By Dirisu Yakubu
72 hours after terrorists bombed a Kaduna-bound train killing about nine persons, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, has dismissed social media reports that about 970 passengers were on board the AK-9 train when tragedy struck.
Since the unfortunate incident, the corporation has been inundated with calls to verify the actual number of passengers in the ill-fated train but rather than make the passengers’ manifest public, the NRC aligned its position with that of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi that only 398 persons bought tickets to board the train.
On Wednesday, a list of 398 persons purported to be names of those on board the train, surfaced on social media but NRC was quick to dismiss same as fake.
In the early hours of Thursday, NRC Managing Director, Fidet Okhiria finally issued a statement on the incident, giving clarifications where necessary.
“The Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, deeply commiserates with all the passengers on board the NRC AK9 train of 28th March 2022, their relatives and friends, the government and people of Kaduna state and the Federal Capital Territory as well as the entire nation. In particular, we regret the death of 8 of our passengers and security personnel attached to the train service as well as the injury suffered by scores of our passengers, not mentioning the trauma caused them and crew by the armed attack.
“We also earnestly pray for the speedy recovery of the injured passengers while praying God grants the families of the bereaved fortitude to bear the loss.
“Our attention has however been drawn to the misleading and insensitive information circulating on social media with respect to the number of passengers on the train.
“The Abuja – Kaduna service is run on a fully automated e-ticket system with entry and exit turnstiles that validate every passenger on board our trains. Ticket checkers also validate the tickets of every passenger via electronic validators linked to the central system to verify the integrity of our manifest.
“398 passengers purchased tickets to travel on the NRC AK9 service, and 362 passengers actually boarded the AK9 service.
“The entire seat capacity of the train in question is 840; therefore, the figure of 970 being circulated can not be correct.
The AK9 service is the last service out of Abuja on a Monday evening and is usually at less than half capacity.
“Passengers on board the AK9 service on Monday have confirmed that the train was certainly not run at full capacity, ” the statement read..
Not unaware of the worry caused by the non-release of the manifest, the NRC boss said the corporation “is continuing its efforts to reach out to passengers using the comprehensive manifest in order to obtain valid information about their present condition.”
He advised media practitioners to be guided by high sense of professionalism and to desist from spreading false information “at this delicate time.”