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Friday, December 9, 2022

Making Nigeria’s rail transport sector safer

From time immemorial, man has been known to be a mobile mortal. Man has always improvised his means of transportation.

Train station
Train station

These means have now transformed to various forms of transportation ranging from road, air, sea, rail and others.

These myriad forms of transportation enable man to conduct varied activities globally.

They include socio-economic activities, trade, commerce, governmental and non- governmental activities.

As it is today, the world has been made a truly global village and the world has become more knit together as one can traverse the entire globe in a day or two, all courtesy of these modern means of transportation that are faster and convenient.

This is unlike hitherto, when travelling was longer, less ecstatic and more cumbersome.

These various means of transportation have for a long time been safer and reliable until recently when, like in Nigeria, the security challenges bedeviling the nation have crept into the transportation, hence inhibiting their efficiency and efficacy.

For instance, most of the roads across Nigeria have now become infested with an array of bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, cattle rustlers, armed robbers and other sundry criminals.

This obnoxious development is really very disturbing as of recent many Nigerians have resorted to the rail transport system as a necessary alternative.

For instance, though not cheaper, yet it seems to be safer than plying most of the Nigerian roads.

This is considering the fact that the air transport is the safest of them, but it is glaringly not for the masses.

Nigerian domestic airlines have recently fully effected over 100 per cent hike in their fares, sending them to the rooftop. This made the air transport a no-go-area for the less endowed Nigerians.

Succinctly speaking, the rail transport sector, the darling of the masses and even the highly placed in the Nigerian societies is also no longer safe.

One would be amazed to see the passengers on board such train trips along the major routes in the country.

Both the high and mighty, as well as the low patronise the train service.

This can be attested to when one visits the arrival and departure of the train stations in the nation.

However, this erstwhile happy development has been terribly cut short, and the hopes of Nigerians of having the trains as safe havens for transiting to various parts of Nigeria and the haulage of goods has been rudely dashed by the recent ugly developments.

Of recent, the rail transport sector has also become endangered and afflicted by fatal and dastardly heinous terrorists attacks, especially the Abuja-Kaduna and Kaduna-Abuja routes.

It could be recalled that the bandits had in October 2021 unleashed an attack on a Kaduna bound train from Abuja, although no fatalities were recorded apart from some minor injuries, including damages to the rail tracks.

However, another of such deadly attacks was yet unleashed on a 6.00pm Abuja-Kaduna train, with over 300 passengers, according to the official passenger manifest released by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), through its Managing Director, Mr Fidet Okhiria.

As at the last official count, nine people were killed as a result of the attack.

Several other passengers were injured, and kidnapped, while others are still unaccounted for.

Those injured include former Zamfara Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala.

Among the fatalities were a medical doctor, a director of NBTE, as well as TUC Secretary-General, Musa Ozigi.

The injured passengers were said to be receiving treatment at the 44 Reference Hospital, Kaduna.

The attack has drawn many condemnations from the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the National Assembly, Nigerian and Northern Governors’ Forums, Northern Senators’ Forum and several other Nigerians.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and the nation’s top security chiefs, including the Inspector General, Mr Usman Baba, have all visited the scene of the attack.

Apart from the condemnation of the attack, President Muhammadu Buhari has also directed the immediate conclusion of all the processes for the implementation of the integrated security surveillance and monitoring solution for the Abuja to Kaduna rail line.

He also directed the same for the Lagos-Ibadan rail line.

Buhari has also directed the NRC’s management to expedite action on the repair of the damaged lines and the resumption of normal service without further delay.

He charged the military chiefs, shortly after he was briefed by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, to bring back all the kidnapped passengers, hale and hearty.

Buhari reiterated his earlier directive that the military should ruthlessly deal with the terrorists.

He urged them to be more decisive and spare no one wielding the AK-47 weapon illegally.

“No one should be allowed to hold the country to ransom,” Buhari said in  statement released by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu.

The President said that he was deeply pained by the incident, describing the attack as callous, saying, “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.”

He further commended the law enforcement agencies for their prompt response, and emergency personnel who were responsible for the evacuation and treatment of the injured persons.

There are however calls on the authorities to do more to make the country’s rail transport sector more secure.

This is to ensure the protection of the lives and property of the passengers patronizing the mass transport system.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya, has vowed that the military will spare no effort in tracking and rescuing all the victims of the unfortunate incident.

The military, he added, would also hunt the bandits and avert the recurrence of such attacks.

Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, also said that the process of procuring some security facilities worth N3 billion to be installed along the Abuja-Kaduna and Lagos-Ibadan rail lines would be hastened.

He explained that they are special digital security and crime prevention equipment that could forestall such disasters.

These equipment and several other measures should be deployed to nip such obnoxious incidents in the bud, save lives and properties of Nigerians. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

By Bashir Rabe Mani, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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