By Muyiwa Adeyemi, Gbenga Salau (Lagos), Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, John Akubo, Joke Falaju, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine and AbdulGaniyu Alabi (Kaduna)
• Buhari to service chiefs: Be more decisive, don’t spare anyone unlawfully wielding AK-47
• Amaechi: Government’s slow procurement process led to the loss of lives on the Abuja-Kaduna train
• Osinbajo cancels Lagos trip, visits Kaduna to condole with victims
• Tinubu calls off 70th birthday celebration over attack
• Life is near worthless under APC, Buhari, says PDP
• NMA mourns Chinelo, decries worsening insecurity
• Senators blame the failure of government for new dimensions of terrorism
• Northern senators charge security agencies to up their game
As families and friends mourn victims of the terrorist attacks on the Kaduna-bound train on Monday night, Nigerians have continued to lament the spate of recent attacks with the question: ‘What is a Nigerian life worth?’
The orgy of attacks in Kaduna State continued, yesterday after terrorists at the weekend attacked an airport and followed it up with Monday’s rail track explosion at Gidan train station along the Abuja-Kaduna rail track.
It was gathered that the terrorists planted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on the tracks forcing the train heading to Abuja from Kaduna to a stop. This is the second attack within 24 hours along the same axis.
As of press time, details of the second attack were still sketchy, and it wasn’t yet clear if there were casualties. Innocent Ajiji, president of the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers, confirmed the development to newsmen. He said: “We are yet to determine the extent of the damage.”
The incident comes hours after Monday’s attack, following which the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) had announced the suspension of the Abuja-Kaduna railway operations.
At least eight persons were killed in Monday’s attack, which happened at about 7:45 p.m. at Dutse village in Chikun Local Government Area, a few kilometres from the Rigasa train station, which is the last transit point of the train.
Soldiers were mobilised to confront the terrorists when the mobile policemen escorting passengers on the train were overpowered. They eventually succeeded in dispersing the bandits, who also escaped with some of their hostages.
After calm was restored, the passengers walked about 45 kilometres under security cover to the Abuja-Kaduna highway, and from there, they were conveyed in buses to the 44 Nigerian Army Reference hospital in the Kaduna state capital, where those who sustained injuries were immediately treated.
Also yesterday, bandits attacked the Kaduna-Abuja highway where they kidnapped some travellers. It was learnt that some motorists plying the road were blocked by the bandits and taken to an unknown destination.
An eyewitness said the bandits who were wielding dangerous weapons asked the travellers to come out of their vehicles.
“We saw them when they were taking dozens of travellers inside the forest. But we were helpless as we were not armed. We don’t even have the power to confront them,” he said. At the time of filing this report, the police and the state government were yet to react to the incident.
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, again ordered service chiefs to deal ruthlessly with terrorists, adding that they should be more decisive and not spare anyone unlawfully wielding the AK-47 weapon. Buhari gave the directives after he received a briefing from service chiefs, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, on the Abuja-Kaduna train terror attack.
The President 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 railway line, as well as extended coverage to the Lagos-Ibadan railway line.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari directed the Nigerian Railway Corporation management to speedily repair the damaged lines and resume normal service without delay.
Others in the delegation of the CDS were the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Faruk Yahaya, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, as well as Major General Samuel Adebayo, the Chief of Defence Intelligence and the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Magaji Bichi.
The President further charged the service chiefs to bring back all passengers kidnapped and ensure that each of the callous terrorists are hunted down and made to face justice for their heinous acts as no one or group should be allowed to render the country prostrate.
“No one should be allowed to hold the country to ransom,” he ordered.
Buhari strongly condemned the bombing of the passenger train, describing it as a “matter of grave concern.
“Like most Nigerians, I am deeply pained by its occurrence, the second of its type, which has resulted in the death of a yet to be a determined number of passengers and others who suffered injuries.”
Addressing State House correspondents shortly after the meeting with the President, Irabor said: “We have come to brief the President regarding the unfortunate incident of Monday, where some criminals had gone to lay improvised explosive devices on the rail tracks and a passenger train was demobilised. Seven Nigerians were killed, 29 others wounded and some were kidnapped, which we are yet to establish the exact number.”
The Defence Chief said security agencies will build on the lessons they have learnt from the latest incident. He assured Nigerians that the military and other security agencies will not rest on their oars until everywhere is secured.
MINISTER of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday, disclosed that 398 passengers were on the train and the NRC is still trying to make contact with passengers on the manifest even though there are staff of the NRC and security officials that are not on the manifest.
