- Saraki, Ahmed condole with victims
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja, Hammed Shittu in Ilorin and Sunday Okobi in Lagos
Three officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and a passenger lost their lives at the weekend when a cargo train from Ibadan to Kano lost control and crashed at Jebba town in Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State.
The incident according to THISDAY checks occurred at Jebba, just a few metres after the main entrance of Jebba Paper Mill.
There was also a second crash few metres to the River Niger Bridge at Jebba but there was no casualty recorded from the episode.
Officials of the corporation who spoke on condition of anonymity with journalists in Ilorin yesterday said the two staff were a male guard and a female staff simply identified as Janet.
The remains of the victims were packed into body-bag by a combined team of medical personnel, police, and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), officials at about 3.40p.m. yesterday.
It was gathered that thebody parts of another victim had earlier been retrieved from the crash scene.
A huge crane from the NRC was deployed to the scene to lift the three coaches that crashed.
The operation was still ongoing as at the time of filing this report.
Officials of the corporation who were on ground refused to make comments because they were not authorised to speak with journalists.
Meanwhile, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki yesterday expressed shock over the tragic collision of two trains at Jebba bridge at the border between Niger and Kwara States which claimed the lives of some passengers and several others injured.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Assistant on New Media, Bankole Omisore, expressed sympathy with those who sustained injury in the incident and prayed God to heal their wounds.
He urged the management of the NRC to investigate the cause of the accident and immediately put in place a measure to prevent recurrence.
“As we work to improve rail system in Nigeria, we have to ensure that we pay attention to safety. Our plan is to make railway the centre of our transportation system conveying thousands of people around the country. With such a plan, the safety consideration must be top in our plan,” he said.
Saraki called for overhaul of the rail system, observing that efficiency and safety were among the core mandate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government.
“It is my prayer that this kind of tragic incident will not be witnessed in Nigeria again. May Almighty Allah in His infinite mercy grant the souls of the departed eternal rest and uphold their families in this moment of grief and sorrow,” Saraki prayed.
Also, the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, has commiserated with the families of the passengers.
Ahmed also wished the passengers who sustained injuries as a result of the accident speedy recovery.
These were contained in a commiseration message issued yesterday by the governor and signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji Abdulwahab Oba.
The governor described the accident as painful and unfortunate as rail transportation is one of the safest modes of travel.
Ahmed, therefore, called on the management of the NRC to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the accident with a view to preventing a reoccurrence.
However, the management of the NRC has described the derailment of Kano-bound train as unfortunate and regrettable as it also sympathised with the families of the victims involved in the accident.
The NRC’s Director of Public Relation (DPR), Abdurauf Akinwoye, who spoke to THISDAY on phone yesterday, stated that the corporation’s acting Managing Director, Fidet Ohkiria, who was at the scene of the derailment lamented that: “It is an unfortunate incident and he really sympathised with the families of the affected victims.
“So far our men are at the site working to ensure that the track is restored while all trains across the rail network nationwide are moving normally. It all happened at Jebba and as I speak we are on site.”
The acting MD reassured all commuters of the commitment of the NRC to ensure continued safety and comfort on board all trains, saying they should not entertain any fear and that railway remains the safest mode of transportation.
Akinwoye said the four people who were confirmed dead inside the guard van which usually houses the security men on board the train. As at the time of filing this report, it was not clear were which of the arms of the security that lost its personnel.
There are usually policemen and private guards on board the train.
Besides one passenger coach derailed standing in the incident, it was gathered.
The bodies of the dead, according the DPR have been deposited at the mortuary, while three others who sustained injuries have been treated at the hospital, discharged and continued their journey to Kano.
Following the incident, the entire management team and engineers of the corporation led by Okhiria have relocated to Jebba where the unfortunate incedent took place
Akinwoye revealed to THISDAY that investigations were said to be ongoing to unravel the course of the incident, adding that the remaining stocks of the train had since continued the journey.
He urged that the incident had not disrupted the movement of “our train operations as all our train network remain steady in operation all over the country.”
The DPR added Nigerians not to be discouraged by the odd incident as the NRC management is on top of the situation to avoid a repeat of the unfortunate accident, saying rescue and restoration of the tracks were still ongoing.