Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress leader and presidential aspirant and the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, have disagreed over the casualty figure of the March 28 terrorists attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train.
While Tinubu publicly announced 60 fatalities, Amaechi said only eight persons have so far been confirmed dead and 41 hospitalised.
Tinubu, who spoke at a colloquium organized to mark his 70th birthday in Lagos, said he “got information that over 60 people have been killed when terrorists bombed the train on Monday night”.
Meanwhile, the Gidan train station and the neigbhouring community where the terrorists launched offensive were also attacked on Tuesday, the second attack within 24 hours.
It was during the minister’s inspection visit to the scene of the tragic incident.
Persecondnews.com recalls that Tinubu had mounted the podium at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria lsland, with Lagos Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Kano Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje, ex-Ogun Gov. Segun Osoba and others to announce the cancellation of the event because of the national tragedy.
According to the ex-Lagos governor, the tragedy called for sober reflection and not for celebration.
He said it would be improper for him as a statesman to be celebrating when a tragedy of that magnitude had befallen the country.
But for Amaechi, whose ministry executed the Kaduna-Abuja train started by the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, said at the scene of the attack:”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 about 41 persons in different hospitals and the total number of passengers who got tickets are 398.
“So, we have have to wait on the security, the Kaduna State government and the Nigerian Railway Corporation. They 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 those on the manifest, calls are being made to reach them.”
Describing the situation as devastating, Amaechi blamed the rigorous procurement process in the Buhari administration for the delay in installing security sensors on the rail tracks across the country.
”The process is tedious, the approval is also tedious, we have not been able to get that approval that will lead to purchase of those items.
”If those items were here, drones alone will tell you that there are people around the rail tracks because there are drones, there are equipment that pick 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.
”So for me, I am devastated and I honestly don’t know what to tell Nigerians anymore,” the minister said.
Amaechi said it was not enough to have cameras inside the train, but that high tech cameras that would detect objects from afar were necessary.
He told reporters: ”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, that there are unknown persons carrying gun.
”Then, we can take precaution, but we have done all we need to do in the ministry of transport and we have forwarded to them for approval but we have not gotten approval.
”The patrol vehicles are available but they cannot reach everywhere. For the areas the patrol can patrol, it will forestall.
”We are thinking about the possibility of employing natives until we get those equipment. We also need helicopters, beyond the drones, we need helicopters.”
”The solution is not in running away from the militants or the bandits. The solution is providing the technology that lets you know that they are around.
”If it lets you know that they are around, there are two actions to take; either for the security men to go after them or you don’t ply within that period.
”But the agencies that need to give us approval have to give us the approval because we need to purchase those items.
”No matter the cost, you cannot equate it with the eight lives that were lost. The equipment were just N3billion and we are about to place order for the one in Lagos but we need to know what is happening on the track, it is everywhere in the world,” he said.
On the perimetre fencing, Amaechi said some areas that have it were being demolished and it was not high enough to protect one from criminals, except for cows.
The minister restated the importance of getting approval to purchase the necessary equipment as human lives were involved.
”I had warned earlier that it is important they get us this approval because human lives would be involved. Since that warning till today, we have had two incidents.
”What kind of due process is that? When i say due process, it does not necessarily mean BPP but whatever agency it is, they need to get us approval so that we can get out of cabinet.
”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 don’t do that, more persons will die.
”The cost was about N3 billion and the damage here is more than N3 billion. So, if we had gotten the approval, we would have saved the N3 billion and saved lives,” Amaechi also said.
Also speaking, the Chairman of NRC, Alhaji Ibrahim Alhassan, said the attack was anticipated and necessary measures were taken to avoid it.
Alhassan said :” Two months back, we got information that some people were carrying out cognizance of the tracks.
”And the information was passed to the relevant authorities and I think some things were done and nothing happened.”
He said it was unfortunate that the attack occurred, adding that the NRC was doing all that was neccessray to abate such reoccurrence.
”We would like to thank Nigerians, our passengers and people who patronise us, their families, we would like to offer our condolences, our concern and sympathies, we hope with God Almighty, this thing never repeats itself again.
”We are going to, on our part, take some measures.To do our own scheduling thing like that and l believe the government and security agencies will come to our assistance with more help and assistance. I believe we are going to over come this.
”It is not going to deter us, honestly, we are not going to give up because of this.
”The only thing we want is the cooperation of everybody especially people living along the corridor, when they see any suspicious activity, they should report such.
”I believe people should help us to help all of us,” Alhassan said.