The attack on the Abuja – Kaduna train by terrorists has raised multiple questions begging for answers.
The attack occurred on March 28 with about 970 passengers onboard. Stakeholders are wondering why the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has failed to publish the manifest of the passengers that boarded the train.
A statement by NRC Managing Director, Fidet Okhiria, debunked publications by media organizations that about
970 passengers were on board. He stressed that only 362 boarded the train of 398 passengers that purchased tickets on the day the train was attacked.
“398 passengers purchased tickets to travel on the NRC AK9 service, and 362 passengers actually boarded the AK9 service.
“The entire seat capacity of the train in question is 840; therefore, the figure of 970 being circulated cannot be correct. The AK9 service is the last service out of Abuja on a Monday evening and is usually at less than half capacity,” he said.
NRC, however, stated that 186 passengers are confirmed safe. while saying 8 persons were already confirmed dead, he added that 168 are still missing with their mobile numbers unreachable.
A security expert and professor of criminology who specializes in victimology and restorative justice, Don John Omale, who spoke exclusively with The Trumpet, said there could be a likelihood that the terrorists were working with an ‘insider’ in the train. According to him, without credible information from insiders to outsiders, it is difficult for criminals to operate.
He stressed that the failure of NRC to publish the manifest is on its own a security threat as some of those that boarded the train might have disguised as passengers when they might be spies for the terrorists.
“Security is a complex phenomenon that requires a holistic and eclectic approach. The NRC’s failure to publish the manifest of the passengers to ascertain the exact number of passengers on board the train is itself a security risk.
Could it be that some of the people who boarded the train disguised as “passengers” were spying for the bandits?
“In as much as the tickets racketeering is a crime of corruption, it is also a security threat to the safety of the passengers that boarded the train involved in the attack.
“Hence in the proximity hypothesis theory of Victimology, we say that security becomes complacent and victimization becomes easier when “insiders” play strategic roles because no thief can come into a house and rob successfully without a role (intelligence breach) by an insider.
“Therefore, background checks of people who work in our aviation and transportation agencies have become very imperative,” Prof Omale added.
Meanwhile, a source that pleaded anonymity told The Trumpet that ticket racketeering is dominating train operations in Nigeria. He added NRC is not clean on the number of passengers onboard while noting that Mr Okhiria should have ordered the publication of the manifest of passengers to avoid the whole drama.
He claimed that the NRC is either hiding the entire number of people that were on-board to protect shady deals that are taking place at the train stations or trying to hide the ineptitude of the management to properly run an organized train business in the country.
“I don’t understand why it is so difficult to order the manifest for that train to be published?
We have issues of transparency in this country. How can people be attacked and the supposed operator cannot
provide a document to ascertain the number of victims and their identity?
“I think the NRC MD is hiding something from Nigerians. I want to believe that those onboard were far more than 362 persons. There have been rumours of ticket racketeering in train stations. Perhaps, the management is trying
hard to protect their illicit business or their poor level of management of the railway corporation,” he said.
Similarly, a public affairs analyst, Isiyaku Mohammed Kudu frowned at the lack of transparency and poor management in NRC.
While saying that there is no reason why the manifest of passengers cannot be published if there was proper
management with accountability, he called on the National Assembly to probe the activities of NRC.
“If it’s not 970 passengers then the board should publish the real figures of passengers on board. I think the NRC is lacking proper management, and lack of proper management leads to illegal ticket purchases.
“The Senate and the House of Representative Committee on Transport need to investigate the activities of the board.
Because this clearly shows that illegal activities are taking place in the management of our train stations which is very bad and disappointing,” he said.
Meanwhile, gunmen who attacked a Kaduna bound train 10 days ago have threatened to kill the captives if the government does not quickly accede to their demands.
The gunmen issued the threat in a video they released stating the reason they freed the managing director of the Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Ali-Hassan, who they abducted alongside an unknown number of people during their attack on the Kaduna-bound train.
The 81-second video was posted on Twitter by a Senior Conflict Analyst at the Tony Blair Institute, Bulama Bukarti stated that Hassan was released because of his age and in the spirit of Ramadan.
He was flanked by four heavily armed terrorists dressed in military camouflage. A family source stated that ransom was paid for the release of the MD, however, the source declined to state how much was paid.
One of the terrorists, after a short prayer and praise of God and his prophet in the Arabic language, said, “We are the ones who kidnapped the people on the train.
We decided to release this man (Ali-Hassan) because of the honour of the month of Ramadan and because he is old. He has been pleading since we kidnapped him.”
A second gunman who spoke then threatened they will kill all the captives if the government does not promptly meet their demands. He, however, did not state what the demands are. But he stated that the government knew what they wanted.
“You (government) should know that this is just the beginning of what we’re going to do….. Killing them is not a big deal to us. You know what we want and it’s not money. If it’s money, we’ll not be doing this. So, it’s left to you to hasten and do what we need from you. If not, we’ll do what we want to do to them. This is our message,” he said.
There are indications that the terrorists are probably members of the Ansaru faction of Boko Haram and their demand to the government may likely be the release of their leaders who have been in detention since 2016.