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Terrorists loyal to Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) and Ansaru were responsible for the destruction of the Abuja-Kaduna rail track, credible security sources told the Daily Trust on Thursday.

Train services in the Abuja-Kaduna corridor were partially obstructed Wednesday night after the terrorists reportedly blew a section of the track using dynamites.

The assailants returned in the early hours of Thursday and inflicted serious damage on the rail track, forcing the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to suspend services.

Though the NRC described the development as an act of vandalism, credible security sources fingered terrorists.

How trouble started

Passengers said one of the locomotives, which left Abuja at 6 pm Wednesday hit the first explosive planted by the assailants around 8 pm.

They said that they were stranded for almost six hours before a second locomotive that left Abuja to lend support pulled them to the Rigasa Train Station in Kaduna around 2.30 am.

The second explosion reportedly went off Thursday when the train for the 6.40 am service that left Rigasa Station in Kaduna ran over another set of explosives that damaged the railings.

Former Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, who boarded the morning train for Abuja, wrote on his Facebook page that the train he was travelling in nearly veered off the track but “miraculously escaped”.

A senior security source confirmed to our reporter that security agents had in the last few days intercepted and neutralised terrorists attempting to blow up bridges and rail tracks around the Kaduna axis of the rail line.

“These (attacks) have the signature of ISWAP and Ansaru written all over it, bandits want to kidnap and trade human beings for ransom but this is clear terrorism,” he said.

“The aim was to kill the people on the train. But we thank God that they have not succeeded,” he said.

Another top security source confirmed that within the last few days, security agents had intercepted information of an attempt to blow up one of the rail line bridges but through concerted efforts, the terrorists could not succeed.

Daily Trust reports that while presenting its security report for the third quarter on Wednesday, Kaduna State Government had hinted of growing interaction between terrorists and bandits in the state.

Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said, “Security agencies have been alive to the growing interaction of bandits and terrorists. Many Boko Haram terrorists were intercepted trying to enter Kaduna State. The Ansaru group has also grown in stature and visibility, as evidenced by the slaughter of 21 residents of Inono, Sabuwa LGA of neighbouring Katsina State.”

NRC suspends service

The management of the NRC on Thursday issued a statement announcing the suspension of train services due to what it called ‘unforeseen circumstances.

“There was an explosion on the rail track that affected the fuel tank of the locomotive on Abuja to Kaduna fast tram (AK10).”

It said the affected locomotive has been sent to the workshop for assessment and repairs adding that there was no casualty from the attacks. In a phone interview with one of our correspondents, NRC’s Managing Director, Mr. Fidet Okhiria, refuted the claim of bandits’ attack.

Okhiria said the rail track was destroyed by suspected vandals.

He said the vandalism of NRC facilities was on the increase in recent times. “We have issues with the track and we are fixing it. We are working to resume train services and by today’s (Thursday) evening, we should run if possible,” he said.

But train services had not returned as of Thursday’s evening.

Loud bang before train came to a standstill’

Commuters on the Kaduna-Abuja train on Thursday narrated how they spent over six hours in a secluded area after explosive devices were planted on the rail track.

Former NUJ Chairman in Kaduna, Garba Mohammed, who was on the train on Wednesday, said there was pandemonium as commuters were left at the mercy of a few police officers.

Mohammed said, “Forty kilometres to Kaduna, we heard a loud sound and security agents asked us to take cover. A few minutes later, the security agents were moving around. We had to open the windows because of the heat and we could see the main road from the track where the train stopped.”

Another commuter, Abba Adamu Musa, who followed the 6.40 am train from Abuja to Kaduna on Thursday, said they were also stranded around the Jere substation.

“We were stranded for two hours and initially we thought there was a problem with our locomotive, but gradually, rumours filtered that the train from Kaduna had hit some explosives.

“They had to do a manual switch over and so, the locomotive pulled us back to Abuja,” he said.

