Lagos: A Tragic Train Accident

By Stephen Ubanna

Last Friday, July  20,2018,  the Ebute Emeta Corporate Headquarters of the Nigeria  Railway  Corporation, NRC, and its Agege sub-stations office were turned into confusion and  apparent  mourning centers when information filtered   out of   a passenger train that rammed into a stationery commercial bus at the busy  Agege  Odejobi  rail  crossing  junction along  the old Abeokuta road and subsequently derailed .

The derailed  train, according to bystanders was  fully booked  as passengers were  hanging on the door and the train top  which exposed them to danger of falling out  with ease . It was not surprising why  two passengers   who fell when the train which rammed into  the stationery bus parked  on the Agege rail track died on the spot while several others were wounded .That much  was confirmed by  Adesina Tiamiyu, General Manager, Lagos state Environmental  Management Agency,  LAS EMA.  But traders at the scene of the accident  disclosed t  that the  death toll could be higher going by the number of passengers rushed to nearby  clinics  for treatment.

Tiamiyi reportedly said that the  accident  occurred when the  driver of the stationery bus who was visibly shaken,   was said to have rushed and entered  the bus on hearing  the blast of the horn  by the approaching train to drive off  but  put it on the reverse gear. As he could not control the vehicle to beat the speeding train  it rammed into it throwing it into the air .All those who were  hanging  on the train  door were said to have  fell off, according to an eyewitness account.

The intervention of the Lagos Fire Fighting  Service, LSFFS, officials who quickly mobilised   their fire- fighting  equipment  to the scene of the accident may have helped to put out the fire set  on the  Commercial buses parked on rail tracks  as early morning passengers and those  going  to work   including  traders ran helter   skelter to save their dear life as   LASEMA  officials took control of the area.

Okechukwu Ikeagu, a trader confirmed that four buses  were set ablaze by angry youths  .  When the Magazine visited the area  on Saturday, July 21, 2018,  the debris of the burnt buses were still there, meaning that the NRC officials may have to act fast to remove them to avoid obstructing rail movement b at night and day  .

Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi , Minister of Transport

The Agege train accident  was one of the most recently recorded  derailment in the country. It would be recalled that in February, 1970, a train  derailment occured  at Langlanga in the present day Nasarawa state in north central geo-political region which had claimed over 50 lives.  Many had expected the then NRC Management  to come out with measures to forestall  future train derailment in the country but they went to rest. The fallout was the increasing number of train derailment in the country, particular  in the north.

Worried  by the problem created by Commercial buses parked   at rail tracks and its implication to train movement,   Fidet Okhiria, the current managing Director, NRC, and his management team were said to have gone back to the drawing the board  to find a lasting solution to the menace . Okhiria could not understand  why Commercial bus drivers  should park their  buses  at rail tracks which poses threat to train movement in the country

Last year, Osileke Osiptan, a Nigerian transport expert based in the United states, US, was said to have proffered solutions to prevent incessant  train accident in the country, considered too high among the comity of nations.

He was said to have urged  the Okhiria led  management  to discourage all forms of  vehicular and human activities  along rail lines, insisting that the” right of way  of the Corporation should be clearly identified and fences constructed especially near rail crossings”.

The transport  expert stressed that  ”all market stalls and unauthorised developments near the rail tracks should be demolished by the Corporation.   Also, he had  called for the illumination of  at rail crossings  in the busy areas of Agege and Yaba because  of  night train movements and speeding   day time trains.   He argued  that the level crossing of  the rail lines needed ”signs and activated gates”. This is a big challenge to President Muhammadu Buhari and Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of Transport  to  make  provision for adequate funds  for NRC to undertake such  multi-million projects. This is because the lean budgetary allocation  of the Corporation would not be able to execute the projects.

It  was not surprising why  Osipitan , the US based  transport expert stated that the rail gates if  activated  would require circuitry detection to enhance”  automatic  flashing of lights and the descend of gates when train is approaching in any  area”.  Kabiru  bello, a Lagos based  Commercial bus driver is believes that if the NRC management could implement the  suggestions enumerated by the US based transport expert and take full control of its right if ways in the  busy Agege and Yaba areas including other busy rail areas in the country,  the number of train accidents   would reduce to the barest minimum.

 

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