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Security operatives, hunters and vigilantes scour the forest to find 31 passengers abducted from Edo State train station

10 January 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

Gunmen wielding AK-47 rifles abducted 32 passengers – one of whom managed to escape –waiting for a train in Edo State in the south of Nigeria on Sunday, January 8.

Police said in a statement that the passengers were waiting for a train to Warri, an oil hub in nearby Delta State. The gunmen arrived at about 4pm. Some people at the station were shot in the attack.

Chris Nehikhare, the commissioner for communication and orientation of Edo State, told journalists at a press briefing that six of the 31 victims had been rescued; a 65-year-old man, a nursing mother and her baby, a six-year-old girl and her brother and sister, aged between two and five years old.

He said security forces were continuing to search the bushes to find the abductees and the abductors and were combing the bushes to arrest fleeing members of the kidnap gang.

“We have cordoned off a huge part of the forest as no one knows the forest better than our hunters and security agencies,” he told reporters, adding that he was confident all those who had been abducted would be rescued.

News agency Reuters said the attack was the latest example of the growing insecurity that had spread all over Nigeria, posing a challenge to the government in advance of next month’s general elections.

It said the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) had closed the station until further notice and the federal transportation ministry had described the kidnappings “utterly barbaric”.


The NRC reopened a rail service linking the capital, Abuja, with northern Kaduna State last month, 10 months after gunmen blew up the tracks, kidnapped dozens of passengers and killed six people.

Reuters said the last hostage taken in that attack in March was not freed until October.

James Gala, a consultant development, communications and security expert in Plateau State, told RNI reporter Aisha SD Jamal that he believed Sunday’s attack had been carried out by bandits, abductors or robbers. He did not mention insurgents.

“The abductions show that the country still has a long way to go to secure its citizens. The timing of the attack is of interest because it happened in this critical period in the run-up to the elections

“The previous train attack in Kaduna occurred when passengers had already boarded the train. This time the attackers opened fire while the passengers were still waiting to board.

“The train can carry more than 100 passengers at a time, so they target the number of passengers – the more the better – to abduct and then demand ransom money.”

Gala said the federal government had announced that it would stop accepting cash before the new currency notes were in use. He said the gunmen would want only cash and this might become a new issue for the government to tackle.

“Prior to now, gunmen used to attack schools and hostels, kidnapping mostly pupils and sometimes their teachers. These train attacks seem to be the new system of abducting people. The authorities need to pay great attention to this. More security should be present and visible.

“There is a distinct possibility that these attacks are being carried out by the same group who are after money and any valuables the passengers might have on hand. They are vicious and predatory and have killed for no reason at all at times.”

Gala said there were plans in the pipeline to expand the reach of the train network, including into neighbouring countries but, he said, these kinds of attacks could put a hold on these plans and could even put an end to them altogether.

“It is the sole responsibility of the government to protect its citizens because the members took an oath to do so right from the time they took office. But the attacks have shown that the government is weak and that it is not providing enough security in the country. This looks very bad for it because society relies on the government and its security operatives for protection.

“Reports have indicated that Edo State government security operatives are working with vigilantes and hunters and have dispersed into the forest and bushes in an attempt to catch the culprits and rescue the abductees.”

He said it was time for the public itself to do more to ensure its safety.

“The government’s security efforts appear to be failing the people. Often help arrives long after attacks have taken place. It is up to the Nigerian people to be vigilant at all times and to report anyone who looks suspicious. If they see strange movements, they must report them. They must work together with the local security providers, hand in hand, to ensure their safety because they can no longer rely on the government to protect them and their possessions. They no longer feel safe.”


About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal