• Govt’s claim that it has lost N3bn since the March 28 terror attack on Abuja-Kaduna train route is self-centred. What of losses to victims’ families?
Since the suspension of train shuttles on the Abuja-Kaduna route on March 28 when terrorists attacked the train on that route, the Federal Government has been counting its losses. Many passengers were killed, more than 40 were abducted during the unfortunate incident. Left to the Federal Government, train shuttles would have resumed on the axis but for protests from families of the victims of the terror attack and some civil society groups who felt it would be insensitive for rail operations to resume while their loved ones were still being held by the terrorists.
True, many of the victims have been released by their captors, a few still remain and the latest information is that one of them, 21-year-old Azurfa Lois John might be married off by one of the terrorists. Penultimate week, some of the released hostages were taken to Aso Rock to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari. That was the closest the victims had gotten to the President in terms of post-incident communications.
The Presidency had been condemned times without number for neither doing enough to tackle insecurity nor making serious efforts to either secure the release of the hostages and even other hostages being held across the country.
The report that the Federal Government had lost about N3b as at the 140th day of the attack, due to the suspension of operations on the Abuja-Kaduna route is sad but not surprising. The route is a lucrative one since air transportation is out of the reach of most passengers and the Abuja-Kaduna road recently gained notoriety as the most dangerous road in the country due to incessant attacks from terrorists. Rail transportation is therefore the only option considered safe on that axis.
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While we regret that the country is losing so much on the suspended route, we believe that the loss pales into insignificance compared to the human losses and the ordeals of the victims and their families, and the country in general. Lives were lost during the attack, many of the victims and their families are, and would continue to be traumatised possibly for life. The value of any country is seen in the way it treats the welfare of its citizens. We condemn the seeming apathy the government has shown in this very particular tragic incident. We are not sure there is yet a verifiable number of passengers that boarded the train. The dead seem to have been mourned only by their families.
The ordeals of the captives have made global news but there seems to be a lot of lethargy with the Federal Ministry of Transportation under whose watch the rail transportation falls. We expect that measures ought to be in place to help the victims and their families as is done globally. We expect that investigations ought to have begun for whatever it is worth to fish out those whose negligence might have contributed to the tacky way the records of those involved have been handled, as a measure to protect other rail tracts.
While we regret the impact of the monetary loss to the country, we feel that the human issues involved in this tragedy ought to trump other concerns for now. No amount of money can equate the life of one person. Counting the monetary cost when victims are still being held and the terrorists have become billionaires seems a slap on the face and deepens the agony of victims and their families.
We equally condemn the idea of taking the released victims to see the President. Under normal circumstances, the President ought to be the one paying visits to each of those released and giving them support. The train they boarded belonged to the Federal Government and, in some ways, the government had in that instance failed to secure their lives. In other climes, the victims might decide to sue the government for damages.
We hope that rather than monetary losses being counted, those involved should step back and show sympathy for what the victims and their families have been going through, especially those killed. Life has no price.