Train attack: El-Rufai carpets military, ACF laments, DHQ fails to deploy Tucano in N’West
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, on Wednesday, said he was frustrated and helpless, adding that the military knew the location of the bandits wreaking havoc in the state, but was refusing to bomb their hideouts.
This is just as The PUNCH learnt that five months after a Federal High Court designated bandits as terrorists, the Nigerian military had yet to deploy the Super Tucano aircraft in the North-West.
Recall that the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had on November 25, 2021 obtained a judgment designating all gunmen in the North-West as terrorists. This was said to be a condition by the United States government for the deployment of the aircraft outside of the North-East.
However, top sources confirmed to The PUNCH that the Super Tucano had not yet been deployed in the North-West.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday when the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, visited the state to assess the situation following a terrorist attack on a Abuja-Kaduna train that left at least eight persons dead, El-Rufai said the terrorists’ hideouts should be bombed.
He said the location of the terrorists was public knowledge and even the Department of State Services usually monitors their telephone lines.
The governor stated, “We have enough intelligence for us to take action. The Air Force undertakes enough ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance); and the DSS has informants all over the place.
“We know what they (terrorists) are planning. We get the reports. The problem is for the agencies to take action. Don’t wait until they attack before you respond. The Army should go after their enclaves to wipe them out. Let the Air Force bomb them.
“Before, they were categorised as bandits and if you bombed them, you would have issues with human rights organisations and international criminal courts and so on. But, now that they have been declared terrorists by the court, they can be legally killed without any consequences from international human rights organisations.”
The governor insisted that the camps and phone numbers of the terrorists were known by the military agencies, stressing that Kaduna State was currently in a state of war.
“We know where their camps are, we know where they are; the SSS have their phone numbers, they listen to them, and they give me the report. We know what they are planning. We shouldn’t be waiting for them to attack; why can’t we go after them?” El-Rufai asked.
The governor said the bandit areas should be declared a warzone, adding that he was ready to allow a few innocent people to lose their lives in the process.
“We are in a state of war; this place should be declared a warzone. The Army, Air Force, and the police should go in there and kill them. Will there be innocent casualties? Yes! In every war situation, there are casualties,” he added.
The governor stated that train services should stop at 4pm as night time had become too dangerous.
El-Rufai stated, “We have written to the Nigerian Railway Corporation twice to stop the evening service. The last train from Kaduna to Abuja should leave by 4pm so that it will get to Abuja in daylight.
“If anything is to happen, the response time will be quick, maybe in 30 minutes. When something happens, the response time will be faster in the daytime. We were lucky the military response was just within an hour, because it (attack) was dead in the night.”
The governor expressed his frustration about the situation, saying, “I’m angry, frustrated and feel totally helpless. Let us establish military bases within Katari and Rijana (in Kaduna).”
On his part, Amaechi said the Nigerian Air Force would start escorting trains, adding that repair works on the bombed rail track would commence immediately as efforts were now on to install security sensors on the tracks.
He said, “I will speak with the President. He is already giving directives. I’m sure by the time we finish the repair of the rail tracks, we would have got approval for the security equipment and we would possibly have installed it.
“But even if it hasn’t been installed yet, we have spoken with the management of the Nigerian Air Force to escort the trains. They were previously escorting the trains, but recently the weather has been very bad and visibility dropped to below 500 metres, so they couldn’t fly.
“So, they’ve not been flying and this is why this (the attack) was successful. They have resumed flying and will escort the trains when we resume.”
The minister said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had approved that the ministry should employ people who would work on rail tracks for the next six to seven months until the security equipment was installed.
“We intend to employ villagers on the corridor so that they can report any suspicious movement to us and the security agencies,” he stated.
Amaechi said the Army had given maximum medical care to the patients, who were brought to the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna.
He stated, “They treated the patients with bomb wounds and for the lady with gun wounds in her heart, they are bringing in a specialist, a cardiologist, to attend to her.
“They have just seven patients left; the rest have been discharged. The Federal Government is grateful to the military for the assistance. We will liaise with the hospital to see how much money we can contribute to the victims’ medical bills.”
On when the repairs of the bombed tracks would be fixed, Amaechi said, “We will commence work immediately and the military has promised us security as we work. It is less than 2km of rail tracks. We will complete the work as soon as possible.
“If the Ministry of Finance releases the funds, then we can know the number of those to employ. But we will involve the DSS in screening the people we will employ.”
On passengers and other persons on the ill-fated train, who had yet to be accounted for, the minister said, “We are still contact-tracing to establish those missing.”
The Chief Medical Director, 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, Col Stephen Onochukwu, said the patients received by the hospital from the incident were all stable.
“We had 25 of them that were admitted. We discharged some of them that are stable but we are still following them up. Currently, we have seven of them left in the hospital,” he stated.
Attempts to get a reaction from the military proved abortive as the Director of Defence Information, Major General Ohwonigho Akpor, did not respond to calls or a text message.
Reps slam Amaechi, Sirika, service chiefs
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives’ investigation of terrorist attacks on the Kaduna International Airport and an Abuja-Kaduna rail line and train suffered a setback over the failure of the ministers and leaders of the security and intelligence community to show up at a meeting called for Wednesday.
The House had at the plenary on Tuesday resolved to invite the relevant ministers and those in charge of the nation’s security to an emergency meeting over the attacks.
Those to appear before the House were the National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno (retd.); Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen Bashir Magashi (retd.); Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Leo Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Farouk Yahaya; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao; Director-General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi; and the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba.
