Kaduna-Abuja train
Kaduna-Abuja train

•FG loses over N5bn on halted operations

The Federal Government has announced that the Abuja-Kaduna train services will resume soon.

Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, announced this while giving the scorecard of his ministry in Abuja

This announcement is coming eight months after terrorists bombed the Kaduna-Abuja train corridor and kidnapped scores of passengers leading to the suspension of services.

Recall that terrorists attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train on March 28, 2022, kidnapping 168 passengers and killing eight others.

However, the release of the victims had been in batches since then, with the last 23 released in October.

Sambo’s words: “We shall resume that service this month. I told you we would only resume service after all the kidnapped passengers might have been released. By the grace of God and through the instrumentality of our security agencies under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, that has been successfully done and we are going to resume operation on the Kaduna-Abuja rail route before the end of November 2022”.

Meanwhile, checks by Sunday Vanguard show that for the past 229 days since the train service was suspended, Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, has lost about N5.49 billion revenue which could have been raked from ticket sales.

From investigation, the coaches plying the Abuja-Kaduna route have the capacity to carry between 900 and 1,000 passengers per trip. Before the suspension of the service, an average economy ticket sold for N2,800 – N3,000, while VIP tickets went for N6,000/seat.

A breakdown of daily ticket sales by Saturday Vanguard shows that the NRC makes a minimum of N3m per trip at N3,000 a ticket for a train that has the capacity to carry 900 to 1,000 passengers.

Consequently, for the eight trips operated daily, the NRC would have earned about N24m, while for the 229 days, the corporation would have garnered about N5.49bn

Abuja residents react

Mixed reactions by Abuja residents have, meanwhile, trailed the announcement of resumption of Abuja-Kaduna train services, particularly from individuals and families who were victims or had relatives that were victims of the March 2022 train attack.

Our correspondent observed that the attack left a big scar on many citizens, including making trust for government to wane.

Also worrisome is the reality that many Nigerians have lately become lethargic, unwilling to take movements at public places as a result of the jitters which came on the heels of the recent terror alerts issued by the United States, US, and the United Kingdom (UK) among other countries in Abuja.

Many Abuja residents, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard, disagreed with the Federal Government on the resumption of Abuja-Kaduna train operations with reasons that, from their checks, government is not acting differently from the way it handled security which, in the first place, took many lives and left others with scarred hearts.

A civil servant, who preferred anonymity, expressed concerns over the safety of train passengers, asking if government had drawn out feasible modalities to beef up security and ensure lives and properties are protected.

“Well, what the Federal Government has announced is good news. But, there are so many things aside announcing that the Abuja-Kaduna train will begin operations very soon”, he said.

“The big question is, have they drawn out modalities, have they structured out measures, for which they can use in ensuring that the security architecture around that Abuja Kaduna train route is completely secured and that train passengers will not be attacked just the same way we have had it before? The big question is, has government done what is needed in terms of strengthening security of our train and its passengers?”

A business man, Adamu Salihu, who resides in Jabi, Abuja, on his part, said the resumption of train operations is a welcomed development, advising the Federal Government on strict security measures to be put in place to avert any future attack by terrorists.

“When you check this train transportation, people are so cynical to board trains from any location to the other simply because of what happened. I’m talking about insecurity. But, with this new development, I think government must have taken proactive measures that will help fight against insecurity”, Salihu said.

Also speaking, Amarachi Eze, a teacher, suggested that the Federal Government should double the security personnel responsible for securing areas covered by the train.

He further advised government not to treat, with kid gloves the security alerts issued by the US among others, adding that the lives of citizens should be topmost priority.

“I think government should give more time before reopening the train service. This is because commuters will still be psychologically traumatized, not just those who were directly involved”, Eze stated.

“As an Abuja resident, I commend what our troops are doing. They’ve recorded pockets of successes here and there, even though there are still security threats lingering in the capital territory. However, I wouldn’t suggest that caution be thrown to the wind.

“Government should look into recruiting and training more security agents because the current number is not enough to combat the terrorists roaming our nation. If we cannot be assured of safety within the territory, then there’s absolutely no guarantee on the trains plying the Abuja to Kaduna route”.

Usman Danladi, a trader, who differed on how government should beef up security, said: “Beefing up security on the train route is not only about posting security operatives everywhere even though that’s a part of it, but there are other salient but equally important ways of beefing up security on the train route which I am sure government should be possibly exploiting to ensure that such an incident does not repeat itself.”

CSOs react

Decrying the spate of terrorist activities in Abuja which have aggravated fears, the National President, Coalition of Nigeria Youths, Dotun Hassan, said even though the commencement of rail operations seems progressive, government must consider unforeseen threats to avert any eventualities.

Hassan said: “Regrettably, we seem to be a fearless nation despite the terror alerts but it must be clear that the announcement and resumption of the Abuja-Kaduna train services is expected to automatically bring about reliefs, but, regrettably, the shock of the last terrorist attacks on commuters leaves many to feel some hypertensive bubbles and strokes of heartaches.

“Hence, it is pertinent to call for concerted efforts by our security agencies to clear that rail pathway of any unforeseen attacks or a repeat of the kidnapping, because one will reason deeply to know how monies were raised in billions to rescue family members, while victims were flogged and treated like animals by the terrorists.

“Right information management and intelligence sharing must be ensured, while local security around that corridor must, at all time, comb the towns hosting the train stations and pathway at intervals, with adequate inconvenience allowance paid to motivate the security personnel putting their lives in the line of duty”.

Similarly, Executive Director, One Nigeria, Comrade Obinna Nduka, said: “Is it about announcing the commencement of the Abuja-Kaduna train operations? No! Real time security measures must be taken. The lives of Nigerians should not be taken for granted because of revenue generation.

“Nigerians have not really seen the measures already taken to beef up security. At least we should be seeing moves but we aren’t. This is a call to government to do the needful. For now, there is fear of even boarding a train. Government was supposed to come up, assure Nigerians before even coming to announce the commencement of the train.

“Well, as Nigerians let’s all trust that government has done its bid on ensuring security. I also want to pray that such calamity will not fall on Nigeria again.”

Experts’ caution

A transportation analyst, Sylvester Maduka, said: “The Federal Government has done well to have announced the commencement of the Abuja-Kaduna train activities. It is a welcome development. But, we must tread with caution because when there is an attack, it takes passengers and everyone in the train unawares.

“The Federal Government must now work with intelligence reports. It must apply caution; it must now engage military, paramilitary and other security operatives available just to ensure that lives and properties of Nigerians boarding the Abuja-Kaduna trains are safe.

“So, it is a call. It is an advice to government not to joke with security because, about two years ago, the former Minister of Transportation said something to the effect that train security ends in the station and I am saying that there are other measures that can be taken to ensure that security does not end in the station. There should be mobile security operatives who should be on standby in case of eventualities.

“Security operatives should not be so far away that an attack can be carried out on a train in the middle of nowhere and not even the security personnel would come quickly to rescue.”

A security analyst, Abdul Hassan, said: “I think we should learn from the past. We should learn from what has happened. We should see the mistakes we did in the past. What did we do? What did we not do? What did we do but did it wrong? Doing that will help us to conceive workable modalities to ensure that the trains and the people in them are safe.”.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.