The allocation of N30 billion by the Federal Government in the 2023 Appropriations Bill for the installation of surveillance systems along the Abuja-Kaduna rail line has provoked fresh concerns among transport experts.
According to the experts, the budget excludes other rail tracks across the country that are also prone to attacks by dangerous elements in the country especially terrorists.
“The 2023 budget earmarks N30 billion for an acoustic sensing security surveillance system for the Abuja-Kaduna railway but that may not be enough to protect other rail stations,” SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian geopolitical intelligence agency, said in a recent report.
According to the report, infrastructure security continues to compete for importance with the safety of people and their property.
Famous Jegede, the lead Intelligence analyst at Towntalk Solutions, said that spending such an amount on one of the train stations will likely expose other stations to more security threats.
“It is a very bad decision, and it will expose other train stations to attack because they don’t have a security surveillance system, in comparison to that of Abuja-Kaduna rail, and because there is little or no infrastructure, it will make other train stations more exposed to attacks,” Jegede said.
He expressed worries that terrorist groups and organised criminals now see train stations as targets for their evil acts.
Jegede also said that the government may consider allocating an additional budget for the security surveillance systems in other train stations to ensure a comprehensive and efficient security system for the entire rail network in the country.
“I believe that in order to address this and include other train stations, it is necessary to either increase the budget or work with the existing budget to include all other train stations. Whether people like it or not, train stations are an essential part of Nigeria’s transportation infrastructure,” Jegede said.
Recall that the Federal Government in the 2023 Appropriations Bill, allocated about N30 billion for the installation of security surveillance systems on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line.
The budgeted amount was to improve the safety and security of the passengers travelling on that route.
Here, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) was tasked with implementing the security system and installing cameras, alarms, and other security systems at the Abuja-Kaduna railway station.
The plan to install a security surveillance system came to be after terrorists attacked a train carrying 970 passengers on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line on March 28, 2022, with explosives.
The attack killed at least eight passengers, with 168 people reported missing afterwards, and still, now the issue of insecurity still plagues the rail transport industry.
Earlier in January 2023, kidnappers also attacked the Igueben sub-station in Edo State and abducted over 30 passengers and staff.
“Rail security is part of infrastructure security which is a subset of national security. An improvement in security on the Abuja-Kaduna railway service will have to include better security in the communities and towns around the route. Anything less than that would mean throwing money at the problem,” said Confidence MacHarry, a senior security analyst at SBM Intelligence.
MacHarry also said that the security surveillance systems for other train stations may require additional budget and funding to ensure the safety and security of passengers as well as the entire railway network.
Attacks on trains conveying passengers and rail infrastructure is taking a toll on Nigeria’s rail sector as the recent Rail Transportation Data of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that the number of rail transport passengers in quarter three of 2022 declined by 28.20 percent to 500,348 from the 696,841 reported in the corresponding quarter of 2021.
The report said the revenue generated from passenger movement dropped by 60.52 percent to N715.09 million from N1.81 billion received in the same quarter of the previous year.
Meanwhile, in the fourth quarter of 2022, the number of passengers rose by 30.10 percent to 1.34 million persons from 1.03 million persons recorded in quarter four of 2021.
While the revenue generated from passengers stood at N1.15 billion, a decrease of 39.54 percent from the same period last year when N1.91 billion was reported.