Following an explosion that affected one of its trains on the Abuja-Kaduna rail corridor, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) has temporarily suspended services along the route.
The NRC in a statement signed by its management also apologised to passengers over the abrupt suspension of operations.
It however stated that the situation had been brought under control.
The statement read in part: “The Board and management of the NRC hereby inform the general public, particularly our valued passengers on the Abuja-Kaduna, train service that there was explosion on the rail track that affected the fuel tank of the locomotive on Abuja to Kaduna last train (AK10) of 20th October 2021.
“However, the situation has been brought under control by a relieved locomotive that rescued the train to Rigasa Station, Kaduna State. The affected locomotive has been sent to the workshop for assessment and repairs.
“We are also pleased to inform the public that there were no reported casualties or injuries to either the passengers or Train Crew.
“The NRC management apologises for the inconveniences experienced last night and for the non-operations of the train services currently being experienced as we work towards restoration of normal services.”
The Managing Director of the NRC, Engineer Fidet Okhiria, while speaking to newsmen earlier yesterday, had said: “Unidentified persons detonate explosives on Abuja-Kaduna rail track, disrupt services, and this damaged the tracks.
“Efforts are currently ongoing to ensure that the train services along the Kaduna-Abuja route are fully restored,” he added.
But, THISDAY had gathered that the Abuja-Kaduna train had developed fault about 40 kilometres into Kaduna after taking off from Idu terminal station, 6pm on Wednesday, and left passengers stranded for about 6hours.
It was learnt that the train reportedly developed fault around 8pm following a loud sound from the engine that caused the train to stop abruptly.
However, narrating his account of the incident, Senator Shehu Sani who said was on board the Abuja-bound train, said passengers miraculously escaped death.
Sani, who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone between 2015 to 2019, wrote on his social media pages (Facebook and Twitter), that the train ran over rails damaged by explosives and nearly skidded off track.
“This early morning, I was on board when our train ran over another explosive damaged railings.
“The train nearly skid off its track, then we miraculously escaped. All Kaduna -Abuja train operations need to be suspended for today until this issue is addressed,” he said.
Sani also said a similar incident occurred on Wednesday night.
He said, “Last night, 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.”
When contacted, the spokesman of the Kaduna state police command, Mohammad Jalige, said he was not in a position to comment on the incident as the train service is under the Railway Police Command.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of the Railway Command, Mr. Oyeyemi Adediran, also did not respond to several telephone calls when contacted.
However, another passengers on board, Garba Muhammad who is the Regional Editor of News Express said: “We heard a loud sound from the locomotive engine, then the train gradually came to abrupt halt.” He said there was pandemonium in the train after security men attached to VIP coaches shouted for all to take cover, adding that the lights and the air conditioning systems went off, leaving passengers in heat and darkness.”
Muhammad further said after the passengers were stranded in the bush for hours with palpable fears of being attacked by the bandits, another engine came around 12:15am and pushed the immobilised train to Rigasa, Kaduna.
The NRC had on Monday hinted that it would reduce the number of trips on the Abuja-Kaduna route from 19th to 21st October 2021 to carry out schedule maintenance.
Okhiria had explained that the reduction in the number of trips was to carry out scheduled maintenance.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) revealed that the train was attacked by criminal elements.
The National Secretary of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Sen. John Akpanudoedehe while speaking yesterday, during the inauguration of the APC State Congresses Appeal Committees at the Party’s National Secretariat described the action as despicable.
He stated: “Nigerians by now have realised that the APC led-government of President Muhammadu Buhari means well for Nigerians 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 backwards. Just this morning, an Abuja-Kaduna passenger train was attacked by criminals, depriving Nigerians the services it provides. This is so despicable, but together we shall overcome them.”
Kasim Sumaina, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna