As Nigerians are yet to recover from the shock occasioned by the recent bombing of the Abuja-Kaduna train by terrorists, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Nigeria has said that one cannot accuse the federal government of negligence because nobody set a standard for government.
The National Executive Director, CILT Nigeria, Mr. Paul Ndibe who made this submission in a chat with our correspondent in Lagos recently observed that it’s only when a standard was set and one failed to meet the standard that the aspect of negligence could be contemplated adding that in this case, nobody gave a standard to federal government.
“The federal government set out to develop and build the railway and currently has built the railway to the extent of the resources it can deploy on that. It might be a gradual process, it has laid the track bed, laid the track, imported the rolling stocks and the train is running, it’s possible that their next plan of action is to safeguard the track.
“So, for the fact that no standard had been given to the government to perform, we cannot accuse the government of negligence. We can only say that this has happened and it is a wake up call for government to also integrate the aspect of safeguarding the railway tracks into the future contracts award and for the ones that are in existence, see how they can install these security measures”, he submitted.
While describing the recent attacks on railway facilities as unfortunate, the National Executive Director posited that the railway was a permanent way by the Act of 1955 as amended adding that as a matter of fact, anything that could obstruct the smooth running of railway had a legal penalty by the Act of 1955.
According to him, “For example, blocking a level crossing or parking in such a way that you will obstruct the free movement of any rolling stock on the railway track. That has its own consequences by the Act of 1955. So, the working of the railway should not for any reason be open to such an attack. Now that it has happened, the next thing is to look at why and how and try to say a few measures that might be taken to forestall future
He, however, noted that the railway network was still porous and because it was porous, infiltration into the railway track was bound to happen and infiltration into some railway stations is still there.
He continued, “All effort at rebuilding the railway has been on the permanent way – the track, maybe the station building and the facilities. Not much has been done protecting this permanent way by building structures to prohibit infiltration or unauthorized access to the railway track or or the railway facility. So, that has been part of the major problem that we have not been able to address.
“Of course, we are beginning to see the consequences. Our sympathy and prayers to those who lost their lives in the incident. It’s something that touches on the soul of the country because if people can no longer be safe going by rail, of course, the road is not safe, the waterway is not safe, the air not safe and now, the railway not safe, how do we move? It will actually impact on the mobility level of our citizens. It will impact on the access to transportation mode, access to transport service and of course, safety and security while you are on that facility. So, it’s a terrible incident.”
On refusal to approve Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’ rail security surveillance proposal by the Federal Executive Council (FRC), Ndibe said, “For the fact that we do not know the full details of the proposal, we might not be in the most appropriate position to comment on whether or not that would have forestall this incident.
“The facts are there, if it was a bomb, we are yet to determine what type of bomb, where they were planted and at what point. We only noted that there were explosions on the train and it happened at a given time of the day and at a particular train number. When they were planted or detonated by remote prompting, we do not know.
“So, on account of that, it might be difficult to say whether what the Minister had in mind would have been able to forestall the occurrence of this incident. Because we do not know the facts, we might not be in the most appropriate position to really adjudicate on that.”
He, however, believed that there was no level of protection that was offered to a facility like that would not be able to mitigate the level of access or infiltration into the railway system even if it’s one naira worth of investment but for the fact that it was not done, it meant the rail was porous.
” If for example he asked for maybe ten million naira and he was given one million naira or five million naira, he can now say, I have been able to justifiably do this on account of this but for the fact that he didn’t have that money to invest, it means he was handicapped and for this to have happened, the implication is that if he has had this money, he would have forestall this occurrence. How they are related, we do not know because we do not know the details of what infrastructure he intends to deploy.
“So, it all revolves around government having a look at the entire architecture and see what might be done because this is the beginning. Now that they have succeeded, it’s possible there may be a repeat occurrence of this but we pray it doesn’t happen and in order for it not to happen, government will begin to put in place measures to ensure that it does not happen again which could also include the introduction of what he said he wanted to do.
“But why won’t they have surveillance cameras along the track? If the train stations are electrified, that is they are powered by electricity even generator, why won’t they have surveillance cameras? Even on the tracks because there’s power on the train, while there’s power on the train, you have cameras to foresee issues around the track.
“So, these are the things we might look beyond the normal. We are no longer in a normal environment, so these things can be installed. I don’t know how much it might take but having a camera on trains, maybe looking at the outside of the train but since it is powered, those cameras can also be energized. It can also help to deter attempt to sabotage the train operations. These are things that they might look into”, he further stated.
Speaking on the planned use of vigilante by the federal government to secure the railway, the CILT Nigeria Chieftain said, “Securing the physical structures like the tracks might also work if locals are engaged because it would scare away those who are cutting the rails and removing them but the accident we are looking at had nothing to do with that. So, it’s on a different scale. It could be also those who pretend to enter the train who would have also gone out to plant whatever it is that exploded or those things were on the track awaiting the train to come and then it was detonated under the train. It could be any of these.
“But, instead of the vigilante, how long will they be the track? And they are human beings, human error, you cannot quantify how deep or consequence human error can be. But if there are physical facilities to actually prevent infiltration or unauthorized access into the track, it’s more of a permanent solution, you don’t need to renew, you don’t need to service, it’s just there and it prohibits unauthorized access to the track. That’s on a more permanent level.
“Additionally, what I think the corporation over time may do might be in terms of the security of the infrastructure is to hire the locals as track maintenance workers around a particular zone or privatizing some aspects of track maintenance using local hands because if local hands are used to some extent to weed the track and they go there all the time to weed the track, their physical presence on the track will deter any foreign person coming to the track because once you are not part of them, over a particular section of the track, they will raise alarm.
“But where the track is still mechanized, if the maintenance of the track is mechanized, it is only when the equipment are rolled in to maintain the track that you see physical presence otherwise, it is only when the train is passing and those who intends to sabotage the train may look at the train timetable to know when and how they can come in, intercept the train or come in and endanger the track.
“But if you have physical presence of people or you have some aspects of surveillance on the track either through any means, then, that can deter some people coming. Once unauthorized access is on the track and it’s captured on a surveillance camera and an alarm is raised, then, inspectors or security people can be sent immediately. You are likely even to capture the picture of the people and you may be able to trace them and pick them up. That one may be more rewarding than having the physical presence on the track.”
Photo: Mr. Paul Ndibe, National Executive Director, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Nigeria.
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