Security measures excite Abuja-Kaduna train passengers

d airport queue
d airport queue

Abuja-Kaduna train services resumed operations on December 5, 2022, after eight months of suspending activities on the rail lines. Terrorists attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train on March 28, 2022, kidnapping 168 passengers and killing eight others.

The release of the victims was in batches with the last 23 freed in October. The train station was built with a $500m loan from the Chinese Government facilitated through the China Exim Bank at a 2.5 per cent annual interest rate in 2020 by the Federal Government.

The loan is to be repaid over 20years with a grace period of seven years. The project was completed in 2016 by the Chinese Construction Company. The Former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had in a television interview said that the Federal Government had paid $150m from the loan.

He said during the interview, “Under the regime of President Goodluck Jonathan, the loan for the Abuja-Kaduna rail line was taken at about $500m. As we are talking today, we have paid about $150m on that loan, and Nigeria has never defaulted when it comes to loan repayment. I don’t expect that we would default on any other loans that we have taken.”

Some passengers lauded the resumption of services by the Abuja-Kaduna train, but expressed mixed feelings regarding sustenance of security measures to forestall attacks.

Speaking with , one of them who is an ex-Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja, Prof Ganiyat Adesina-Uthman, said she had an awesome experience travelling to Kaduna with the train, noting that she enjoyed the fully air-conditioned coaches. She also said that security officers paraded the train while in motion.

She noted that passengers had to scan barcodes on the ticket machines before they were allowed to board.

Adesina-Uthman stated, “Now, we have the e-ticket. They use a machine to check instead of collecting hard paper and stamping it. They use the machine to check the barcode to confirm that you are the owner of the ticket. It was an awesome experience and I think it’s the way forward.”

Attacked TrainAnother passenger, Usi Yahaya, noted that security measures had improved compared to when the train was attacked, noting that there were security officers on the train. Yahaya stated, “Adequate security was provided from Abuja to Kaduna. Security agents moved around the train. The presentation of National Identification Number is also helpful to check security. It was a seamless process.”

He urged the Federal Government to sustain the security provided, saying “Safety for now is guaranteed. We hope that they will sustain it.”

A passenger who gave her name only as Olamide O told our correspondent that she wasn’t comfortable with the measure put in place by the Federal Government, adding that she missed the 9:45 am train on a particular day because she was unable to verify her NIN on the portal. She said, “I wasn’t able to order the NIN from the portal.’’

She claimed that the Federal Government often subjected Nigerians to difficulties with its pattern of making policies, arguing that external groups obviously attacked the train and not passengers.

Olamide stated, “I have doubts about the security measures provided. It wasn’t the passengers that attacked the train, the attackers were external factors and we all know the story so why now make things difficult by ordering us to provide NIN. We should be able to present any other government-issued identity cards or passports.

“Some people have issues with their NINs due to no fault of theirs but by those who registered them for the exercise. For instance, someone registered my telephone number in 12 digits. It was the person who registered me that made an error after all one cannot do NIN registration by oneself. One only supplies the telephone number. But if I use the telephone number to source my name it will come out, so where is the discrepancy? They should stop making policies that will be difficult for Nigerians. It’s not fair.’’

She stated that the FG should have implored infrastructural security verification rather than the use of NIN, adding that the train would be safer if guard irons were installed on either side of the track from the point of takeoff to the destination.

“What they should have done is infrastructural security not verification because we all knew what happened. It should be how to make the train safer in terms of putting grills on either side of the rail track to the destination point, “she said.

Olamide also said that the locals could identify foreigners among them, stating that the Federal Government should supply numbers of people to alert in each of the locations from Rigasa to Abuja.

On his part, a passenger who gave his name only as Mabe, hailed the security measures put in place by the Federal Government.

Mabe who said he had travelled twice on the Abuja-Kaduna train since its resumption, said he preferred travelling by train than road for it’s safer though death could come anytime.

He stated, “I have travelled twice on the Abuja-Kaduna train since its resumed operation. The security measures are quite assuring. I am not afraid of death knowing that it is inevitable.  But the human effort the Federal Government put in place is assuring. I feel safer on the train than on the road.”

Security ChecksSharing his experience, Usman Jamal, who is a regular passenger on the route before the terrorists’ attack, said he tried many times to book his ticket via the online portal to no avail because his NIN could not be processed.

Jamal stated, “It’s my first time boarding the train since it resumed operation. I tried booking online but had difficulty processing my NIN.”

He also commended the security measures put in place by the Federal Government and the NIN initiative, urging the Federal Government to work on the platform for easier accessibility.

Jamal said,” I have doubts on the security measures being put in place by the FG. Security wise the NIN is a good thing but they haven’t really worked on the platform. There are also some people that do not have NIN yet like old people, minors and home helps among others. How do they go about it when they want to travel by train? Some of them do not have phones and NIN.’’

