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 .
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.