Tayo Busayo, Abuja
DAILY COURIER – Passengers without proof of their National Identification Numbers (NIN) would no longer be allowed to board the train on the Abuja-Kaduna route, Transportation Minister Mu’azu Sambo said at the weekend.
The minister also told passengers to brace ticket fare hike.
He said train services, which were suspended after the March 28 bandits’ attack on a Kaduna-bound passenger train, would resume in the next one week.
The attack led to the death of some passengers and about 60 were kidnapped. Others were injured.
Forty-seven of the abducted passengers were freed by the bandits after collecting ransoms from their families. The remaining hostages were freed by security agencies coordinated by the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt.-Gen. Lucky Irabor.
Prior to the release of the remaining 23 hostages, the Transport minister said the government would not restart service on the Abuja-Kaduna route resume until all the kidnapped passengers were rescued and reunited with members of their families.
Presenting the scorecard of his ministry earlier in the month, Sambo hinted of the resumption of services before the end of this month.
Eight months after the attack, the minister yesterday embarked on an assessment tour of the rail infrastructure in preparation for resumption.
Contrary to the reports that the service would resume today, the minister said the resumption would take a few more days.
He said the few days would enable passengers to prepare adequately and get familiar with the newly introduced security measures.
The minister, who told the passengers to prepare for an increase in ticket fares, also said the number of trips has been reduced, adding that there will no longer be night trips.
In preparation for the resumption of the train operation, Sambo said: “I travelled from Idu to Rigasa to assess the state of readiness of train service between Abuja and Kaduna.
“Several measures have been put in place to ensure that lives and properties will be secured when we resume services and I am satisfied with what I have seen.
“Of course, there are one or two areas that need to be addressed and we are going to address them immediately.
“There are increased numbers of security personnel and without mincing words, some of the security personnel may not be in uniform to guarantee to safety of the traveling public.
“There are other sensitive measures that we have deployed which I will not reveal. Also, on every journey, the train is monitored every second on a screen and the train driver can see up to a certain distance if there is any threat on the track that will enable him to match the brakes long before getting to the perceived threat.
“On the issue of whether the train service will start tomorrow or not, we have not said the train services will start tomorrow. I want to be very categorical about that.
“Now, we have introduced a new system whereby before you purchase a ticket, you will be required to provide a phone number and National Identification Number (NIN) for us to profile the passenger because that is the beginning of the security checks.
“So, at any point in time when a train moves from one station to another, we will know who and who is on board. If you don’t have NIN, you are not going to board our train. It is as simple as that.
“If you are a minor, an adult will pay for you and will register for you and an adult can only register for not more than four minors.
“The NIN will take care of racketeering and it is one of the reasons we introduced it. Only one human is entitled to a NIN and I don’t see how one person will get multiple NINs.
“In any case, at the point of the departure lounge, the profile of the person will have to show and if it is not shown, you don’t get access. It is as simple as that. So, if you get 20 tickets, 19 will be useless and your money will be wasted.”
“Now, we want to give sufficient time for the Nigerian public to listen to these and assimilate this new system because if we start tomorrow, a lot of people will be disgruntled. They will ask; why didn’t they tell us? Is this the new way of doing it? Why didn’t they give us adequate time to do it? So, we want to give adequate time. Definitely between three, four, five days, certainly not more than a week.”
On the security measures put in place to ensure real-time monitoring of the rail infrastructure, the minister said: ‘That has been put in place, but we are not going to tell you what we have done. It is a security matter and I have no apologies for that.”
On the planned cut on the number of trips and increase in fares, the minister said: “The number of trips will be reduced. Naturally, you should expect that a certain number of passengers will not be comfortable boarding the train for obvious reasons.
“We are human beings; we are bound to feel a little bit uncomfortable until we can see that every security measure has been put in place. So, we will reduce the number of trips and as the traveling population picks up, we will increase the number of trips but we will certainly not travel at night for now.
“Please, expect an increase in fares. I am having final consultation with the management of NRC and the management of the ministry to see whether it will be immediate or we will take a little time.
“We all know that prices of things have gone up, even airfares have gone up and we have not heard anybody cry about it. Why is it that it’s only when it is train fares that people are reactive? I can assure you that the poor masses will be taken care of and considered because we are a very sensitive government.
On assurance that there won’t be a repeat of the attack, he said: “The only person that can give you that assurance is the Almighty God. But, having said that, I will tell you that whatever is humanly possible to secure the lives of the users of this service have been put in place and we will continue to upgrade it. We will be monitoring it daily and improve on whatever or wherever we find some snags.”