Abuja-Kaduna train attack, not again!

Monday, March 28, 2022, marked a very sad day for Nigerians, who had adopted train service as the best, safest and more affordable means of transportation, following the rising cases of banditry and kidnapping that have made the nation’s roads unsafe. On this tragic day, a train, AK9, which departed Abuja at 6.10pm en route Kaduna, with 970 passengers on-board, was attacked by terrorists.

Many were killed, a dozen others sustained injuries while an unknown number of people got missing in the attack which occurred at Kateri – Rijana axis in Kaduna, few kilometers to the Rigasa Train Station in Igabi local government area of Kaduna state.

In a statement on Sunday, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) confirmed safety of 14 more passengers on board the attacked Abuja-Kaduna train of March 28, bringing the total safe passengers to 186.

The NRC’s Managing Director, Mr Fidet Okhiria, explained that the statement is aimed at updating Nigerians on the on-going development regarding the clearing of the incident site (recovery of the rolling stock, repairs of the track) and status of passengers that were on-board the ill-fated AK9 train.

“Of the 362 validated passengers on board the attacked AK9 train service on March 28, 186 persons on the manifest are confirmed to be safe and at their various homes (additional 14 persons confirmed safe today),” Okhiria said.

He said 51 phone numbers on the manifest are either switched off or not reachable since Tuesday morning and 35 phone numbers on the manifest are ringing, but no response from the other end. He stated that 60 phone numbers on the manifest when called, respond non-existent, 22 persons are reported missing by their relatives and eight persons confirmed dead.

According to Okhiria,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 and safely moved to NRC stations to seven.

“Intensive work continues on track repairs. More concrete Sleepers were moved to site while some section of twisted tracks has been straightened.

Nigerians from walks of life including President Muhammadu Buhari, members of the National Assembly, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), among others, have justifiable condemned the AK9 attack.

President Buhari condemned the bombing of the passenger train, describing it as a “matter of grave concern”. He said the attack on the train, a safe means of transport to many, “is callous; and our thoughts are with the families of the deceased and prayers for the injured”.

Following a motion by Senator Uba Sani (Kaduna central, Kaduna state) on a matter of urgent national importance, the Senate, in its resolutions, urged President Buhari to declare full scale war against terrorists, so as to fully secure all our national territory from them in whatever guise.

It urged the Army and the Air Force to carry out sustained bombardment of terrorist enclaves with a view to flushing them out and restoring peace and stability to our communities.

It further directed security agencies to always take steps to prevent the occurrence of similar incidence in the future.

It added that the military should, as a matter of urgency, monitor the construction and inhabitants of new shanty buildings around the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.

The red chamber urged the relevant agencies of government to step up their information gathering mechanism to, forestall these incessant attacks.

Also condemning the train attack, the House of Representatives cried out to authorities concerned to stem the tide of banditry and terrorism in the country.

JNI, the apex Muslim organisation in Nigeria, said the rising security challenges in the guise of killing, maiming and kidnapping are indications that “the humanity in us is slowly being eroded.” The group, led by Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar III, also noted that any government that cannot protect the lives and properties of the people lacked the justification of remaining in office.

It expressed worry that the tragic train attack may have indicated the nation was heading towards an unknown destination of chaos.

In its reaction, the CBCN said the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train by suspected terrorists showed that security agencies in the country lack intelligence and the ability to fight and defeat terrorists, adding: “Nigerians are sick of flimsy excuses and bogus promises from the government to deal with terrorists.” The CBCN President, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, said on Monday that the failure to arrest or prosecute the assailants has given credibility to the widespread belief that the government is “complacent, helpless or compromising”.

Blueprint joins other well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians to condemn the AK9 train attack of Monday 28, the second in recent time. We urge Mr President to walk his talk by ensuring that his directives to the security chiefs and officials of the NRC are actualised. President Buhari’s directives, viz, the immediate conclusion of all the processes for the implementation of the integrated security surveillance and monitoring solution for the Abuja to Kaduna railway line, the rescue of all kidnapped passengers and apprehension of the terrorists as well as the speedy repair of damaged lines for resumption of normal service should not be treeated with levity or subjected to the ‘Nigerian factor’.

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