• 9 August 2023
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By Lilian Ukagwu | 9 August 2023

Unknown persons have allegedly carted away communication signals at the Abuja-Kaduna railway corridor, The PUNCH gathered.

A top official within the Nigerian Railway Corporation disclosed this to our correspondent in Abuja.

According to the official, who requested to remain anonymous, terrorist attacks at Kubwa train station allowed the vandals to steal the communication signal equipment.

“And another thing is after this accident, they reduced the speed of the train. It was the driver who just decided to reduce the speed of the train. Before, it will just cross because the communication and signal equipment was there, but now they have vandalised everything. They have vandalised all the signals from here to Rigasa,” the source said.

He disclosed that the signal lights, necessary for communication and maintaining safe distances between trains, were wholly removed, adding that the vandals had been actively tampering with the rail fasteners, causing potential dangers as trains traverse those sections.

The official noted that those acts of vandalism primarily occurred within the Rigasa yard premises, where considerable security personnel, including soldiers and police officers, were usually stationed.

“As a result of the compromised communication systems and damaged signaling equipment, the trains on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line are unable to achieve higher speeds, impacting the efficiency and reliability of the service.

“The whole points they removed, all the signal lights, and the tricycles were all in the Rigasa yard. It was not outside/far away and we have plenty security.

“Now, the train cannot run fast because of there is no communication. The points are not good, the vandals are removing the fastener (the knob that is holding the rail). They removed almost a kilometre. How do you expect the train to speed? If the train speeds, there may be an accident. They are just managing this line as we speak,” the source lamented.

When contacted on the issue, the Regional Manager of Idu Train Station, Pascal Nnolim, on Monday, expressed concern over the rising incidents of vandalism on the rail line.

Nnolim mentioned that unknown vandals destroyed signalling equipment and track materials, lamenting the constant need for replacements due to repeated acts of vandalism.

“It was not just signalling equipment, vandalism is increasing on this corridor. Track materials have been vandalized. When you replace them, they vandalise them the following morning. It is not just the point machines but other components. So, the track itself is being threatened by the activities of the vandals,” he stated.

According to Nnolim, the vandals are not only targeting the point machines, but other essential components.

He said this posed a threat to the track itself, adding to the challenges faced by the railway authorities.

He claimed that despite efforts to repair and replace the vandalised equipment, new instances of vandalism occur promptly.

“These restrictions are put in place until the necessary issues are resolved by the civil engineering department. By prioritising safety, the professionals can ensure a calm and secure journey for passengers, rather than compromising their well-being for the sake of speed.

“We have put what is called TSR temporary speed restriction until those issues are remedied and once they are addressed, the civil engineering department will remove it.

The Idu Train Station regional manager revealed that some of the vandals had been arrested.

Nnolim said,” We arrest vandals and we prosecute them. If you take them to court sometimes, they are given six months in prison and after six months, they come out and be terrorising people again.”

The PUNCH reports that the Abuja- Kaduna rail lines had been in the news since 28 March 2022, when terrorists planted explosive devices along the rail track.

The incident led to the death of eight passengers while others were kidnapped by terrorists, forcing the Federal Government to suspend the train operations.

Comment:

“The official noted that those acts of vandalism primarily occurred within the Rigasa yard premises, where considerable security personnel, including soldiers and police officers, were usually stationed.”

More than a year after the terrorist attack on the AK9 train, it would seem that we are still unable to secure the railway infrastructure.

If this report is to be believed, the collusion and complicity of railway workers and security officials is implied.

Begs questions why we seem to have a law enforcement problem. Is it that we know who is doing these things and don’t want to catch them? It’s all so befuddling.

Recall that post the AK9 attack, government’s response was to install metal detectors at stations and to request travellers to present their NIN(ID) in order to purchase tickets. None of which could have prevented the earlier attack. It was as if government wanted to be seen to be doing something no matter how ineffectual.

The other day government was arguing that fuel subsidy had to go because there was a powerful cabal behind the smuggling of petroleum products and fraudulent subsidy claims. It’s like government is abdicating its responsibility to secure life and property. What is government’s job if not to catch the bad guys and keep us all safe but hey, what do I know?