By Foster Obi
For a holistic handling of nation’s assets, civil society groups surprisingly from Northern Nigeria while praising the federal government for giving the contract to handle the pipelines security to Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo at the cost of N48 billion yearly, have also requested that the government should consider adding other critical infrastructures like railway to him, to ward off terror attacks.
The group, Coalition of Arewa Civil Society Groups (CACSG) condemned opposition by some individuals especially from the North as regards the award. The group’s spokesperson, Aminu Abbas, said: “There’s nothing wrong if the Federal Government engages their services to help secure other critical infrastructure, aside the pipeline in our country, to complement the efforts of the armed forces.
He stressed that having considered the vast experience and capacity of Tompolo in peace and conflict resolution, it amounted to an insult to assign only little portion of the country’s critical infrastructure to him for surveillance.
He asserted: “The Nigerian railway requires surveillance as well; therefore, nothing is wrong if the Federal Government engages their services to help secure other critical prone infrastructure.”
Addressing newsmen in Kaduna recently, CACSG argued “there is need to involve host communities in the quest to ensure proper safeguarding of government facilities,” adding that it’s high time government reached out to people like Tompolo and other gallant individuals to deploy their native strength and expertise to assist the conventional security agencies.
The request comes even as analysts have quantified the millions of naira lost daily since the Abuja Kaduna train came under terrorist attack, forcing the government to shut down the route. Experts while advising the federal government against its continuous borrowing to finance railway projects as well as the high level of foreign dominance in its railway development has said that the nation’s approach might backfire unless conscious efforts were made to build local capacity.
Also findings revealed that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has been losing a whopping N21.4million daily since the suspension of its Abuja-Kaduna railway operations due to the terrorists’ bomb blast last March.
An industry expert, while analyzing financial loses as one of the effects of the insecurity now besetting train operations, said a full capacity train on the Abuja-Kaduna line usually has 840 passengers with about 75 seats allocated for Very Important Personalities (VIPs).
“If 765 economy passengers pay N3000 each and 75 VIPs pay N5000 each, that gives the NRC about N2.67million cumulatively per trip. NRC runs eight train schedules daily to and fro the Abuja-Kaduna line. That suggests that the daily schedule would give about N21.4million and if you multiply that since March when the blast and shut down occurred, you will know how much the NRC and by extension the government has been losing” he noted.
Former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had also sometime in December last year disclosed that the Abuja-Kaduna line remits about N300m into government coffers monthly.
In apparent response to widespread calls for improved security along the Abuja-Kaduna corridor, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, recently patrolled the entire 163km stretch of the Abuja-Kaduna expressway for a hands-on assessment of the security challenges and to supervise the operational deployment of officers drawn from the Police tactical squads to ensure the safety of travelers along the route.
During the patrol, the IGP, it was learnt, mapped out salient and strategic points along the expressway which were immediately fortified with the deployment of operatives drawn from the Police Mobile Force (PMF), Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Special Forces (SF), Intelligence Response Team (IRT), the Special Tactical Squad (STS), as well as air wing operatives in charge of unmanned aerial vehicles of the Nigeria Police Force.
According to spokesman of the police, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, “During the patrol, IGP Alkali equally visited personnel of the Armed Forces and Police deployed at Rijana to secure technical crew of the NRC undertaking repair works at the damaged train coaches and rail line in the axis, to boost their morale and assess the state of their post.
“The IGP assured that with the strategic and operational deployment of officers along the route, normalcy would once again be restored while he tasked members of the public on active intelligence sharing with Law Enforcement Agencies for effective policing of all spaces.”
But like the security breach experienced along the oil pipelines, most Nigerians believe that certain security operatives collude with bandits which rendered useless efforts of these operatives to effectively monitor these assets. This obviously may have accounted for why the government decided to bring in private security which the Tompolo group represents.
Although there have been dissenting voices from Northern Nigeria, some of Tompolo’s supporters believe that the government is on the right track while calling for additional assignment with the railways security.
It will recalled that a coalition of civil society organisations in the 19 Northern states, under the aegis of Amalgamated Arewa Youth Groups (AAYG) had lambasted the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva for giving the contract for the pipeline security to Tompolo which they consider mere empowerment for his own people at the expense of national security. They gave him seven days to reverse it or face mass protests from the zone.
“We are particularly concerned that in the early days of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration when Tompolo was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, there was uncontrolled bombing of oil facilities in Niger Delta, which contributed in so small measure in dragging Nigeria into recession .
“Our group sees the awarded contract as empowerment scheme for Niger Delta youths and nothing more. This is in addition to the billions of naira that is being spent in the failed Amnesty Programme that is exclusively reserved for them.
However CASG said, “condemnation of the contract by some groups from the North is baseless; hence we distance the good people of Northern Nigeria from such a myopic action of some faceless groups camouflaging under the name of Arewa.”
According to the group, the era of shadow chasing is over, adding: “What is expected of any concerned Arewa group at this critical time is to engage all concerned stakeholders from within and outside our region to address the lingering insecurity and bring it to a logical end.
“To set the record straight, as at today, the issues affecting us (Arewa), including banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping and other forms of insecurity that had remained the order of the day have crippled our region’s economic activities, and if appropriate measures are not taken, nobody can predict the fate of our region in the next one year.”
It used the medium to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for taking the decision.
Terrorists had on March 28, 2022 attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train, killed at least eighty people and abducted over 60 persons. More than 20 abductees are still in captivity while several others have been released.
The Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, said recently that the government was looking at the best options in terms of the surveillance including concessioning it in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
Asked about definite time lines to execute the initiative, Sambo said: “If I give a timeline, I’ll be lying to you. It will be insensitive to restart the service if some families weep day and night over their members still in the bush.”