•As Senate c’ttee canvasses establishment of railway police
By Dayo Johnson, Ozioruva Aliu & Ezra Ukanwa
THREE days after the kidnap of 32 persons from the Tom Ikimi train station in Igueben, Edo State, another victim, a woman, has been reportedly rescued by security agencies combing the area.
This came on a day Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, Fidet Okhiria, attributed the attack to sabotage, adding also that the corporation was yet to complete its security architecture of train stations across the country when this latest attack occurred.
This is even as The Minister of State for Transportation, Ademola Adegoroye, disclosed that railway and host communities’ security committees would be established as part of efforts to curb incidence of armed attacks on the nation’s rail infrastructure and passengers.
Meanwhile, Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Land Transport, Nicholas Tofomowo, has called on the federal government to establish railway poilce at every station to curb attacks on rail passengers and stations across the country.
Although the identity of the woman and details of how she gained her freedom remained unclear, the police confirmed her release.“When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Edo State Police Command, DSP Chidi Nwabuzor, said: “Yes, a woman has been rescued, making a total of seven persons so far rescued.”
Meanwhile, Vanguard gathered that police had also deployed helicopter to the area to assist in aerial surveillance of the forests in the area.“
A leader in the community, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “All the security agencies have gone back to the forest this morning (yesterday) but one of the operatives told me that they are tracking the kidnappers and their victims but if they want to use force, they will jeopardize the safety of those in captivity.
”They want to be tactical and professional in the way they want to go about it. As we speak, about two hours ago (2pm), they brought a helicopter and the helicopter is flying around the area, the security agents are working, let us see what will come out of it. Our prayer is that those people are released unhurt.”
Edo train attack, act of sabotage —NRC
Speaking on the incident on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily yesterday, the Managing Director Nigerian Railway Cooperation, Fidet Ohkiria, said the attacks in the Nigeria Railway system were deliberate and an act of sabotage.
Okhiria, who noted that security could not be 100 per cent guaranteed, said Edo State Commissioner of Police and his men were still in search of the bandits and also doing everything possible to ensure the release of the other victims, adding that the remaining victims were suspected to be divided into groups.
“From what they are saying, I think they divided the people in captive in groups. That is the information I have,” he said.
Asked if there were possibilities that in the next 24hours another set would be rescued, he said: ”We hope so, the intensity the security and community have deployed to ensure that we are not embarrassed.
”I think something good will happen very soon because people have been out there since Saturday and they are still there.”
On the security measures the government had said they put in place to ensure safety of the railway system and what went wrong this time, Okhiria said: “Nothing went wrong. As I said, you plan and you also have people who are trying to sabotage your thoughts.
“At this point, we have not got to the peak of that security architecture we want in our stations, although it is out of the ordinary; we don’t have that in railway operations.
“We have been liaising with the security agents, the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Air Staff to raise the security committee that the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, setup which is made up of the military personnel to ensure that the right people are deployed to our train station and to the train.
“I don’t think there is perfect security situation. Even the United States, they still tackle security issues. We just pray that Nigerians change their minds because that is the best way we can live in peace and the earlier we apprehend these evil people the better for everyone.”
The NRC boss said further that security measures were not being limited to Abuja-Kaduna or Lagos-Ibadan train stations, adding that when they were talking of security, it is general security for the railway system being referred to.
Asked why the Edo train station was still attacked, despite the general security NRC installed for the rail system, Okhiria said: “I don’t want to go into a debate, it has happened, we should look ahead and see how we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
”It doesn’t mean there is no 100 per cent railway system that cannot be sabotaged.”
Okhiria said train services on the Warri-Itakpe corridor had not been halted, noting, however, that the train would not be making a stop at the Tom Ikimi Train Station for the meantime.
Shaibu meets Igueben community leaders, heads of security agencies
Also yesterday, the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, said the state government was strengthening security to check crime and criminality, vowing that the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration would make the state unsafe for kidnappers and other criminal elements to thrive.
Shaibu disclosed this after a meeting with heads of security agencies and community leaders at the Igueben Railway Station in Igueben Local Government Area of the state yesterday.
Shaibu, who called for calm among residents of Igueben LGA, urged members of the public to provide useful information that will aid rescue efforts by security agencies.
He said: “We were here on Sunday for a fact finding mission and today, we are here again to give moral support to our security troops on ground and also have another discussion to review all our activities since this kidnapping incident happened and to see areas to improve on.
“The important point is that more persons have been rescued and the numbers are reducing. Our target is for everybody to be released. We want to thank the security agencies for their efforts in ensuring all captured are released.
“I appreciate the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Air Staff and the Chief of Army Staff for all their efforts in ensuring those kidnapped are rescued unhurt.
“We are doing all to ensure we get these people out. The Governor has asked us to give morale boost to troops on ground and also review our security strategy.”
FG seeks collaboration with host communities
On his part, the Minister of State for Transportation, Ademola Adegoroye, said railway and host communities’ security committees would be established, as part of efforts to curb the incidence of armed attacks on the nation’s rail infrastructure and passengers.
The minister disclosed this when he visited the attacked Tom Ikimi train station in Igueben, Edo State.
While sympathising with the victims of the unfortunate attack, the minister said: ”The intention of the perpetrators of this heinous crime is to sabotage the good efforts of President Mohammed Buhari towards the resuscitation of the rail transport service.
“Henceforth, the government will take proactive measures to forestall train station attacks in the country and ensure safety of passengers and facilities.”
He said one of such steps would be the establishment of a collaborative initiative between the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the host communities to ensure security was beefed up at railway stations.
The minister, who solicited the cooperation of the host communities in this regard, maintained that it was in their best interest to ensure that Federal Government investments and personnel were protected.
Adegoroye, however, allayed fears that the rail transport system in the country would be shut down.
According to him, ”the Federal Government remains undeterred; the Nigerian Railway Corporation remains undeterred and that is why we will continue to operate this rail service. ”We are not going to stop. All we need to do is to ensure the safety and security of our people and our passengers.”
He assured that security operatives were on the trail of the assailants, adding that the government would do everything possible to bring the perpetrators of the heinous act to justice.
Senate c’ttee canvasses establishment of railway police
Meanwhile, Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Nicholas Tofomowo, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to establish railway police at every station to curb attacks on railway passengers and stations.
Tofomowo, who represents Ondo South Federal Constituency, however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for reviving the railway transport system in the country.
The minister in a statement issued by his SA Media and Publicity, Akinrinlola Olumide, said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has done very well for the railway revolution initiated by his administration in Nigeria. I must commend him for transforming the country’s transportation infrastructure in the nation’s rail transportation system.
“The reconstruction of the rail lines in the country has enabled the people of Nigeria to enjoy affordable transportation and at the same time generate revenue for the government. I sincerely commend the president for this initiative.
He, however, lamented the porosity of security arrangements at railway stations and the incessant attacks on passengers by terrorists.
“The president has done very well over the ray of opportunities created by the railway revolution embarked upon by his administration.
“But there is need for him to complete his good work by establishing the ‘Railway Police’ at every station to provide physical and procedural security measures to mitigate every type of security threat.
“If established, they should be provided with effective wireless devices and monitoring screens to communicate and monitor the movement of the train from one station to another, so security breaches could be mitigated.
” In the UK and other developed countries, they have railway police. For example, a train travelling from London to Manchester could be monitored by the railway police through cameras attached to the train and linked with the monitoring screens at the office of the railway police sited at the railway station.
“This is the standard in developed countries. I, therefore, urge the President to do this before the expiration of his administration to forestall the recurrence of what happened at the Igueben Train Station in Igueben Local Government Area of Edo State.”.
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