By Dirisu Yakubu
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said Monday’s terrorist attack on the Abuja-Kaduna rail route would have been averted if there were drones and helicopters to carry out surveillance along the corridor.
This is even as the Minister said the Ministry of Transportation has made presentation to the federal government for the procurement of security equipment, regretting however that the Ministry was yet to get approval.
Amaechi stated these on Tuesday while leading top officials of the Ministry on an inspection of the scene of the incident.
Addressing newsmen, a visibly worried Amaechi said, “we need helicopters and drones. We are thinking about the possibility of employing natives until we get that equipment.
“We have not been able to install security sensors because the procurement process is a bit difficult. It is typical of Nigerians.
“The process is tedious, the approval is also tedious. We have not been able to get the approval that will lead to the purchase of those items.
“If those items were here, drones alone will tell you that there are people around the rail tracks. There are equipment that picks 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.
“The cameras in the train cannot pick what is happening outside. What you need is a camera that shows 100 metres away from the train. We have done all we need to do in the Ministry of Transportation and we have forwarded it to them for approval but we have not gotten approval.
“The equipment we lost will cost about N3bn and we are about to place order for the ones in Lagos.”
Amaechi warned of the dangers to come if security devices were not urgently procured to save lives on rail routes across the country.
“Even if they get us approval, it will take some months to acquire them from overseas, to install them. We need to do that to enable us see from Kaduna-Abuja, Itakpe-Warri, and from Lagos-Ibadan what is going on so that we don’t continue to lose lives because lives are important. If we had gotten the approval, we would have saved the N3billion and saved lives.”
While affirming the death of eight persons as a result of the attack, Amaechi said it is difficult to tell the number of missing persons, saying, “we don’t have all the figures of missing persons, kidnapped and those injured at the moment.
“The numbers we have is that there are eight casualties. There are 25 persons in the hospital and the total number of passengers are 398. So, we have to wait. The security agency, the Kaduna state government, and the Nigerian Railway Corporation are all trying to make contact with those on the manifest.
“There are few persons who are not on the manifest like the staff of the NRC, staff of the cleaning contractor. They are not on the manifest and we may not be able to completely account for them but for those on the manifest, calls are being made to reach them.”
Coming short of asking citizens to understand the situation, the Minister added, “I am devastated and I honestly don’t know what to tell Nigerians anymore.”
Also speaking, Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Engr. Fidel Okhiria said
“it is a very sad and unfortunate situation we have at our hands. Right from time when these things started happening on the roads, the only succour our people had were the trains.”
He urged the people to help the NRC identify criminals bent on wrecking havoc on innocent Nigerians using rail transportation system as their preferred mode of transport.
NRC suspends operations on Abuja-Kaduna corridor
Following Monday night’s attack on a Kaduna-bound train by terrorists which left about eight people dead, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC has suspended services on the Abuja-Kaduna train corridor till further notice.
In a post on its official Twitter handle, @official_NRC, the corporation noted: “Dear passengers, due to unforeseen circumstances, train operation along the Abuja-Kaduna route has been temporarily suspended. Further communication would be given in due course.”