The principal accountant of NTA Channel 5 was struck and killed by a train in her vehicle on December 15 in the Kubwa neighborhood of Abuja, just 10 days after the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) resumed rail services on the Abuja-Kaduna route following a terrorist assault on March 28, 2022.
NewsReport gathered that the deceased, Selimota Idowu Suleiman, was a principal accountant in the finance department of NTA Channel 5. A video of the unfortunate incident which went viral showed that the train crushed the Toyota Camry which the deceased was driving from the driver’s side as the vehicle was crossing the rail track at about 10.00 a.m.
The train, which was coming from Kaduna was only a few minutes away from its destination in Abuja when the accident occurred. NRC’s deputy director, public relations, Yakubu Mahmood, confirmed the incident which was only one of such sad accidents on our rail tracks.
Of course, train accidents, like other accidents, are not peculiar to Nigeria. They are a global occurrence. According to statista.com, a research agency, over 500 train accidents occurred in Nigeria in 2018 alone. “Of these, 222 accidents were caused either by loss of control or locomotive failure. Detachment and derailment were the second and third most common train accidents that occurred in Nigeria.” The group also listed Germany, Poland and Hungary as some of the European countries that witnessed the highest number of rail accidents in Europe in 2019, with close to 300 incidents each. Accident, as defined by the research agency “includes the following: collisions, derailments, level crossing accidents, accidents to persons caused by rolling stock in motion, fires, and others.”
Human errors, mechanical faults that are not all the time predictable, even in cases where regular maintenance is carried out on the engines are some of the factors that could cause train accidents.
But if it is true that Nigeria recorded 500 accidents in one year alone, then it would mean that many of those incidents were not reported probably because lives were not involved.
But it should worry us nonetheless because of the nature of our environment where we hardly try to find out what could have caused those accidents. Were they avoidable?
What was the casualty rate, the frequency of occurrence, and so on? Germany’s high train accident rate could be understandable given that the country has the most extensive railway line network in Europe.
Our rail services had been comatose for years and the present government is just trying to bring life back to rail services. There is no reason why rail services that are still at the infancy should be recording the high rate of accidents that statista.com credits the country with.
We would not want any dissipation of energy on whether the figures by the research agency are right or wrong, after all it gave a definition of what constitutes train accidents in its own context.
If our authorities see the statistics as outlandish, maybe the problem is with the definition. Maybe some of what the agency recorded as accident against the country were not seen in that light by our own definition of what constitutes train accident. So, rather than begin any unhelpful debate that would negate the lessons we should have learnt from the accidents, we want those in charge of our rail services to redouble efforts towards ensuring safer train travels.
We saw how bureaucratic bottlenecks and lack of sense for details led to our helplessness during the terror attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train service on March 28. How at the highest level of government equipment that would have helped in curbing such attacks ended up being swept under the carpet at that level of government over issues of details and cost.
We also witnessed how passengers on a Lagos-bound train from Ibadan were stranded in the middle of nowhere in the bush for insufficient fuel some months ago. We were later told that this happened because the fuel gauge suddenly broke down.
Granted that this can sometimes happen anywhere, we cannot lose sight of the fact of the role of the nebulous ‘Nigerian factor’ which has always rendered attaining best global practices unattainable in many of our circumstances.
Perhaps the November 15 accident would have been averted if the government and residents in the area where it occurred had cooperated on the best solution to the problem, especially as the spot has been recording several train and vehicles collisions. Whilst the NRC blames the frequent accidents on drivers who would not use the overpass provided by the government in order to avert collision with trains, residents accuse the corporation of digging a hole there ostensibly to prevent vehicular movement and facilitate movement of the train. What is required is government’s intervention.
Let the government move in and meet with all the stakeholders with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem. We have also observed that there are no barriers at many rail crossings, even here in Lagos. We wonder if that is the new global practice. Even if it is, we have to consider our local environment and provide such facilities. We are not yet ripe for a situation where we won’t have barriers at our rail crossings.