January 08, (THEWILL) – The Federal Government has condemned the attack on the Ekehen train station in Igueben Local Government Area of Edo State.
THEWILL earlier reported that at least thirty-two travellers waiting to board a train from Igueben to Warri, in Delta State, were abducted and several others injured on Saturday evening when suspected herdsmen attacked the Ekehen train station.
Spokesperson of the State Police Command, Chidi Nwabuzor, who confirmed the incident on Saturday night, said suspected herdsmen, who were armed with AK-47 rifles, invaded the train station and shot sporadically into the air before herding an unspecified number of intending travellers into the bush.
A statement issued on Sunday, by Henshaw Ogubike, Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Transportation, described the incident as an ugly situation that would be responded to promptly.
“The public is hereby reassured that the security agencies are making efforts to rescue the kidnapped train passengers.
“The Nigerian Police are on the trail of the criminals and have mobilised, with a view to protecting the lives and property of the remaining passengers.
“The Government is saddened by this unpleasant development and assures its prompt response to the ugly situation.
“Further details will be communicated later,” she said.
Meanwhile, Edo State Commissioner for Communications and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, has said security operatives have arrested one suspect in connection with the attack.
Addressing a press briefing in Benin City, on Sunday, the Commissioner said one of the 32 abducted persons had escaped from the kidnappers
“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 had 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 the victims. We will give necessary support to the security agencies, vigilantes and local hunters, who are on the trail of these kidnappers,” he said.
Also, the Liaison Officer of Igueben LGA, Best Oseh, in a chat with newsmen on Sunday, said efforts have been put in place by security agencies to rescue the victims.
“As I speak, people are in the field all over the place, vigilantes, 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 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 a comprehensive number when preliminary investigations are concluded,” he said
A resident of the area, Odia Benson, said the abductors released two kids, who were with them, while a woman reportedly escaped.
Odia noted that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) station manager and the ticket clerk, were among the victims abducted.
“The train normally arrives by 5pm so at about 20 minutes to 5pm, 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 left the place about an hour ago, the Commissioner of Police and his men are here, the 4 Brigade Nigerian Army Commander is here, the Director of the Department of State Services (DSS) is here and many paramilitary representatives; the DPO Igueben and his men, the Esan Akatakpa Security network, the Hunters Association has been in the forest since last night doing bush combing. We are hoping that by the end of today, they will be rescued.
“The railway station is in the forest, 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 about only three of the victims are from Igueben; one of them is from Ward 8, we had another who is married to an Igueben man but based in Warri while others are from Ekpoma, from Uromi, Ubiaja, some are not even from Edo State.
“The kidnappers released two children, it is believed that they felt the children would slow down their movements. They dropped them at an abandoned petrol station, they called the family of the mother of the children that they should go and pick up the children from the place they dropped them off.
“One woman also escaped with her little baby. The woman escaped and found herself in Opoji, which is in Esan Central local government area,” he said.