About six months ago when terrorists attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train deploying explosives on the track and forced the train to stop at Rijana community in Kaduna, the government gave assurances that such an incident would not occur again as it was putting in place security devices to ensure the train transport system is safe for passengers
Unfortunately, six months after, the security apparatus promised by the government is still in the procurement process as The Guardian learnt that the security equipment approved by the Federal Executive Council was expected to arrive in July.
The Minister of Transportation while inspecting the site of the blast, said: “We have not been able to install the security sensors because the procurement process is a bit difficult. It is typical of Nigeria. We would have loved to shorten the process and save lives but because the process is tedious, the approval is also tedious, we have not been able to get that approval that will lead to the purchase of those items.”
He said the security apparatus has been valued to cost N3 billion as orders have been placed for one in Lagos.
“If those items were here, drones alone will tell you that there are people around the rail tracks because there are drones, there is equipment to pick sensors if you touch the track but unfortunately the process has not been able to get us that approval for us to import those items. For me, I am devastated and I honestly don’t know what to tell Nigerians anymore,” he added.
He said though the Kaduna State government has advised that they suspend operation on the track, the minister said running away from the problem is not the solution. However, pending the time the security apparatus arrive they are thinking of the possibility of employing natives to man the tracks, adding that there is a need for drones and helicopter on the corridor.
VICE President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, canceled his planned trip to Lagos for the Tinubu colloquium to visit victims of the attack in Kaduna State.
Spokesperson to the Vice-President, Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo was on his way to Lagos for the 13th Tinubu Colloquium before making a detour to Kaduna after receiving news of the extent of human and material losses occasioned by the dastardly attack on the Abuja-Kaduna railway route.
The Vice-President was received at Kaduna Airport by the governor, Nasir El-Rufai. He also visited victims of the attack at 44 Nigerian Army Reference hospital and Saint Gerald’s Catholic hospital both in Kaduna.
In Lagos, the venue of the Tinubu colloquium, the hall was filled to the brim with many struggling to gain access, where dignitaries, including governors, royal fathers and captains of industry were already seated. Proceedings began with the Chief Imam of Lagos, Sheikh Sulaimon Abuo Nallah and Lagos Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Stephen Adegbite, offering the opening prayers.
As soon as the prayers ended, the celebrant, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, led some special guests that included Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, Lagos governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his Osun State counterpart, Adegboyega Oyetola and two prominent monarchs, among others out of the hall. They returned minutes later and marched to the podium, with the Masters of Ceremonies abruptly ending the introduction of guests to allow Tinubu to address the audience.
After getting a pin-drop silence, Tinubu announced: “Today is supposed to be a very joyful 70th birthday of my living on earth. And this morning I gave thanks to the Almighty for being able to survive, despite all odds and rascality. I have just been informed of a very sad incident in our country where over 60 people were killed and burnt in a train heading to Kaduna from Abuja last night.
“That is a very serious incident. It calls for sober reflection, not to be here celebrating, dancing and enjoying myself, which doesn’t show enough concern as a statesman and senior citizen of this country.
“I will urge the two clergies here to continue to pray and everyone to go home and pray. This event should not be held. People you see around me here agree with me, and being a highly committed democrat, I have agreed to their suggestion that this event is cancelled.
“We pray for the souls who have departed prematurely, we ask the clerics to please pray to God to help us win the war over evils, set Nigeria on the right path, bless us and provide guidance on all of us in our various ways.”
THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned “the continuing insecurity and near worthlessness of the lives of Nigerians under the insensitive All Progressives Congress (APC) government as evidenced by the vicious terrorist attack on innocent Nigerians travelling in a Kaduna State-bound train on Monday.”
This was contained in a statement released last night by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, who said the most alarming thing was “the fact this particular attack took place within two days of the deadly terrorist attack on the Kaduna International Airport on Saturday, in the same Kaduna State controlled by an APC government.”
It stated that the successful ambush of the train on the Abuja-Kaduna service by terrorists who killed many Nigerians, abducted scores of others in an operation that lasted for over an hour, again confirms PDP’s stance that “the security command and control coordination structure under President Buhari has collapsed.”
The opposition party insisted that the complicity of silence by the Buhari administration on Saturday’s airport attack emboldened the terrorists to assault the train, a development it said also validated PDP’s position that the APC administration has conceded sovereignty of parts of the country to terrorists.
“The continued silence and obvious helplessness of the Buhari presidency on these deadly attacks on our nation’s key transportation sectors raise apprehensions of possible complicity at the very top level of the APC administration,” the statement added.
