Lagos Train Accidents Stir Concern
CONCERN has been raised over incidences of train accidents in the Agege area of Lagos state and the negligence of officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
Two separate accidents were recorded at the Pen Cinema railroad crossing in August alone. The first (August 10) was a collision said to have happened around 8:45pm between a train and a haulage trailer and in which two people died. The driver of the trailer had attempted to move across the rail, not heeding the hooting of the approaching train. Two persons who had hung illegally on the train fell off and died immediately.
A second accident occurred a week after (August 16) when two trains collided, also killing two. Another person sustained serious injuries. Again, the victims were passengers on rooftop.
According to the Managing Director of the Corporation, Mr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, a panel of inquiry was set up to investigate the cause of the tragedies.
The Guardian observed, however, that on several occasions, NRC officials failed to erect barricades across the track, despite receiving signals from oncoming trains. It was also noticed that several times when vehicular traffic encroaches on the rail, especially during gridlocks, train drivers are forced to apply the brakes to prevent disaster.
Madam Debora Okikiolu, who witnessed one of the accidents, blamed impatient motorists for ignoring train signals. She explained that often, vehicles attempting a quick dash across the track get stuck in the process. She said such incidents could have been avoided had officials woken up to their responsibilities, deploying barricades and enforcing rules.
One passenger, who didn’t want his name mentioned, told The Guardian that serious accidents, nevertheless, have been averted in the last few months due to the vigilance of train drivers and NRC officials. He regretted that motorists, especially commercial bus operators, are in the habit of flouting traffic rules as a result of impatience and recklessness, and that with such disposition, NRC officials can do little to keep them from impending danger.
The Lagos District Public Relations Officer, Khadijat Adekomaiya, said safety is crucial to the NRC, a reason it stationed personnel who run shifts at crossings. She explained that the role of these workers is to pull down a barrier across the track whenever a train was approaching.
“These things are mechanical and could, sometimes, break down. Every day, however, our engineering team goes round to observe any of the barriers that are damaged. The problem is that we are in a country where people do not care about public properties. That is the reason these facilities are vandalized often. Also, sometimes, drivers do not comply with rules requiring them to keep off the tracks, especially at crossings. Even when officers at the crossings ask them to stop, many drivers do not obey.”
According to her, when drivers violate the rule and flee, the officers report the cases to the police for prosecution. “They are required to pay a fine. And when they are apprehended at the scene they are handed over to the police for prosecution,” she said.
Asked whether her organization has become helpless in checkmating people who sit on train tops and hang on doors, Adekomaiya disagreed. She said that besides enlightenment campaigns warning that persons who engage in such endanger their lives, the Corporation’s task force set up to ensure compliance has arrested many offenders. She disclosed that rather than have a change of heart, the offenders would return the following and day and repeat the same.
“We had a raid recently by the task force. It comprised the police, Man O War and the NRC staff. There were about 200 illegal passengers riding on our train. We were able to nab over 50 and handed them over to the Police.
The continuity of the illegality is not because of our inconsistency in raiding the offenders. Though we acknowledge the need for more coaches, the reality is that as a public entity, available facilities are insufficient for all that are interested in using them.
“It should be noted that we cannot, single-handedly, take the decision, as a publicly owned corporation, to get additional coaches, because we report to the Ministry of Transport, and I think the federal government is looking at how to continue with what the previous government has done to improve the railway system.
“The NRC for a long time was moribund but now we run 14 trips a day. This means we carry over 9000 passengers. We also now move containers and petroleum products to different parts of Nigeria. We know there is room for growth.”