Getting killed by trains

Last Saturday, a Kaduna-Abuja bound train crushed twin sisters, named Hassana and Hussaina Baro, to death at Kuchiko village, hemmed between Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The sad incident occurred at 10am during a routine visitation by the two minors to neighbourhood friends, unnoticed by their parents or relations.

According to a community leaderin the area, Andrew Dogonyaro, a man who sighted them from afar facing each other on the track attempted to take them off the danger as the train hooted along but it was too late.

The victims, whose deaths might have gone unnoticed, were expected to mark their two-year birthday next month. But the tragedy has once again brought to the fore avoidable deaths occurring along the rail lines in the country.

On December 15, 2022, a female Principal Accountant with the NTA Channel 5, Abuja, named Selimota Idowu Suleiman, was crushed to death by a passenger train at the Chikakore axis of Kubwa, Abuja.

An eye witness said that the incident occurred about five minutes to the Kubwa Train Station. The victim who was driving in her private vehicle attempted to beat the train coming on high speed. But she miscalculated. The train rammed into the car and dragged it and her body along the track until it eventually screeched to a halt.

On March 9, 2023, a high capacity BRT bus in the fleet of the Lagos State Transport Corporation was caught by a train at the PWD Bus Stop in Shogunle axis, killing about six passengers on the spot, while scores were severely injured.

According to accounts by those that witnessed the accident, the driver of the bus attempted to outsmart the train at the crossing point but mistimed the speed. The train caught the bus in the middle and dragged it over a distance before it came to a halt.

The passengers were said to have cautioned the driver against the idea of beating the train but he ignored their entreaties and sped ahead. The driver survived the accident but he was taken into custody to face the consequences of his suicide mission.

These tragedies are a manifestation of the lack of awareness of the danger posed by this mode of transportation since its return to the country a few years ago.

Earlier in March 2018, a female youth corps member and graduate of the Federal College of Education (Technical), Omoku, Rivers state, named Nneka Odili, was overrun by a train from Ikeja, Lagos. She was said to be approaching the rail line with her headphones on and as such, she could not hear the hooting of the train until it caught up with her and dismembered her body.

Lagos state in particular has become notorious for deaths by trains in recent years. Besides motorists getting caught while attempting to cross the rail lines, many pedestrians have gone the way of the youth corps member.

There are also instances of traders encroaching on rail lines to display their wares only to scramble to safety upon sensing the coming of the trains. The Oshodi axis stands out as a killing field!

The rampancy of trains catching motorists and pedestrians could be due to the folly of the present-day generation of Nigerians who were born at the time that the rail transportation system had been in comatose. They appear to treat the train like any other automobiles where there are competitions for the right of way. The trains are always kings of the tracks whenever they are on the move.

Trains are peculiar means of transportation. And because of the way they are built, dragging along several coaches, it is impossible to stop them in the manner that automobiles can be halted. Any sudden application of the breaks will result in an instant derailment with fatal consequences.

It is for this reason that it became imperative for gates to be constructed at any strategic level crossings in bygone years to stop motorists from attempting to pull a fast one on the trains. Where such gates were not provided especially in the rural communities, the train drivers were expected to reduce the speed and hoot from a far distance before arriving at the level crossings to warn motorists or pedestrians of the approaching trains.

Now that the train services have returned, it is necessary for the authorities of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to provide adequate and/or revive all the safety measures like gates to stop the motorists and pedestrians at the various level crossings. Erecting of overhead bridges should also be considered where necessary in the long run. This is in addition to sensitising the masses on the danger of trying to outsmart trains at level crossings.

Motorists and pedestrians should also be made to understand that in the event of collision with trains or getting killed, the train drivers will not be liable to prosecution. The right of way has always belonged to the trains.    

Blueprint sympathises with the families of the Kuchiko twins that lost their lives but the lesson to be learnt from the tragedy is that parents and guardians should keep tabs on their kids. The sad incident would have been averted if attention had been paid to them.