At least eight out of the 398 passengers, who boarded the ill-fated Kaduna-bound train from Abuja around 6pm on Monday, have been confirmed dead by the federal and state governments, while 28 are currently hospitalised and several others still unaccounted for.
The Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, who confirmed the figures, also disclosed that from the manifest received from the Nigerian Railway Corporation, 398 passengers bought tickets, but 362 were validated.
Aruwan said the passengers’ manifest excluded the NRC workers and security officials on board the train, adding that several passengers could not be accounted for.
The commissioner stated that investigations were still ongoing to ascertain the status of the passengers who were on board the train and remain unaccounted for as of the time of filing this report.
Aruwan said, “The Kaduna State Government has received from the NRC the detailed passenger manifest for the Abuja-Kaduna train service AK9, which was attacked by terrorists on Monday.
“According to the documents received, 398 passengers bought tickets for the trip, but 362 were validated as having boarded the train through the recognised turnstile. The passenger manifest does not include NRC staff and security officials, who were on board.
“Furthermore, security agencies have reported that eight bodies were recovered and 26 persons were injured during the attack. Investigations are still ongoing to ascertain the status of the passengers, who were on board the train and remain unaccounted for at the time of this update. Search operations are also being sustained.”
Among the dead was a dentist, Chinelo Megafu-Nwando, who was said to have recently resigned from her job and was planning to migrate to another country.
Megafu-Nwando had taken to Twitter shortly after the attack to announce that she had been shot and solicited prayers. She was later confirmed dead, while her remains were deposited in the mortuary of the St Gerard Catholic Hospital, Kaduna.
Also confirmed killed were the Director of the National Board for Technical Education, Abdul Kofarmata; the Kwara State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Akinsola Akinwunmi; and the TUC General Secretary, Musa-Lawal Ozigi.
The terrorists, who victims said were between the ages of 18 and 22, were reported to have placed an Improvised Explosive Device on the tracks around Dutse inwards the Rigasa Train Station.
After detonating the device and forcing the train to derail and fall on its side, the terrorists shot at it indiscriminately. Not done, they dragged some of the passengers out into waiting buses and drove into the bush before the late arrival of security operatives over an hour later.
As of press time, a large number of passengers were still unaccounted for, including the Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Hassan. Also abducted was a former Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Ibrahim Wakkala, who was shot but later set free.
A source at the BoA said Hassan was last seen when he boarded the train and all efforts to reach him since the attack, which happened around 8pm on Monday, had not been successful.
“What you heard is true, we have not been able to reach him and no one has called us about him. It is a harrowing moment for his family and friends right now,” an official of the bank, who pleaded not to be named, stated.
At the Kubwa Train Station, some people were seen on Tuesday looking for information about their loved ones even as the NRC halted operations on the affected corridor.
A lady, who identified herself simply as Mayowa, told one of our correspondents that her sister’s husband was among those who boarded the train and nothing had been heard about him.
As Mayowa struggled to hold back tears, she said, “He couldn’t get a flight from Lagos to Kaduna and had to join Air Peace to Abuja.
“His flight was delayed and he missed the 2pm train after I’d bought the ticket for him, which was why he joined the 6pm train on Monday. His wife, my sister, has been crying since last night.
“We’ve not heard from him. No one has contacted us about him and no one is telling us anything here about him. What are we to do now?”
Some of the victims of the attack narrated their experiences to The PUNCH on Tuesday from their hospital beds at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital and St Gerard Catholic Hospital, Kaduna.
The identities of those killed by the terrorists had yet to be ascertained, but one of the victims, Fatima Shuaibu, a student on board the train, confirmed to The PUNCH that her sister, Zainab, was shot in the stomach and died.
Fatima, a student of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, Kaduna State, while fighting back tears, narrated how her sister was shot in the stomach by the terrorists and died on the spot.
She explained that as the train was approaching Kaduna, they suddenly heard a loud explosion, which forced the train to derail.
The student said the security personnel onboard the train ordered everybody to lie face down.
She added that before they could lie down, her sister, Zainab Awal, was shot in the stomach and she died on the spot, adding that the terrorists operated for two hours unhindered before the arrival of troops.
Fatima disclosed that the terrorists came in buses and motorcycles, adding that those who were abducted were taken away in the buses.