Food vendors exploit train commuters

Daily Trust gathered from commuters of the Kaduna-Abuja train that snack vendors in the train had exploited them during their hour of need when the train came to a standstill.


James Abraham, who was on the train on Wednesday night, said the vendors immediately hiked the prices of snacks and drinks during their pressing time.

“You won’t believe that while we were in such a precarious situation, these people hiked the prices of drinks on the train. There was no water, people became thirsty but yet the snack vendors that should have helped at that time were busy exploiting us.”

He called on NRC to investigate their activities and ensure that people with empathy were allowed to sell food and drinks on the train.

Also, hundreds of passengers were stranded at Rigasa Railway station on Thursday morning following the cancellation of the Abuja-Kaduna.

Daily Trust correspondent who visited the area reports that among those stranded was a first-class emir in Kaduna State and his entourage who had no choice but to return home.

A passenger, who gave her name as Hajiya, said she and her husband had to return home as they could not travel by road.

Abubakar Adam who was on his way to Kaduna, said, “We were there waiting and nobody told us anything. When we were in Kubwa, we were informed the train was delayed due to mechanical issues. But here, we sat for more than an hour, so, people started assuming that the train was waiting for the one coming from Kaduna to pass.”

“A lot of people left the train with the fears there may be an attack. Much later, by noon, some of the officials left to find a network to call for assistance.”

Barricade construction abandoned as NRC reviews security architecture

Daily Trust reports that a gigantic project embarked upon by the NRC to help reduce the risk of accidents or attacks had been abandoned.

The construction of a barricade with blocks on the right and left side of the rail track from the Kubwa Station had been abandoned for a long time.

The project was announced in 2016 to among other things safeguard NRC assets and deny animals from straying.

It is not clear how much was budgeted for the project and why it was stalled. Some officials contacted yesterday declined to comment on the matter.

In August 2016, the federal government said it had introduced armed guards on the trains that ply the Abuja to Kaduna rail line.

It also stated that it had drafted hundreds of police officers to man the route of the rail service.

The government disclosed this on its official Twitter handle, noting that there had been questions relating to the security being provided for the service.

In the tweet, the government said the question for the Federal Ministry of Transportation during the Federal Executive meeting was on security for the Abuja-Kaduna rail route.

However, with what happened on the Abuja-Kaduna route on Wednesday and Thursday, Daily Trust gathered that the NRC is reviewing its security architecture on train routes across the country.

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A source who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said, “Again, this is not just about Abuja-Kaduna train service now. Tomorrow it could be Lagos-Ibadan or any other train facility.”

Our correspondent gathered that the Commissioner of Police in charge of train operations had arrived in Abuja from Lagos to inspect the nature of the explosion and the possible cause of it.

‘NRC to lose N19m daily’

Findings by our correspondents revealed that the NRC will be losing about N19 million daily from its almost 5,000 daily passenger traffic on the Abuja to Kaduna corridor except on Wednesdays when it operates limited schedule services due to the maintenance programme on the locomotives.

The NRC runs 12 coaches on the corridor with two Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) being used for the express services.

It operates up to eight trips on the corridor; four from Abuja and four from Kaduna. The economy coaches carry up to 88 passengers whilst the business class coaches carry up to 56 passengers.

The NRC charges N2, 600 for the economy class except for the express service economy which goes for N3, 000 per seat. Also, the business class goes for N5, 000 except on the express service which costs N6, 000 per seat. Cumulatively, the corporation makes between N15 million and N19 million depending on the passenger traffic.

In-train food vendors would also suffer losses even though it is not immediately clear how much.

A cab driver, Mr. Munir, who operates at the Idu Train Station, Abuja, said he makes N10, 000 on average per day.

According to him, there are up to 100 cabs operating at the Idu Station alone. Based on Mr Munir’s estimates, the cabs could collectively lose about N1 million daily.

The Abuja-Kaduna train service recently clocked five years and apart from some operational glitches and minor security breaches, this is the first major attack on the service.

Daily Trust