How many more Nigerians would be killed before we finally put a stop to this mindless wanton destruction of lives and property that has plagued the nation? Daily killing of Nigerians has become a part of our lives. Before now, we read of killings in the Middle East and in the Sahel regions and it was like it will never be our portion, but today we are regularly red-flagged as one of the nations with advisories to be avoided as unsafe and dangerous places to be.
The damage this does to this nation is unimaginable. Nigeria may not be the only country burdened by these problems, but it is hard to think of any serious nation desirable to end blood-letting that approaches the fight as we do. We mix banditry, terrorism, kidnappings and other crimes against the society with sentiments.
Never in the history of this nation have we given the fight against crime and criminality ethnic colouration and religious toga as we do now. What is good enough to be fought as crime in the South is not considered good enough to be fought as a crime in the north. When a crime is committed in the South the perpetrators are hunted and tracked but similar crimes in the North are designated ethnic profiling and religious intolerance. What this portends is that these daredevil criminals are only emboldened to do more.
In whose own interest is it that the government keeps claiming to be winning the war against insurgency, terrorism and banditry and yet Nigerians cannot enjoy the minimum degree of safety anywhere in the country?
Last Monday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told the world that Nigeria is becoming safer every day with the string of successes being recorded in the fight against Boko Haram, ISWAP, bandits and other criminal elements.
He said the security forces had taken the battle to the bandits and put them on the run and their ranks were being decimated by the day.
“I am proud of our security forces, our men and women in uniform. Despite a myriad of security challenges, they are living up to the billing.
“As the terrorists and their camps are being decimated, thousands of terrorists and their families are surrendering in droves.
And as they always want to do, perhaps to massage the ego of the president, he said, “The effectiveness of the security forces has been enhanced by the leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari and the unwavering commitment of the Armed Forces and its leadership.”
While the minister boasted, some audacious terrorists, that same Monday, in the evening, bombed the Abuja-Kaduna rail track, derailing the train, and indiscriminately shooting at the coaches conveying about 398 passengers.
Barely two days earlier, Saturday precisely, terrorists invaded the Kaduna International Airport during an attack on the facility, and a day after the Monday bombing, these criminals reportedly invaded the Gidan rail station on the Abuja- Kaduna rail track.
Malami Muhammadu, one of the survivors, who said he hid under a seat while observing the terrorists, narrated how they took away many passengers with their vehicles.
He said the terrorists came with buses and evacuated a number of passengers during the attack.
He said, “The terrorists, many of them, rushed into our coach and killed a passenger. I hid under the seat and saw them taking away many passengers.
“An argument ensued amongst the terrorists after killing the passenger and they couldn’t pay attention to us. We were about 10 that remained in the coach when they left.
”The terrorists proceeded to the VIP coach and abducted many passengers. One of the VIPs who managed to escape and returned to us told us that they filled a vehicle with abductees.
“They came with Sharon vehicles; they shot some abductees in the vehicles but nine passengers were later confirmed dead, others were severely injured, they were shot in their legs.
“We saw the train driver. He came out and attempted to run but they shot and killed him. I saw the terrorists with my own eyes. They were chanting Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar! Come down, come down!”.
“They abducted many passengers. Later about 300 soldiers came. The soldiers took us to a nearby hill where we sat down.”
“Some passengers were injured severely. Some old people had trauma, one old person had asthmatic attack, another died of a heart attack. The dead bodies were left in the train. It will be difficult to convey the corpses to the hilltop where we took refuge.”
Reacting after a visit to the scene of the unfortunate attack, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, confirmed that eight people were killed during the attack.
“The numbers we have showed that there are eight casualties. There are 25 persons in the hospital and the total number of passengers is 398,” the minister told journalists.
The visibly angry Amaechi told reporters that Monday’s attack would have been foiled if his colleagues (who he didn’t name) did not block the procurement of N3 billion high capacity rail track cameras and sensors that will eliminate all blind spots on the train corridors across the country.
“We knew what the problems will be. We know we need to have digital security equipment on the corridors. We applied for it. Let me just stop here so I don’t hurt so many people. But I heard the president has given a directive that the procurement must be completed immediately,” he said.
According to him, “If we had those equipment on the tracks, you will see the entire track. And we warned that lives will be lost. Now lives are lost; eight persons dead and 25 persons are in the hospital. We don’t know how many people have been kidnapped. And the cost of that equipment is just N3 billion. The cost of what we have lost is more than N3 billion. We have lost track. We have lost locomotives and coaches. We have lost human beings. And the equipment is just N3 billion. To fix the damages will cost more than N3 billion.”
Meanwhile, the reason those 398 travellers took the train was because it would cost an arm and a leg now to fly and our roads have been ceded to bandits, kidnappers and insurgents. This unfortunate situation is difficult to comprehend given that apart from the ministers, railway labour union leaders had also called on the authorities to adopt the very same safety measures Amaechi was lamenting against. But nothing was done. Lives have been lost, many have been deformed and some others would remain traumatized for the rest of their lives.
Who dropped the ball? Who are those who did not deem it fit to spare N3 billion to make our railway transport services safer? It is very unlikely that anybody would get punished for this misdemeanor. Has any arrest been made, and why is that no single insurgent, bandit, killer herder has till date been arraigned in court for the world to see as we did with Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky, and are doing with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo (aka Igboho). I will not have that bunkum that they are worse treated because they are being killed, after all several people were killed before Kanu, El-Zakzaky and Igboho were arrested.
Except those with sinister intentions, who else would invest trillions of naira of borrowed funds to provide infrastructure of such significance would find it hard to part with N3 billion to ensure their safety? This is the same kind of thinking that made it impossible for us to designate the so-called bandits as terrorists for over seven years until very recently. This may also not be far from the reason that these terror groups were pampered and given VIP treatment until very recently.
This thinking also may have informed why those who have publicly shown sympathy for these criminals and their heinous activities are still walking freely and maintaining cordial relationships with those who should be hunting them and prosecuting them.
Who are the sponsors of these bandits and terrorists, and why are they not exposed and prosecuted? Why have we refused to seek external support independent of government officials in order to avoid leaking security strategies to the murderers? Why is it easy for avowed sympathizers of these killers to visit these evil men in their hideouts yet it remains impossible for our armed forces to smoke them out? Is it not about time we started arresting and publicly prosecuting these killers to enable us to unravel those behind them and unmask them for all to see?
If you are still wondering why we have not been able to checkmate these saboteurs, then you need look no further, it is because our definition, understanding and prosecution of crimes, differ from region to region, religion to religion and ethnicity to ethnicity.