In recent years, the rail sector has been impacted severely by frequent assaults and kidnappings which have forced passengers to stop boarding trains, resulting in a reduction in the income generated in the sector. Among the occurrences recorded in the sector are the passenger kidnappings at Igueben station Edo State by suspected herdsmen, the Itakpe-Warri railway assault where eight passengers were murdered and over 60 individuals were kidnapped. Also, is the Abuja-Kaduna train attacked by militants, where 62 people were abducted and many murdered.
Considering the steady drop in passenger volume over the last year, experts worry that the situation in the rail industry might intensify. Passenger volume on trains fell from 565,385 in the second quarter of 2022 to 422,393 in the third quarter of 2022, a decrease of 25.29 percent, which further fell to 29.91 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The total amount of money made during this time period was N 2.07 billion, up from the N892.46 million made in the first quarter of 2021 (an increase of 124.11%).
Experts urge the gov’t to utilize security technologies nationwide.
Numerous assaults on train infrastructure by alleged herdsmen have spooked passengers, leading to a reduction in income for the industry as a whole. Although the federal government has claimed that security on the Abuja-Kaduna train route has been reinforced, experts urge the government to utilize security technologies nationwide. Recent comments by Innocent Ajiji, president general of the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR), indicated that the government has not yet implemented the measures necessary to achieve profitability in the industry despite its 59 years of existence.
Ajiji laments that the theft of almost four kilometres of train rails indicates that the sector’s problems may only worsen. He noted that the union’s ability to function had been severely hampered by the frequent assaults on the railways and the resulting accidents. Earnings have also taken a significant hit as a result of this. For instance, when terrorists attacked the railway connecting Abuja and Kaduna, passengers plummeted on the Lagos and Warri-Itakpe lines. Meanwhile, sales declined from N500 million before the incident to N50 million afterwards.
Recent attacks are disastrous for provision of affordable transportation.
In a statement to the media, Professor Samuel Odewumi, a former dean of the School of Transport and Logistics at Lagos State University (LASU), argues that the only viable remedy is to guarantee passenger safety and security in all modes of transportation. He pointed out that the recent attack on the rail, which is now attracting the interest of Nigerians, is disastrous for the provision of affordable and dependable transportation. In addition, this will affect the debt accrued in financing the rail and its accompanying facilities and machinery.
Furthermore, he suggested embedding a military unit on each train that would be capable of holding off a handful of attackers for up to an hour until reinforcements arrived. In addition, each location must have access to adequate surveillance equipment. He said that although technological advancements are important, the security system should also count on trained personnel. This might include enlisting the help of the locals who live close to the train line as part of the overall security system.
Heightened security would likely drive up operational costs.
Henrii Nwanguma, CEO of West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited, underlined the need for freight transportation on the railway until security is improved. He said that although heightened security would likely drive up operational costs and eventually affect customer turnout, the country would be worse off economically if nothing were done. This will reduce the allure of the train line as a potential target for kidnappers and gunmen. Subsequently, he suggested passenger services might now be introduced on the basis of successful freight services.