.

“Our military are doing their best and the government is by no means overwhelmed,” the Minister said during a TVC current affairs programme, This Morning — State of the Nation, yesterday.

Mohammed said the nation must not give in to terrorism and banditry, adding that “terrorists are enemies of Nigeria.”

According to him, terrorism is not a conventional war and what terrorists want to achieve is to return to the front pages as a result of the damages they are causing.

Condoling the families of those who lost their lives in the Kaduna train attack, Mohammed said the Federal Government had put in motion the machinery to ensure that such was not witnessed again.

According to him, one of the things President Buhari has decided to do is to fast-track the installation of an integrated surveillance and monitoring system.

“Not just on the Abuja-Kaduna rail, but to install a similar system on the Lagos-Abuja, and Warri-Itakpe/ Ajaokuta rails. This is to ensure that at any given time, 24 hours, seven days a week, we will be able to monitor from our control room, those who will sabotage our tracks and terrorists that want to attack trains.

“The military has been able to curtail them for some time, but like all terrorists, they seek for one dramatic attack that would seem to wipe out the successes the military has achieved over the years.