“In 2021 over 10,366 Nigerians were killed by terrorists with over 2,900 abductions in countless terrorism-related attacks in which no fewer than 964 security agents were killed, as revealed by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence Report published in The Guardian Newspaper of Thursday, January 3, 2022.
Those killed in 2021 represents a scary 47 per cent increase in the 7063 massacres by terrorists in 2020.
“More alarming is that the killing spree has continued in 2022 unabated. More than 536 Nigerians have been killed by terrorists since the beginning of this year. In the first three weeks of January 2022, about 486 Nigerians were killed by terrorists. Again, only last week, 50 innocent Nigerians were reportedly hacked to death by terrorists in the same Kaduna State!
“This is beside the hundreds of Nigerians, including students who were abducted by terrorists with many of them still languishing in their abductors’ den. The question to ask is, how many more Nigerians can our nation afford to lose because of the recklessness and arrogance in the failure of the APC? Nigeria bleeds, families are hurting, parents mourn and agonise, yet the APC government is on vacation.”
THE Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Medical and Dental Practitioners have expressed sadness over the tragic and preventable death of one of their members, Dr Chinelo Megafu Nwando, who lost her life from injuries sustained from gunshots when the Abuja to Kaduna train was attacked by suspected terrorists.
In a statement, yesterday in Abuja, the President of NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah, decried the worsening insecurity in the country, which has made all Nigerians vulnerable to violent attacks by hoodlums, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists.
Ujah called on security agencies to urgently reorganise the security architecture with a focus on intelligence gathering to avoid these carnages across the country.
He recommends that the Federal Government gives strong consideration to the establishment of state police to further complement the efforts of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), adding that recruitment of more security personnel and the provision of modern security gadgets and ammunition has become inevitable.
ALSO, lawmakers at plenary, on Tuesday, expressed anger over the new wave of insecurity that has shifted from the usual highway attacks to airport and railways with privileged Nigerians as target. They blamed the new dimensions on the failure of leadership on the part of the ruling APC at the national level and in Kaduna State which has now become the new theatre of attacks.
A Kaduna senator, Suleiman Kwari, had called on the National Assembly and the Federal Government to revisit talks of state police. The National Assembly had ignored the clamour for state police by some governors and many other Nigerians in the Constitution amendment conducted last month.
The lawmaker, who represents Kaduna North senatorial district, said: “We had live chats with people that were caught in the unfortunate incident and it was really scary. A woman with a baby in her arm in the ill-fated train was crying for mercy and that she had an aged mother by her side.
“Fortunately, some of the military personnel had to induct some people in the act of crawling, which saved the situation, as many of them crawled from the VIP coaches to the economy coaches. This helped in reducing the casualty. Unfortunately, the drones and other advanced technologies that have been advocated have not been acquired by the government.”
Another Kaduna senator, Uba Sani, raised a point of order on “the continuing attacks on communities and public facilities in Kaduna. The lawmaker said the latest attacks took place in some communities in Giwa Local Government, namely Angwan Sarki Yahya, Tashar Shari, Bare-Bari, Tsaunin Natal, Dillalai, Durumi and Jatin Kanwa.
“Other places affected include Kaya community, Mai kyauro and Fatika, where over 50 people were killed and over 100 kidnapped. Not done with their devilish acts, they made an attempt to penetrate the Kaduna International Airport.”
On his part, Benue senator, Gabriel Suswam, blamed the recurring attacks on the failure of the leadership of the state. He wondered why the Kaduna State government has done very little to stop the attacks and called on the Federal Government to address the issue.
Senators from the North under the auspices of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) have expressed shock and outrage over Monday’s attack, asking the military to re-strategise on handling the security situation in the Northwest.
The forum’s chairman and a former governor of Sokoto State, Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, said the attack was a direct dare at the Nigerian state and its security forces.
Wamakko, who is also chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, said the loss of lives of innocent and defenceless Nigerians must be halted immediately.
MEANWHILE, reacting to the incident, Roland Ataguba of Bethlehem Rail Infrastructure Ltd, London, has said government can put in place technology-driven systems like intrusion alarms, broken rail detectors and motion-activated cameras.
Ataguba said: “I don’t know what government knows or is doing, but it’s been six months since the last attack along that corridor and it should have been treated as an emergency. Lives are being lost. Nigeria is bleeding but the government must hasten and restructure the railway environment.”
He advised that a private operator would have been far more responsive knowing the consequences such disruption could have on his business.
The CEO, African Railway Consulting Limited, Olawale Rasheed, noted that Kaduna has been volatile for some time and in as much, it is not easy to put in place patrolmen to police the rail track, tracking devices can be put in place.