…FG condemns kidnapping of passengers
…As NRC shut down Ekehen rail station in Edo State indefinitely
By Seun Ibiyemi
Barely two months after Abuja-Kaduna train begins operation after the kidnapping of passengers between the axis, again Gunmen have abducted another 30 passengers from a train station in Igueben Local Government Area of Edo State.
Investigation revealed that the victims were waiting to board a train to Warri in Delta State when their attackers struck.
It is unclear if anyone was killed in the incident but the travellers sustained bullet wounds, according to the Police Public Relations Officer in Edo, Chidi Nwabuzor, who confirmed the incident.
He said the abductors, armed with AK 47, invaded the train station on Saturday evening and shot sporadically into the air before abducting scores of intending travellers.
“This is to inform the gentlemen of the press that today, 7th of January, 2023 at about 1600hrs, men armed with AK-47 riffles attacked the train station at Igueben, Edo State and kidnapped unspecified number of passengers who were waiting to board the train to Warri.
“The kidnappers who shot sporadically into the air before kidnapping some passengers left some persons with bullet wounds. The Area Commander Irrua, DPO Igueben Division, and men have visited the scene of crime with members of the Edo State Security Network, local vigilantes, and hunters with a view to protecting the lives and property of the remaining passengers.
“Bush combing operations have commenced in order to rescue the victims and arrest the fleeing kidnappers. Further developments will be communicated,” he said.
The development comes less than a year after terrorists gunned down some train passengers in Kaduna and abducted more than 60 of them.
The incident forced the Federal Government to suspend train operation on the Abuja-Kaduna rail corridor for over six months.
Confirming the incident the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, said that 31 intending passengers were abducted during a terrorist attack at Igueben train station in Edo State, South-south Nigeria, on Saturday.
The passengers were said to be waiting for a 4 p.m. train from Igueben to Warri when the terrorists struck, shooting sporadically, abducting passengers and leaving many injured.
The police earlier said the terrorist attack was carried out by suspected “herdsmen.”
The Edo commissioner, Mr Nehikhare, told reporters in Benin that one abducted passenger escaped from the kidnappers, while the police had arrested one of the suspects.
He said the attack is the “most difficult” incident in Edo of late.
“Few armed men who came with vehicles at about 4 p.m. started shooting sporadically at the Igueben train station.
Findings have revealed that the Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Mu’azu Jaji Sambo stormed Edo State station of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) on a fact finding mission concerning the attack and subsequent abduction.
According to a source very close to the Ministry of Transportation, the Minister wants to ascertain the situation himself because so much had been expended to ensure security of rail transport across the country.
“We want it to be totally private. The Minister wants to ascertain things himself because we paid hugely for security. So we are going for fact findings ourselves,” the source who wouldn’t want his name in print said.
In swift response the Federal Government in a statement through the Ministry of Transportation “condemns the despicable and utterly barbaric kidnapping of passengers at Tom Ikimi Train Station Igueben Edo State.
“The Public is hereby reassured that the security Agencies are making efforts to rescue the kidnapped Train passengers.
“The Nigerian Police is on the trail of the criminals and have mobilised with a view to protecting the lives and property of the remaining passengers. The Government is saddened by this unpleasant development and assures on its prompt response to the ugly situation.”
Also responding, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) announced the shut down of Ekehen rail station in Edo State till further notice.
This was made known on Sunday in a public announcement which was posted on the passengers’ WhatsApp Group, stating that the closure is till further notice.
According to NRC, “This is to inform our general public and most especially our esteemed passengers, that Ekehen Station has been temporarily closed due to security issues, till further notice.
“Due to the incident at Ekehen station on Saturday, WITS 01/ 02 will no longer stop at Ekehen Station. Please advise our customers.
“Recall that it was earlier reported that the Edo State Police command said that scores of passengers waiting to board a train from the Igueben station in Igueben Local Government Area of Edo State to Warri in Delta State were kidnapped after an attack by some suspected herdsmen.
“This was coming barely 10 months after a similar incident on a larger scale occurred when some terrorists attacked a Kaduna-bound train coming from Abuja, with some reported casualties and many passengers kidnapped.
“The incident was confirmed in a statement issued by the Edo State Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, where he stated that the attack which took place on Saturday evening also left many passengers injured.”