Abuja-Kaduna rail track explosion disrupts operations

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Passengers were stranded yesterday at the Kaduna and Abuja termini of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), following the temporary suspension of services on the route.

The NRC suspended operations after it confirmed an attack on its last train (AK10) on the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail line on Wednesday.

However, there was no casualty, according to the corporation. But, it claimed that it had lost N12 million due to service suspension.

In a statement by its management in Lagos, the NRC described the incident as “an explosion” which affected the rail track and the fuel tank of the locomotive of the last train on Wednesday evening.

The statement said the situation was brought under control and a relief locomotive deployed to rescue the affected train to the workshop at the Rigasa Station, Kaduna State, for appropriate assessment and repairs.

“We are pleased to inform the public that there were no reported casualties or injuries to either the passengers or train crew.

“The NRC intends to resume train services soonest, after appropriate measures, checks and maintenance are carried out,” the corporation said.

The NRC management apologised for the inconveniences experienced for the temporary suspension of services. It said engineers were working round the clock to ensure resumption of operation on the route today.

The confirmation put paid to speculations since Senator Shehu Sani broke the news of the incident on his Facebook, Timeline, yesterday.

Sani, who represented Kaduna Central in the Eighth National Assembly, was one of the passengers who escaped derailment, when their train ran over the blown portion of the rail track somewhere between Dutse and Rijana, in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, on Wednesday night.

Although the NRC management could not identify those behind the attack, the senator blamed the incident on bandits who planted Improvises Explosive Devices (IEDs) on the track.

The senator wrote: “Yesternight, bandits attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train. They planted an explosive that damaged the rail track and shattered the windshield of the train engine. They also opened fire, targeting the driver and the tank.

“It happened between Dutse and Rijana stations. The Driver struggled to move towards Kaduna Rigasa station.”

Leakblast gathered in Kaduna that the incident was prevented Wednesday night by security forces, a situation which made the train which departed Abuja 6.04pm Wednesday to arrive Kaduna around 2.00am on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Bandits free 32 kidnapped Baptist Students, 31 Still In Captivity – Kaduna

The train was expected to arrive at Kaduna at 8.40pm, but because it took the security forces several hours to clear the track of danger. The train spent eight hours on the journey that otherwise should have taken two hours.

A top security source said the security agencies in the state have in the past 72 hours been struggling to prevent attack on the train by terrorists suspected to be members of the Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram insurgents.

Another source said: “ISWAP and Boko Haram members have entered Kaduna, but the security agencies have been struggling to prevent them from setting up camp in any part of the state.

“Tuesday till Wednesday morning, we could not sleep because we were struggling to dislodge the terrorists who were trying to bomb a bridge used by the Kaduna-Abuja train.”

It was further learnt that the suspension of operations left some passengers stranded in Kaduna. Passengers who came to the train station early yesterday to board the 10:35am train to Abuja were stranded as the 7:00am train that was supposed to arrive Kaduna by 9:00am and return passengers to Abuja by 10:35am, could not make it to Kaduna.

Many of the passengers were returning home with their luggage, while those among them who felt the urgent need to visit Abuja went by road.

A Kaduna resident Umar Kabeer who chose to travel by road to Abuja said: “Since all this is happening, I can’t postpone my journey. I had no choice but to go by road. May God protect us all from evil.”

When contacted to confirm if anyone had been arrested in connection to the incident, the Kaduna Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mohammad Jalige, an Assisitant Superintendent of Police (ASP), told our reporter: “I will get back to you.”

In Abuja, many who turned up to book tickets were also turned back as the NRC management announced the suspension of operations.

An official, who begged not to be named, said: “The attack happened Wednesday night and we suspended the operations this morning till further notice. People who have been coming to book their tickets have been turned down because of the incident.

“We have also stopped online sales of tickets pending the repairs of the affected portion of the tracks.”

The corporation on its e-ticketing website stated that the suspension was due to unforeseen circumstances and safety.

The information tagged: ‘NRC INFO’ on the website reads: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, train services have been immediately suspended for the safety of our dear passengers.

“Efforts are in place to restore service. Further information would follow immediately if service is restored.”

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has condemned the attack on the national asset.

Secretary of its Caretaker Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Senator John Akpanudoedehe, also blamed the attack on bandits.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing all he can to provide infrastructure for Nigerians despite economic challenges, but lamented that some unpatriotic individuals are out to frustrate the efforts of the administration.

Akpanudoedehe assured Nigerians that the APC-led administration will not be deterred, urged Nigerians to unite for the country to overcome its challenges.

He said: “Nigerians by now have realized that the APC-led-government of President Muhammadu Buhari means well for all and is doing everything possible to deliver infrastructure to Nigerians amidst difficult economic times, globally.

“We must stay united so we can defeat the agents of destruction who have vowed to set Nigeria apart . Just this morning (yesterday), an Abuja-Kaduna passenger train was attacked by criminals, depriving Nigerians of the services it provides. This is so despicable, but together we shall overcome them,” he said.

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