About 31 passengers and staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) were believed to have been abducted by gunmen on Saturday at the Igueben train sub-station in Edo State, while several passengers were injured.
Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, disclosed this on Sunday, during a media briefing.
The state police command, in a statement Sunday, said the kidnappers were herdsmen armed with AK-47 riffles. It said some of the passengers sustained bullet wounds, and assured that bush combing and rescue operations had begun to try to rescue the victims.
The federal government, in its own reaction, condemned the kidnapping incident at Tom Ikimi Train Station, Igueben, as despicable and utterly barbaric. The government, through the Ministry of Transportation, stated that efforts were being made to rescue the kidnapped passengers and officials of the train station.
The presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, also expressed concern over the attack. A statement by the Atiku Media Office, yesterday, said the incident, “is the latest in a long condemnable line of security breaches previously unseen in our national history.”
To deal with such brazen assaults and enhance security nationwide, Atiku suggested “amending our constitution to allow for state and community policing as a first line of security.”
However, Nehikhare disclosed that one of the kidnappers had been arrested and was currently helping the police in their investigation, while one of the victims escaped.
The information commissioner said, “After 32 persons were kidnapped, the police, vigilante, and local hunters swung into action, combing the bushes around the vicinity. One of the kidnapped victims was able to escape.
“The Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, has visited the scene of the attack for on-the-spot assessment and was told that one of the suspects was arrested and he has been helping the police with investigation to arrest other fleeing members of the kidnapping gang.
“We congratulate the police and other security agencies for their swiftness in attending to the security brief. We appreciate the local hunters and members of the Edo State Security Network, as their collaboration assisted in this operation. This synergy led to the success recorded in a very short time.
“We hope this is the last time we will have such an attack on government infrastructure, especially train stations here in Edo State. Our security network was swift to react to the incident and we condole the families of victims. We will give necessary support to the security agencies, vigilantes and local hunters who are on the trail of these kidnappers.”
The Edo State police command press statement read, “This is to inform the gentlemen of the press that on Saturday, 7th of January, 2023 at about 1600hrs, unspecified number of herdsmen armed with AK 47 riffles attacked the train station at Igueben, Edo State, and kidnapped unspecified number of passengers, who were waiting to board the train to Warri.
“The kidnappers, who shot sporadically into the air before kidnapping some passengers, left some persons with bullet wounds. The Area Commander, Irrua, DPO Igueben Division, and men have visited the scene of crime with members of the Edo State Security Network, local vigilantes, and hunters with a view to protecting the lives and property of the remaining passengers.”
The command, in the statement signed by its spokesman, Chidi Nwabuzor, explained that the suspected herdsmen took their victims into the bush.
Director, Press/Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Henshaw Ogubike, in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, explained, “The public is hereby reassured that the security agencies are making efforts to rescue the kidnapped train passengers.”
Ogubike added that the Nigeria Police were on the trail of the criminals and had mobilised with a view to protecting the lives and property of the remaining passengers.
He said, “The government is saddened by this unpleasant development and assures on its prompt response to the ugly situation. Further details will be communicated later.”
Liaison Officer to Igueben Local Government Area, Best Oseh, said security agencies and paramilitary organisations were already combing the forests within the area to get clues for possible rescue of victims and arrest of those behind the act.
Oseh said, “As I speak, people are in the field all over the place, vigilante, security agencies and other people. Everybody is concerned but we have to be careful with what we divulge so that we won’t jeopardise the processes of what we are doing.
“As for the category of people kidnapped, some of them are from Igueben while others are passengers from other places and as for the number, for now, we are looking at over 30 but we can only give comprehensive number when preliminary investigations are concluded.”
A resident of the area, Mr. Odia Benson, said the abductors released two kids, who were with them, while a woman escaped. Benson said some staff of NRC, including the station manager and ticket clerk, were among those abducted.
According to him, “The train normally arrives by 5pm. A about 20 minutes to that time, bandits just came through the bush part and invaded the place, they took away the station manager, took away the booking clerk and about 29 other passengers made up of males and females.
“As I speak with you, the Deputy Governor of the state, Philip Shaibu, left the place about an hour ago, the Commissioner of Police and his men are here, men of the 4 Brigade Nigerian Army are here, the Director of the Department of State Services (DSS) and some personnel and many paramilitary representatives are all here, including the DPO Igueben and his men, the Esan Akatakpa Security network, the hunters’ association have been in the forest since last night doing bush combing. We are hoping that by the end of today, the victims would be rescued.
“The railway station is surrounded by forest, and there is no security, no police, no vigilante and they are at the mercy of God. The station is in Igeueben town, just about 1.2 km away from Igueben General Hospital.
“I think only about three of the victims are from Igueben; one of them is from Ward 8. We also had another who is married to an Igueben man but based in Warri while others are from Ekpoma, Uromi, Ubiaja, and elsewhere outside Edo State.
“The kidnappers released two children, it is believed that they felt the children will slow down their movements. They dropped them in an abandoned petrol station, they called the family of the mother of the children that they should go and pick the children from the place they dropped them.
“One woman also escaped with her little baby. The woman escaped and found herself in Opoji, which in Esan Central Local Government Area.”
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