Survivors and families of victims of Monday night’s terrorist attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train, yesterday recounted their ordeals in the hands of the attackers.
The survivors relived their accounts as Nigeria Railway Corporation confirmed eight casualties in the attack that also left 26 injured and scores missing.
Recall that the terrorists had blown the rail track with an explosive at about 7.45 pm at Dutse village in Chikun Local Government Area, just a few kilometres from the Rigasa train station, forcing the train with 362 passengers to derail.
Those killed, injured
Among those confirmed dead at press time yesterday were the secretary-general of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, Kwara State chairman of the union, Akin Akinsola and Dr Chinelo Megafu Nwando.
Also shot, injured and currently receiving treatment as a result of the attack are former deputy governor of Zamfara State, Ibrahim Wakkala, Katsina State Health Commissioner, Mariatu Bala Usman, and one of the wives of the slain TUC scribe.
The incident forced the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, to suspend further operations on the route, as President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed security agencies to ensure that all passengers kidnapped were rescued.
The Senate also called on the Army and Air Force to, as a matter of urgency, bombard terrorist enclaves, with a view to restoring peace and stability in the country, just as the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Faruk Yahaya, charged his men to hunt down the terrorists.
The attack also forced the cancellation of the 13th Colloquium organised to celebrate the 70th birthday of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in Lagos.
Survivors, families recount ordeals
One of the survivors of the train attack in Abuja Monday night, Aisha Bindawa, described how she felt after a co-passenger beside her was shot by the terrorists.
Bindawa said she felt her soul leaving her body already as she watched others being shot on the train.
“I never thought I would post again, after the man beside me was shot. I had already started feeling my soul leaving my body too but Allah has a better plan for us.
“May the souls of the departed be In Peace. May Allah reunites the abducted with their families,” she tweeted yesterday.
For relations of Farida Sule Mohammed, the long wait for her arrival came to an abrupt end yesterday when her body was found among those killed during the attack.
Funeral prayer for her held at the Yahaya Road Masjid in Kaduna GRA attracted many of her relations and friends who continued to pray for the repose of her soul.
At the headquarters of the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, Kaduna, it was a sad Tuesday as staff mourned the death of Abdu Kofar Mata. He was also among those killed by the rampaging terrorists.
Alhaji Yusuf Atta, a Kaduna-based civil servant, said his mother and sister who boarded the train in Abuja had not been found after the unfortunate train attack.
According to him, “they arrived in Abuja from Saudi Arabia where they performed the lesser Hajj. They were on the ill-fated train to Kaduna but have not to be seen.”
Earlier while the train was under siege, Dr Nwando had tweeted that she was shot by the bandits and had solicited prayers.
At St. Gerard’s Catholic Hospital, Kaduna, Chinelo’s colleagues were in a mourning mood.
Maimuna Ibrahima, a survivor, said: “All of a sudden, at about 8 pm, we started hearing gunshots from outside. We all went down inside the train. The bandits gained access to the train by forcing the door open.
“I did not know that they shot at my right thigh while I was lying down. It was when soldiers came for rescue that they saw that I was bleeding and they rushed me to the hospital.”
Another survivor, Fatima Shaibu, said: “The bandits rushed into the train twice and abducted passengers, took them into the bush. I saw them, they put on veils around their faces. They are young men of between 18 and 20 years of age.
“They were shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and they spoke in a foreign language. They did not speak English, they did not speak Fulani, and they did not speak Hausa.”
A medical doctor in the hospital said 11 other survivors were in a military hospital receiving treatment.
“Only two survivors were still receiving medical attention in our hospital, two have died, including Dr Chinelo Nwando who was a staff of our hospital,” he said.
He said late Chinelo did her NYSC with the hospital, adding that when the management saw that she was very good on the job, it decided to employ her.
“But last month, she resigned because she said her parents said she should come to Canada to join them. So she travelled to Abuja to process her travel documents. It was when she was coming back to Kaduna that she was killed in that incident. She was very young and hard-working,” the doctor said.
An aide of the former Zamfara deputy governor, Ibrahim Wakkala, said he (Wakkala) was returning from the APC national convention when he was shot in the cross-fire between the terrorists and the military and has been moved to a military hospital for treatment.
Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Zamfara State, Yusuf Idris, who also confirmed the incident, said:
“He was initially abducted but was rescued by the DSS and military; it was in the process he sustained a gunshot injury in the leg.
“He is very okay now, he is receiving treatment in the hospital in Kaduna State,” Idris added.
Relations and friends of other missing passengers have continued to besiege hospitals in search of loved ones.
NRC suspends Abuja-Kaduna services
Consequent to the attack, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, yesterday suspended its Abuja-Kaduna train operations.
The NRC announced its decision in a terse statement on Twitter.
“Dear passengers, due to unforeseen circumstances, train operations along the Abuja-Kaduna route have been temporarily suspended. Further communication would be given in due course,” NRC tweeted.
The NRC said 398 passengers bought tickets for the trip, adding that 362 were validated and got on board the train for the journey.
The CEO, Fidet Okhiria, also confirmed that eight passengers died in the attack, while 26 were injured.
