The fog over the number of passengers on the ill-fated Abuja-Kaduna train, who are missing, is getting clearer.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) said yesterday that it has not been able to establish contact with 136 people among the 362 onboard the train at the time terrorists struck on Monday night.
Questions being asked by observers last night are as follows:
*Is 136 the number of people being held by the terrorists?
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*How many of the captives are still alive?
*Where are they being held?
*When will they be released, considering the fact that some people kidnapped months and years ago are still being held?
Managing Director of NRC, Mr. Fidet Okhiria, gave details of the manifest on a television programme last night.
According to him, only 123 of the 362 people on board the train at the time of the attack had been reached on phone.
Eight passengers were killed and 41 others injured.
Okhiria said 398 passengers purchased tickets to travel on the NRC AK9 service but only 362 actually boarded.
Okhiria said: “We have set up a desk and we have been able to talk to 123 persons who said they are safe. Another 17 people picked up the phone but they said they bought tickets for people and have not heard from them.
“Other lines, we have not been able to get them, either not available or switched off. So, that is the position as of now. We will continue to try their numbers.
“Also, the families of those that have been kidnapped are still getting in touch with us. At least, about five of the families have gotten in touch with us and they said the kidnappers have called them.”
Explaining that the entire seat capacity of the train in question is 840, Okhiria added that the 970 figure being quoted on social media was incorrect as the train did not even have such capacity.
According to him, the Abuja -Kaduna service is run on fully automated e-tickets with entry and exit system turnstiles that validate every passenger on board the trains.
He challenged those with contrary figures to come in the open with proof.
“We had nine coaches on that train and the full capacity is 840 passengers. Exactly 398 bought tickets because Abuja-Kaduna has an e-ticketing platform. We don’t sell tickets without a record and on the website, they are well captured.
“Before you can enter the train, your ticket will open the barrier that will allow you to the platform to board the train. That is the validation.
“So, 362 persons were captured entering the train both at Idu and Rigasa and that is on record. Any other person floating another record should be asked to come and account for those 980 people. He should say how he got 980 people on the train,” he added.
On the likely time train services would commence on the corridor, Okhiria said: “As of now, one of the coaches has been raised and we are working from both ends of Kaduna and Abuja.
“We have two teams tackling the rail coaches trying to put them on track and move them to the workshop.
“Hopefully, within the next two weeks, the coaches would be out of sight and the track restored so that operation can commence.”
He commiserated with relatives of the deceased and appealed to the public to “desist from spreading false information at this delicate time.”
The NRC chief said: “We regret the death of eight of our passengers and security personnel attached to the train as well as scores of those who suffered injuries, not to mention the trauma suffered by scores of passengers by the armed attack.”
Also yesterday, the Public Relations Officer, Northern Regional District of the NRC, Zaria, Mallam Abdullahi Alhaji, confirmed the death of the driver of a cargo train in Kaduna.
According to him, the driver of the train was conveying soft drinks to Kano when the accident occurred.
He said the incident happened as a result of the theft of the slippers and other accessories from the rail track in the area.
The narrow-gauge train travelling from Kano to Lagos derailed at Farin Ruwa, near Jaji in Kaduna State.
Police defuse IED in Rigasa station
Police in Kaduna said their men in the Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD) defused an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the Rigasa community where the Abuja-Kaduna train station is located.
Spokesman Muhammad Jalige said: “There was an IED planted around Makarfi Road, Rigasa this (Thursday) morning. We received a distress call and our officers from the EOD were deployed to the scene.
“On getting there, they identified the device as Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and they successfully defused it without causing harm to anyone.”
He added that normalcy had returned to the area.