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Abuja-Kaduna Rail: How Safe Is Passengers 90% Security Arrangement?


The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo last week disclosed that the security features on the Abuja-Kaduna train will guarantee maximum safety of passengers, as the Abuja-Kaduna train service is expected to resume today.

A statement by the ministry quoted Sambo as saying the train service on the corridor is 90% ready and that the remaining 10% would be achieved in the next couple of days for a full resumption of rail services. He said the remaining days would be utilized to achieve the balance of 10% and be certain that the guarantee he is giving Nigerians to use the train is 100 per cent.

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The Minister who spoke while riding on the train to inspect security features and other measures said to have been put in place to protect passengers and forestall future attacks, even as his counterpart, the Honourable Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Hussein Adamu who accompanied him on the tour to assess the security arrangements already put in place waxed spiritual, as he appealed to Nigerians to have faith in the security infrastructure.

Also on the entourage of the minister was the Honourable Minster of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye, Chairman Governing Board Nigeria Railway Corporation, Alh. Ibrahim Musa, Directors of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Fidet Okhiria.

It is unclear why the transportation minister choosed to take along his counterpart at the water resources ministry for a second opinion and evaluation of the new security features on the rail line leaving out critical security top functionaries.

It is also curious that having waited for so long for the resumption of train services along the axis, the federal government elected to throw open the place with the safety and security arrangements for passengers at minus 10percent.

But overall, Sambo come across sounding very convincing and very concerned, as he. His words: “I am giving Nigerians the full assurance that a human being can give that this train is safe for them to use. There is absolutely nothing to fear. We have learned from what has happened and life is all about learning lessons and adopting measures to deal with the lessons.

“As a responsible government, we have seen those lessons. We have devised appropriate measures to counter them and like I always told the public, I was not going to allow this train to resume until everybody who was in captivity was released.

“To the glory of God, we have achieved that. We will also be taking measures that will ensure that by the grace of God such an incident never happens again in Nigeria.”

Nonetheless the transportation minister ‘s  observed sincerity,  it is curious that some of the said security system are process tailored to safeguard possible hijack of trains by passengers; despite that the challenge so far has been more of external ambush.

“I also want to make sure that the Nigerian public is sufficiently enlightened about the new procedure for buying tickets. The assurance I can give Nigerians is that I am also using this train. My counterpart, my friend here, the Honourable Minister of Water Resources has a home in Kaduna. In fact from next week, his family would start using this train.

“There are certain concrete measures that are visible for you to see and know that there are changes, for example, the ticketing and security status. Now you don’t buy a ticket unless you have a valid phone number and the National Identity Number (NIN).

“If you are a foreigner, you also have a means of identification you can use which is produced by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). Having secured your tickets, you will not gain access to the lounge until the barcode machine reads the barcode on your receipt.

“Your image, name, necessary details and your complete profile will show on the screen. Only then will the bar be automatically lifted for you to go into the lounge.

“This is unprecedented. This is what we call Customer profiling. Ask any security expert in the world and they will tell you that when you’re dealing with passengers, the first thing in terms of security readiness is the profiling of your passengers.

“You need to know who is coming on board. That is a visible change. Another visible change people may notice will be an increase in numbers of security personnel and I’ll tell you without mincing words, some of these security personnel may not even be wearing uniforms to guarantee the safety of the travelling public.”

His assurances however gained traction when he added that “There are other sensitive equipment that we have deployed, which I will not reveal.”

Then he offered another controversial perspective: “The other thing I can tell you is that on every journey, the train is monitored every second on a screen and the train driver can see up to a certain distance if there’s any threat on the track.

“That will enable him apply the brakes long before getting to the perceived threat. I think that gives you comfort and that is why I’m talking to you very confidently,” he said.

Sambo who apparently appeared to have done his homework well  against the backdrop of revenue leakages, in addition to preparations by NRC to begin the reopening  on a gradual and systematic scale,  adding that the introduction of the NIN would also help check cases of racketeering as a person can only purchase a ticket per trip with his NIN.

The Minister said there will be slight changes in the mode of operation as the number of trips will be reduced because a certain number of Nigerians may not be comfortable coming back to the train for obvious reasons.

He said the number of trips will eventually pick up when people are more comfortable riding on the train and that there wouldn’t be night trips for now.

“I mean, we are human beings, we are bound to feel a little bit uncomfortable until we can see that every security measure has been taken care of. It is a natural way of reacting so we will reduce the number of trips.

“As the travelling population picks up, we will increase the number of trips but we will certainly not travel at night for now,” he said.

Sambo said passengers should however expect some increase in fares which may not be immediate as a panel consultation with the management of the Nigeria Railway Cooperation and management of the ministry is ongoing. He said the rise in the cost of maintenance is one of the reasons for the possible increase in the train fare which he said had affected aeroplane fares too.

He was however quick to add that the management would consider the masses while making changes in the fare, while assuring that this government has no intention to be less people orientated as has been its style.

“I can assure you that the poor masses will be taken care of and we will be considered in raising the fare. We are a very sensitive government. We are pro-people. You know that there is no government that has been as pro-people as this government.

The Minister of Water Resources, Eng. Suleiman Adamu who was also on the train said he was invited by the Minister of Transportation to join him on the inspection as a Kaduna resident and a colleague.

“This train service means a lot to me as well. But most importantly, as colleagues in government, the Minister invited me so that I could also see and give him our opinion about what I have observed, affirmed security is guaranteed with what is on ground.

“I will say without any fear of contradiction that I am very impressed with what I have seen and I am convinced that as much as humanly possible, the short to medium term may just have been taken to secure this trade to restore the service.

“However we want to assure Nigerians that the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) is back in business and myself and my family will continue to patronize this train as we used to “We call on all Nigerians to have faith in the arrangements been put in place and come back to patronize the train service. A lot has been put in place. Some, as the Minister has said are obvious while some are not for public consumption.

“So it’s us now to go back to normalcy. If we don’t go back to normalcy, we are giving the terrorists the ammunition they want. If you recall, after the 911 terrorist attack in the United States, America was calling on people to go back to their normal lives. We must do that because the whole idea is to terrorize us. So we need to go back to our lives.

“We need to have faith in the system that has been put in place to secure lives and property and just move on and also for people to cooperate with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC)” he said.

Adamu added that security is everyone’s responsibility and should not be left alone for the government or security agencies.

“People also should take security as their own business. If you usually watch NTA, there is a jingle that says “If you see something, say something,” and that means all of us should be conscious of our surroundings.

“We see anything, like things not adding up well, we should alert the security agencies and see that as part of our own citizen contribution, you know, as citizens our contribution is to make the country safe which is very important.

“Beyond that, I think people should come back to this train service. It is now good and open for business and very comfortable. We’ve been on this train now for hours and all is well and I am confident that all will continue to be well,” he said.

Amid the assurances, the officials were heavily guarded by security operatives throughout the tour, with no less than four security operatives on each of the coaches occupied by Sambo and those on the trip with him.

The train stations at Kubwa and Rigasa were no less fortified with security presence, synonymous with the unwieldy security apparatus usually provided public office holders. Sambo did not say if this level of robust security will be available during routine commercial services, usually populated by ordinary Nigerians.


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