The Kaduna State Government stated also yesterday that the evacuation of passengers trapped in the train had been concluded by security forces, officials of Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, and the Nigerian Red Cross.
Samuel Aruwan, Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, who disclosed this in a statement, said: “Passengers who sustained injuries and other fatalities have been moved to hospitals.
“Passengers were evacuated from different hard-to-reach areas in forests and rocky locations in Audujongom, off the Kaduna-Abuja Road.
“As stated yesterday (Monday), the Kaduna State Government is still liaising with the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, to ascertain the list from the passengers manifest for efficient tracking.
“Governor Nasir el-Rufai who commended all those who participated in the evacuation appealed to hospitals to attend to the victims diligently.
“The governor also directed the Ministry of Health to be in contact with the hospitals as the government will bear the cost of their treatment. As of the time of this update, search-and-rescue operations are in progress.”
Rescue kidnapped passengers — Buhari
Reacting to the attack, President Muhammadu Buhari directed security agencies to ensure that all the passengers kidnapped by bandits in the attack were rescued
He also gave marching orders to the security agencies to ensure each of the callous terrorists that carried out the dastardly act was hunted down and made to face justice for the heinous acts, saying no one or group should be allowed to make the country prostrate.
The President gave the directives after receiving briefs from the service chiefs led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Faruk Yahaya, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, as well as Major General Samuel Adebayo, the Chief of Defence Intelligence and the Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Yusuf Bichi at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Bombard terrorist enclaves, Senate urges military
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday called on the Army and Air Force to, as a matter of urgency, bombard terrorist enclaves to restore peace and stability in the country.
The call was made on Tuesday amid resolutions reached, following a point of order raised on “the continuing attacks on communities and public facilities in Kaduna State.”
The point of order was raised by Senator Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna Central).
The lawmaker noted that terrorists had in recent times, stepped up attacks on some communities and public facilities in Kaduna State.
He said: “The latest attacks by these murderous elements took place in some communities in Giwa Local Government, namely Angwan Sarki Yahya, Tashar Shari, Bare-Bari, Tsaunin Natal, Dillalai, Durumi and Jatin Kanwa, all on Yakawada Ward.
“Other places affected include Kaya community, Mai kyauro and Fatika. They killed 50 persons and kidnapped 100 people. They also made strategic roads in Giwa Local Government no-go areas.
“Not done with their devilish acts, they made an attempt to penetrate the Kaduna International Airport.
“Although the attack was foiled by vigilant security operatives, one person lost his life. When people were trying to come to grips with week-long wanton destruction of lives and property, the terrorists struck again.”
“The train derailed after the first wave of attacks. Grenades and RPGs were used. They rained bullets on all the coaches. Some passengers were killed, while many sustained bullet wounds.
“There are reports that some of the passengers were abducted. The terrified passengers only breathed a sigh of relief when security agencies arrived and secured the train and the area. It’s been a reign of undiluted terror.
“These latest attacks are aimed at instilling fear in the people and destroying the economies of our local communities.
“It is disheartening that these enemies of the people are getting emboldened by the day. They are becoming more brazen.
These blood cuddling vampires have no regard for human life. They have no place in a civilized society,’’ the senator said.
He added: “We expected that with the declaration of bandits as terrorists by a court of competent jurisdiction, they will be degraded in no time.
“This appears not to be happening. The security forces must reassess their strategies and come up with workable and effective solutions to the menace of terrorists in Kaduna State.’’
Contributing, Senator Gabriel Suswam lamented that Kaduna had become the new theatre of insecurity.
The lawmaker attributed the inability of the military to curtail growing incidents of terrorism to “a clear failure of leadership.”
On his part, Senator Danjuma La’ah said if the security situation in the country was not nipped in the bud, political leaders would become the main targets of terrorists.
The Senate in its resolutions, urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to declare a full-scale war against terrorists to fully secure the nation’s territory from them in whatever guise.
It urged the Army and the Air Force to carry out a sustained bombardment of terrorist enclaves, with a view to flushing them out and restoring peace and stability to the communities.
The Senate further directed security agencies to always take steps to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.
It said the military should, as a matter of urgency, monitor the construction and inhabitants of new shanty buildings around the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
The chamber urged the relevant agencies of government to step up their information-gathering mechanism to forestall incessant attacks by terrorists.
It also called on the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and other relevant government agencies to assist affected communities with relief materials.
The chamber urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and report any suspicious movements to security operatives.
The Senate, thereafter, observed a minute’s silence to mourn the deceased in Monday’s attacks. It condoled the families of the victims of the attacks and the government and people of Kaduna State.
We need helicopters, drones to tackle insecurity on rail routes — Amaechi
Also reacting yesterday, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said the incident 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 had made a presentation to the Federal Government to procure security equipment, regretting, however, that the ministry was yet to get approval.
Amaechi stated these 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 them for approval but we have not gotten approval.
“The equipment will cost about N3bn and we are about to place an 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 to see from Kaduna-Abuja, Itakpe-Warri and from Lagos-Ibadan what is going on, so we don’t continue to lose lives because lives are important.
If we had got 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 added that it was 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 is 398. So, we have to wait.
The security agencies, Kaduna State government and the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, 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.
I am devastated and I honestly don’t know what to tell Nigerians anymore.”