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Jamal stated that he arrived at the station at 9:45am to buy a ticket, stating that he missed the train due to network issues processing his NIN. He noted, “I tried during the night to buy a ticket online but I couldn’t process my NIN because of the poor network. I came to the station with my family and at the counter, there was no improvement. The train is about to leave now without us.’’

Our correspondent observed Jamal with his family at the station looking dejected as the train prepared to leave.

For a passenger, John Paul, his efforts to catch up with an early train were futile. Paul said he tried booking a ticket online earlier but didn’t succeed. He said, “It just kept rolling without processing my NIN. I prefer to buy tickets online so that once I get to the station; it will be easy to get on board. I wanted to leave with the morning train because I have an appointment to catch up with. I wasn’t happy I had to wait for about six hours for the 3pm train. Later on, I bought over-the- counter because I was early and there was no crowd.’’

Speaking about the security measures, he said he felt safer with the provision on the train compared to the past, advising the Federal Government to sustain the inventiveness.

To fortify the Abuja-Kaduna train station, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Transportation, shifted the resumption date on several occasions.

The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Transportation directed the resumption of train services on the Abuja-Kaduna route, but the Nigerian Railway Corporation in a statement by its spokesperson Mahmood Yakubu, announced that the train operations would resume on May 23, 2022.

Similarly, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, while presenting the scorecard of his ministry at the second edition of the PMB Administration Scorecard 2015 to 2023 in Abuja announced that the Abuja-Kaduna train services would resume in November 2022. He, however, did not give a specific date.

Sambo said,”This month of November, we shall resume that service. Remember, I told you for those of you who are reporters from the State House, that we will not resume this service until every Nigerian held in captivity is reunited with their families.”

The minister, while on an inspection tour to assess the state of readiness before commencement of the rail operations, extended the resumption date by a week.

He said that the Federal Government had introduced a new system of purchasing tickets, which he said was the beginning of security checks. He noted that it would enable them to ascertain who would board the train at every point in time.

The Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Fidet Okhiria, while addressing journalists in Lagos late September said that the government established a committee to ensure maximum security for both train passengers and facilities during operation.

Sambo, while giving the scorecard of his ministry in Abuja last month, said that adequate security measures had been put in place to ensure the safety of passengers.

In the same vein, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, ordered the immediate deployment of armed officials drawn from the police Mobile Force K-9, Force Intelligence Bureau, Explosive Ordnance Unit and the Railway Police Command for the commencement of railway services along Abuja-Kaduna rail lines from Monday, December 5, 2022.

The force spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, also noted in a statement that the IG assured the general public, especially intending passengers, of adequate protection of lives and property, adding that all hands were on deck to fortify the railway services along the route and other rail lines across the country.

The National Bureau of Statistics noted that rail transportation passengers’ intake decreased by 25.29 per cent in the second quarter of 2022. The decrease was attributed to the attack on rail facilities which scared passengers.

The reports noted that passengers’ intake was 422,393 compared to the second quarter of 2021 which stood at 565,385. According to the bureau, revenue generated from passengers was N598.73m ; a decrease of 44.76 per cent from N1.08bn in the same period last year.

In terms of revenue generation, N2.07bn was received from passengers over the period, higher by 132.82 per cent to N892.46m in the first quarter of 2021.

Ohkiria in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria said that the corporation lost about N113m due to the suspension of train services on the Abuja-Kaduna route.

He stated, “The last time we checked that was between the months of February to August. We have lost about N113m. Using what we were earning between January and March, we had to use it as a working document.’’ reported last November that the Federal Government lost over N5.37bn since the suspension of the train service in March last year.

Recent findings by revealed that the train was suspended for 251 days. The coaches on the train have the capacity to take about 900/1000 passengers per trip.

The Abuja-Kaduna train service operates eight trips daily. Before the suspension of the service, an average economy ticket sold for between N2,800 and N3,000, while VIP tickets were N6,000 per seat.

This indicated that the corporation earned about N3m per trip for a train conveying 1,000 passengers at ticket price of N3,000 per ticket, when added to the 124 VIP seats at N6,000 per seat; the sum total for a trip is about N3.744m. For the eight trips operated daily, the NRC would earn about N29.95m.

The minister while on an inspection tour to Kaduna announced that Nigerians should expect an increase in price upon resumption of the train services.

Ahead of the scheduled resumption date, the NRC boss said the reason for the increase was because of the rise in energy bills, especially diesel needed to run the trains. He, however, noted that the price increase would be implemented with consideration to the interest of Nigerians and other commuters, adding that the service cannot be halted due to high cost of diesel.

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