May 23, 2022

Planned restart of Abuja-Kaduna rail service

Planned restart of Abuja-Kaduna rail service

WE welcome the decision of the Nigerian Railways Corporation, NRC, to suspend indefinitely its reported plan  to resume services on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line while scores of passengers abducted by bandit-terrorists remain unaccounted for. The circumstances that led to the abductions smacked of the typical sloppiness of our security setup. The bandit-terrorists have been allowed to grow to the extent of even attacking our military institutions, equipment and personnel.

Having rendered the strategic Abuja-Kaduna highway which is the main trunk into the deeper North unsafe for travellers, the terrorists in October 2021, staged their first attack on the Abuja-Kaduna railways. Common sense should have warned the authorities that since the bulk of travellers on that axis had opted for train rides, immediate steps had to be taken to secure the train services.

Rather, what the former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, disclosed to shocked Nigerians was that a request made for equipment to secure the services were “not approved”. On March 28, 2022, the terrorists struck again, killed eight passengers, injured many others and took between 60 and 150 passengers into captivity for ransom. Almost two months later, the NRC, which had been mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly restore service on that rail line, announced today (Monday, May 23, 2022) as the resumption date.

But it has since been forced to rescind that decision by the families of the abducted victims, who have been protesting and making countless appeals for the Federal Government to secure release of their relations. The distraught families had also vowed to picket train stations and the tracks on the Abuja-Kaduna rail network to ensure that services do not resume. The Managing Director of the NRC, Fidet Okhiria, claims that the corporation is under pressure to resume services having repaired the damaged equipment and secured the axis. We understand the overwhelming public interest in the resumption of services. However, what about the unfinished business of the abductees still in the terrorists’ den?

It will be unjust and callous to resume services without addressing that issue satisfactorily.

It is the responsibility of the Federal Government and the Nigeria Railway Corporation to account for the passengers who trusted the system for their safe passage from Abuja to Kaduna.

Nigerians should even boycott that corridor as their contribution to forcing the government to get the captives released. Besides, what is their guarantee that the so-called safety measures adopted by the NRC will work, moreso as the terrorists are said to have collaborators elsewhere aiding them?

Our fear is that once the trains resume, the abductees will be forgotten like so many earlier abducted victims (especially school children) languishing in terrorists’ hideouts. The Chibok Girls, Leah Sharibu and hundreds of others have been in captivity for months and years. This is unacceptable!

We demand accountability from the Federal Government.