The account by an eye-witness and a former lawmaker from Kaduna state, Senator Shehu Sani, gives the impression that some persons believed to be terrorists operating in Kaduna state have opted for a new strategy in their deadly activities by attacking the Abuja - Kaduna train, being used by many commuters to avoid the dangerous highway.
Shehu Sani reported the double attacks Wednesday and Thursday on Facebook: “Yesternight (Wednesday), bandits attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train. They planted an explosive that damaged the rail track and shattered the windshield of the train engine. They also openned fire, targeting the driver and the tank.
“It happened between Dutse and Rijana stations. The driver struggled to move towards Kaduna Rigasa station. This early morning, I was on board when our train ran over another explosive damaged railings. The train nearly skidded off its track, then we miraculously escaped. All Kaduna Abuja train operations need to be suspended for today until this issue is addressed”.
The alleged bombing, it was further gathered, inflicted technical damage on the train that departed Kaduna for Abuja Thursday morning hence the unavailability of the train to take passengers back to Abuja.
According to sources, the attempted bombing was nipped Wednesday night by security forces, a situation that made the express train that departed Abuja 6:40pm on Wednesday to arrive Kaduna around 2:00am on Thursday.
The Wednesday evening train was expected to arrive Kaduna 8:40pm, but because it took the security operatives several hours to clear the rail track of danger, the train spent over eight hours on the usual two-hour journey.
This incident is coming few weeks after an allegedly leaked memo on report of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists fleeing from Sambisa Forest to Rijana Forest in Chikun local government area of Kaduna state.
A top security source said that the security agencies in the state had since Tuesday last week been struggling to prevent attack on the train by terrorists suspected to be members of the ISWAP and Boko Haram groups.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “ISWAP and Boko Haram members have entered Kaduna, but the security agencies have been struggling to prevent them from setting up their camp in any part of the state. Tuesday till Wednesday morning, we could not sleep because we were struggling to dislodge the terrorists who were trying to bomb a bridge used by the Kaduna-Abuja train”.
However, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, denied reports of the alleged bandits attacks on Abuja-Kaduna train KA4 between Asham and Kubwa. NRC’s Managing Director, Fidet Okhiria, who made the denial in a statement on Thursday, said the reports were false.
According to him, there are always hoodlums who usually throw heavy stones at the moving train along Abuja-Kaduna route.
“There was no bandit attack on the train; it’s just a rumour otherwise, they will have seen bullets all over the train.
”It was hoodlums who threw stones at the train and because the police got one suspect, at night, more hoodlums came out to attack the train in protest against the arrest made in the afternoon.
“NRC has, however, spoken to security agencies to help us prevent such future occurrences and intervene in the matter, so they will know how best to deal with the situation,” Mr Okhiria said.
He urged the public using the trains not to panic as the Minister of Transportation and NRC would ensure the safety of Nigerians on that route.
Similarly, the Manager of Abuja-Kaduna Train Service, Paschal Nnorli, confirmed that the train arrived Idu station on schedule on Monday, and denied any bandit attack.
Mr Nnorli said: “The attention of Nigerian Railway Corporation has been drawn to fake online news that the KA4 train from Kaduna to Abuja was attacked on Monday by armed bandits between Asham and Kubwa.
Following the attack, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) suspended indefinitely train services along the Abuja- Kaduna route. Passengers heading to Kaduna from Abuja returned to the nation’s capital after a delay which lasted at least two hours. However, the NRC has announced reopening of Abuja – Kaduna route two days after a moving train was attacked by suspected bandits.
The attacks carried out between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning also destroyed some part of the rail tracks. A reopening announcement by NRC on Friday evening read, “The Board and Management of the Nigerian railway corporation (NRC) hereby inform the general public, particularly our valued passengers that Abuja – Kaduna Train Services (AKTS) resume tomorrow, Saturday, 23rd October, 2021 as follows: from, IDU, Abuja (AK3) at 0950am, from Rigasa, Kaduna (KA4) at 1035am. Subsequent trains services continue. NRC, once again, sincerely apologises for the inconvenience.”
In any case, the attack on the Abuja – Kaduna train is one that should worry every discerning citizen, particularly those vested with the constitutional responsibility to provide security to the people. Insecurity bordering on kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, insurgency and rape have forced many commuters including the elite to resort to train services as a safe alternative.
It is on the backdrop of this reality that we call on the security agrencies to up their game by ensuring that the rail transport option remains safe, partuculatly for the ordinary Nigerian who cannot afford air fares.