She stated, “I was seated by the window on the train. Suddenly I started seeing light. It was around 8pm. Then there was a loud bang as if something exploded. Suddenly the train derailed. As soon as the train stopped, we started hearing gunshots.
“The security personnel on the train announced that everybody should lie down on the floor of the train. My sister, Zainab Awal, was shot in the stomach and she died. They attacked the VIP coach, they abducted some people and took them to the bush; they shot other people. They operated for about two hours before soldiers and Air Force men arrived and they exchanged gunshots.
“The terrorists were small boys of between 18 and 20 years. I saw them; they don’t look like Nigerians. The soldiers rescued us on the train. They evacuated us. Those of us, who were injured, were evacuated from the train. They climbed the cliff with us and took us to the expressway, where vehicles were brought to convey us. From there, they brought us to the hospital. The incident happened around 7.50pm.”
Narrating her ordeal, another passenger, Maimuna Ibrahim, said the attackers were chanting, ‘Allah Akbar’ (Allah is the greatest).
Maimuna told The PUNCH from her hospital bed that the attackers, who mostly communicated in Fulfulde, were between 18 and 20 years old and wielded heavy guns.
Maimuna, who said she was returning from Abuja, where she had gone to for a workshop, noted that the passengers saw hell but remained grateful to God that she was among those rescued by troops.
The victim said the terrorists forced their way into the coach Sp17, where she was, and shot indiscriminately and were shouting ‘Allah Akbar’.
She added that the terrorists abducted many of the passengers, whom they forced down the train, beating and kicking them.
Ibrahim, however, sustained a gunshot wound on her thigh, but luckily the bullet did not penetrate her bone.
She said, “I went for a workshop in Abuja in the morning. I was on my way back when the attack took place. I was shot in the leg but the bullet did not penetrate my bone. Honestly we suffered seriously, but thank God that soldiers came and they really helped us.
“I was unable to walk; it was one of the soldiers, who carried me on his back to the car that brought us to the hospital. They carried us and were able to pass over the cliff. Seriously, they tried because it was not easy climbing the cliff.
“The terrorists came into the train but they did not come to the place I was seated. I was hit by a bullet. They entered SP17. As they were shooting, the police security on the train asked us to lie down on the floor of the train so that bullets would not hit us. Unfortunately, before I could get down, a bullet hit me.”
Another passenger, Mohammed Isa, who was shot in the right arm, said he endured the pain for over an hour until the soldiers came to their rescue.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, who visited the scene of the attack, ordered troops of the Nigerian Army to intensify their efforts to ensure those abducted during the attack were rescued.
He disclosed this in a statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu.
It read in part, “The CoAS, who was accompanied by some principal staff officers of the Army Headquarters and the General Officer Commanding 1 Division, on arrival at scene, assessed the security situation around the general area of the attack and inspected the attacked train, as well as the rail track to evaluate the degree of damage.
“He ordered the troops of the NA and other security agencies to intensify their search and rescue operations to ensure that the kidnapped victims are rescued unconditionally and the terrorists are hunt down.”
Onyema also quoted the CoAS as saying that the attack on the train further emphasised the need for a review of the security of railways across the country.
Amaechi said infrastructure worth more than N3bn was destroyed by the terrorists. He said ironically, the amount of money that would have been needed to procure drones to monitor the railways was just about N3bn.
Amaechi decried the tedious procurement process that had delayed the deployment of drones to monitor railways.
The minister said this when he inspected the damage done to the tracks and the train by the terrorists.
He stated that no matter the cost of the equipment required to secure the tracks, it could not be equated with the lives lost to the attack.
“The equipment is just N3bn and we are about to place an order for the one in Lagos. We need to know what is happening on the track, it is like that everywhere in the world,” he said.
The minister added that the government had been trying to contact the passengers on the manifest, as well as the families of those who lost their lives during the attack.
On why the government had yet to deploy technology to monitor the rail track, Amaechi said, “We have not been able to install security sensors because the procurement process is a bit difficult.”
The minister said it was vital to shorten the process and save lives, stressing, “Because the process is tedious and the approval also tedious, we have not been able to get approval that will lead to purchase the items.
“If those items were here, drones alone will tell you that there are people around the rail tracks. There is equipment that picks information if you touch the track. Unfortunately, the procurement 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 cameras in the train cannot pick what is happening outside. What you need is a camera that shows 100 metres away from the train. There are unknown things carrying guns.”