Other are Amaechi; the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Musa Nuhu; Managing Director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Rabiu Yadudu; Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Authority, Matthew Pwajok; and General Manager, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Fidet Okhiria.
However, all the ministers, security chiefs and other officials sent representatives except the NAMA boss, who appeared in person, a development that miffed the lawmakers led by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Wase noted that the meeting was called sequel to the motion adopted in plenary on Tuesday, adding, “This became a matter of urgent importance for us to tackle, because Nigerians no longer have respite in terms of means of movement, ease of communication and many losses of lives.”
While also noting that the lawmakers did not have any doubts about the capacity of the representatives, Wase stated, “But as a House, I am constrained as a Deputy Speaker to continue the meeting because the accounting officers that were supposed to be here, while you give them the necessary support, are not here.
“So, we cannot proceed. And I am saying with a heavy heart that no matter the assignment that our generals are handling, I believe the parliament deserves a listening ear. This is the House of the people. I am saddened; I am not happy. I am expressing my disappointment.”
Responding, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Abel Enitan, said, “My minister is out of town on official assignment as approved by Mr President before this incident.”
Wase, however, interjected, dismissing the excuse for Amaechi’s absence.
“Please, do not use the name of the President. If he is out of the country, he is out of the country. This institution is not under the Presidency. It is an institution of its own,” he said.
Also, the Chief of Operations, Nigerian Army, Maj-Gen Oti Akinjobi, said the service chiefs were in a meeting based on the directive of the President.
“The express nature of the assignment demanded that they hold a meeting immediately and they have been in session since last night up to this time,” Akinjobi added.
Not satisfied, the Deputy Speaker said while the lawmakers appreciated the directive given by Buharit to sort out the matter, he noted, “We also believe that their being here, even for 10 or 20 minutes, would not have reduced anything in terms of what should have been done.”
Wase also dismissed the excuse given by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Operations), Sanusi Lemu, for representing the IG.
The lawmakers consequently dismissed the representatives, asking those directly invited to appear in person today (Thursday).
Buhari orders speedy resumption, NRC workers kick
In a related development, the President has ordered that the bombed rail track be immediately repaired so that operations can resume even as he said security should also be improved along the affected corridor.
This is according to a post by the President’s Personal Assistant, Bashir Ahmad.
The post titled, ‘FGN response to Monday terrorist attack’, outlined seven responses by the President.
“The Nigerian Railway Corporation management is to speedily repair the damaged lines and resume normal service without delay,” it read in part.
However, the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers said it would be demanding improved security on the route as part of the conditions for the workers to resume work.
The NRC had on Tuesday suspended the Abuja-Kaduna train operations following an attack by terrorists on Monday night.
However, speaking with one of our correspondents, the President-General, NURW, Innocent Ajiji, said the workers were worried about the attack on the train, adding that they would not be resuming except the security structure on that axis improved.
Ajiji said, “We are going to be demanding an improved security structure before going back to work. Our workers are concerned about the attack on the train. Everybody knows how bad the security is in the country.
“You’re aware that on Saturday the airport was attacked in Kaduna. Of course, you’re also aware that roads are not secure to pass again despite the number of security spots on them. So, we will equally demand that our rail lines are beefed up.
“Build a security post on every section of our rail lines so that we can have the presence of security just like we have checkpoints on the roads. If we have that in place on our rail lines, I am sure it’s going to reduce attacks.”
FEC honours victims with a minute silence
At the Federal Executive Council, attendees observed a minute’s silence at the meeting presided over by Buhari to honour the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack.
At the start of the meeting, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, called for a minute of silence for the eight departed souls, including a medical doctor, Ms Chinelo Megafu; Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress, Musa-Lawal Ozigi; and the Kwara State Chairman of the TUC, Akin Akinsola, among others.
Present at the meeting were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who was in Kaduna on Tuesday to visit survivors recovering at the 44 Army Reference Hospital; the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari; the National Security Adviser, Maj Gen, Babagana Monguno (retd.), and many ministers.
Mourning now normal in Kaduna, says CAN
The Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna State also mourned the deceased victims and sympathised with their families.
The state Chairman of CAN, Rev Joseph Hayab, in a statement on Wednesday, lamented that Kaduna, where huge security votes were being expended monthly, had turned out to be a mourning state as result of banditry attacks.
Hayab, who’s also the Vice-Chairman of CAN in the Northern States and Abuja, called on the Federal Government to do all it could to reverse the disturbing security situation across the state.
He said, “CAN Kaduna State chapter mourns those who died in the Abuja-Kaduna train attack incident on Monday, March 28, 2022. Sadly, mourning is now an everyday ordeal in Kaduna even though we have a sitting government with huge security votes disbursed monthly.
“Besides, the train attack further amplifies the vulnerability the Kaduna people and everyone who does business in the state face due to the rise in banditry and terrorism.”
North under siege, says ACF
The pan-northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, condemned the terror attack, lamenting that the North was now under siege.
The ACF said it received with shock news of the tragic incident, which claimed no fewer than eight lives with several other passengers unaccounted for.
The Secretary-General, ACF, Murtala Aliyu, said the organisation was tired of crying out on the issue of security and other challenges in the northern part of the country.
It added, “The ACF has described as unacceptable the frequency of such attacks on our towns and villages, highways and now train tracks and airports. Currently, banditry and terrorism have excised the North and the major economic activities of the North-East and the North-West, with a new ploy to block the main gateway (Kaduna State) to the northern part of the country.
“It regrets that all efforts claimed by security agencies and governments at various levels have been unable to put an end to such banditry and terrorism.”