PENDING when the Nigerian government restores rail services on the Abuja-Kaduna route, people commuting between the two cities may travel only by road.
This follows the suspension of services by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) between the cities on Tuesday.
The action followed an attack by terrorists on a train on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line on Monday night. The train was carrying nearly a thousand passengers.
According to findings by our reporter, commuters have no alternative other than travelling by road between Kaduna and Abuja because there is no direct flight between the airports located in the two cities.
Also, the two territories do not have water linking them through which commuters could travel.
The Abuja-Kaduna highway has been a nightmare for many because the activities of terrorists who attack, kill and abduct commuters at will for years.
Reprieve came the way of commuters using the road when President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Abuja-Kaduna railway in 2016.
Kaduna and Abuja are neighbouring territories.
Nearly 200 kilometres apart, travelling by road between Kaduna and Abuja takes about two and a half hours from Zuba, Abuja’s border town.
It also takes approximately two hours for the train to journey from the Kubwa Station to the Rigawa Station in Kaduna.
Fare for rail and road transportation between the two cities is about N3000.
No airline flies between Abuja-Kaduna Airports
As of the time of filing this report, no airline operates between the Abuja and Kaduna Airports.
On Tuesday, Azman Air suspended its operations at the Kaduna Airport; it does not operate between the two cities but from Lagos and other airports.
Aero Contractors used to shuttle between the two airports, but the company had suspended the services long before the latest attack on the rail.
Abuja-Kaduna highway: Harvest of kidnappings, killings
There have been dozens of reports on attacks and abductions on the Abuja-Kaduna highway in the past few years.
In its report captioned: “Yuletide: Flashpoints for abduction, crashes on Nigerian highways“, published in December 2020, The ICIR highlighted some of the abductions, killings and attacks that had taken place on the Kaduna-Abuja road.
The report described the road as “arguably the most notorious road for kidnapping in Nigeria.”
It noted that terrorists (then known as bandits) had abducted hundreds of persons on the road that links the northern part of the country to the south and the nation’s capital.
For example, the report shows the terrorists kidnapped nine Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State students on the road on November 15, 2020. They were released days later by combined efforts of the Nigerian army and other security agencies after reports had claimed relations of the victims paid ransoms.
On September 8, 2019, the terrorists whisked away another six people on the highway. The abductees were travelling from Offa, Kwara State, in a commercial vehicle belonging to a company operated by the Offa community.
The abductors would have had another field day on the road on November 27 2020, but for the prompt intervention of the troops of Operation Thunder Strike, according to a statement from the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan.
Aruwan said the troops fired shots at the abductors, who “escaped with bullet wounds.”
Attacks worsen insecurity in Kaduna
Increasing terrorists’ activities in Kaduna State blankets the state with fear and gloom.
In 2021, bandits killed 1192 people in the state and kidnapped 3348 others.
That was after The ICIR had reported that deaths from insecurity in the state in 2020 were three times higher than those recorded in the North-East states battling terrorism.
The gunmen attacked public and private institutions, schools and communities as they intensify their campaigns in the state.
In August 2021, bandits attacked the country’s foremost military institution – the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) – in Kaduna town.
Five months before then, the gunmen had attacked the Kaduna Airport’s FAAN Quarters and abducted nine people.
There were several attacks and abductions from schools, including nearly 20 students kidnapped at the Greenfield University in Kaduna and 121 pupils whisked away at the Baptist High School in Kaduna township in 2021.
History of breakdown, attacks on Abuja-Kaduna train
The train broke down at least twice between November 18 and 20, 2020, forcing the Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi to apologise to Nigerians.
He attributed the development to poor locomotives. He wondered why Chinese new locomotives procured by the government could develop faults months after delivery.
On January 4, 2021, the train from Kaduna broke down at Akere community while heading for Idu, Abuja.
Again, on June 28, 2021, the train broke down in the bush, causing fears among passengers.
The train had hundreds of passengers on its coaches.
The NRC said engine failure was responsible for the hitch.
On October 20, gunmen destroyed the rail track and reportedly fired several shots at the train. The incident occured between Rijana and Dutse.