One year after Abuja-Kaduna train attack, NRC struggling to restore full service
• Train Now Runs One Trip Daily
• Government Yet To Install Security Gadgets As Promised
One year after the unfortunate terrorists attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train service (AKTS), commercial operation on the corridor is fast becoming a shadow of it’s old self as the service has gone from operation of eight trips daily to two trips.
Interestingly while the 62 victims that were kidnapped on the ill-fated trip to Kaduna on Mach 28, 2021 are still trying to recover, the train service has also been facing challenges since it resumed commercial operations on October 5.
At resumption, the Nigeria Railway Cooperation (NRC) had announced that they will be operating four trips daily, comprising of two trips from Abuja and another two from Kaduna. The move was to avoid moving passengers at night to forestall a repeat of the terrorists’ attack. The NRC had promised to increase the service to eight trips with increase in number of passengers.
Unfortunately, the reverse has been the case, as AKTS now runs skeletal services on the corridor. As at today, the service runs just two trips daily. The train leaves Idu, Abuja train station by 9:40am to arrive Kaduna by 12pm and brings passengers from Kaduna to Idu by 3pm.
The Kubwa train station, which used to be a beehive of activities on Fridays owing to high tonnage of passengers, had no passenger in sight when The Guardian visited the station by 1pm. Only security men and cleaners were seen around the premises waiting for the 3pm train to arrive from Kaduna.
No doubt, the myriad of challenges bedeviling train service in the country has dampened the morale of many Nigerians who once saw the service as the most preferred means of transportation, given the level of comfort gotten from using the service. Moreover, the frequent cases of kidnapping along major roads, coupled with the bad roads further endeared the service to the people.
However, recent challenges ranging from terrorists attack, breakdown of coaches in bushes due to engine failure, shortage of diesel, derailment of coaches, and train crushing people or vehicles at level crossings, among other incidences have nonetheless dwindled the interest of intending passengers to use the service.
The security officers that were on duty at the Kubwa station told The Guardian that ever since the train derailed at Kubwa in January, the service has been running two trips to and fro Kaduna.
The federal government had given assurances that it was putting in place necessary security measures to forestall a repeat of terrorists attack on the railway. The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, during a tour of the railway corridor with journalists before resumption of the AKTS in October 2022, revealed that the government was putting in place all the necessary security measures to ensure safety of passengers using the service.
He said: “Part of the measures put in place is the ticketing. As you know, security starts from ticketing. Now, you cannot buy a ticket unless you have a valid phone number and the National Identification card. And if you are a foreigner, there must be means of identification that can be used, produced by NIMC office.
“After buying the ticket, you will be given a barcode that would help you gain access into the lounge, when the machine reads the barcode on your receipt and your complete profile, only then would you be allowed into the lounge. This kind of security measures is according in line with global best practice as profiling of the passenger is necessary to know who is coming on board.”
Sambo said for minors, an adult could only register not more than for minors before using the train service.
“Another visible change people would notice is the increase in number of security personnel; some of them will not even be wearing uniform to guarantee the safety of the traveling public. There are other sensitive equipment that we have deployed that I will not be mentioning.
“Also, on every journey, the train will be monitored on a screen and the train driver can see up to a particular distance if there is any threat on the tracks, that will enable him pull the break long before getting to the perceived threat,” he stated.
Sambo, however, disclosed that the number of trips will be reduced and when the number of passengers increase and the traveling public begin to have confidence in the service, they would increase, stating that night trips such as the 6pm to 8pm trips have been cancelled.
He also said that the government would certainly increase the fares, saying he would still consult with relevant stakeholders to know if it would be immediate or if they would have to wait a while.
He argued that the increase in fares is to the general high cost of goods and services but assured that the masses would be taken into consideration while increasing the fares, saying that the Buhari government is very pro-people.
Responding to questions on whether the introduction of NIN will help control the ticket racketeering problem, the Minister noted that NIN was introduced to directly tackle the challenge as no two persons can have two NIN number.
But not too long after the assurances were made in January, some bandits attacked Iguben, Edo State train station along the Warri-Itakpe rail, kidnapping 32 passengers and injuring many.
Although few weeks after the incident, the kidnapped passengers were released and reunited with their families, the incidences have no doubt made Nigerians lose faith in the service, just has assurances by the federal government to ensure safety of passengers using the service across the country has done little or nothing to restore passenger confidence in the service.
While trying to ascertain if government has put in place all the necessary security measures it promised, The Guardian found a partial implementation of installation of security measures, as only one camera was visible at the Kubwa train station
Although the security officers, who were not willing to speak because they were not authorised to, confirmed that there are security cameras in the coaches, they disclosed that there are none on the tracks. The minister had promised to put in place security installations such that the track could be monitored from their offices but it was learnt that nothing of such has been put in place.
It was discovered, however, that there is a camera placed on the train that enables drivers see 2km ahead. It was also confirmed that the number of security operatives accompanying the train has increased.
While the number of passengers have greatly reduced owing to the fact that they run only one trip daily, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) is ensuring that passengers now use their National Identity card and BVN to buy tickets. In fact, it was learnt that a passenger couldn’t travel because his phone number did not correspond with his NIN number. The Guardian also gathered that ticket racketeering is now at its minimum.