Soldiers, police personnel and vigilantes are currently tracking the abductors of no fewer than 31 train passengers who were whisked away from the Tom Ikimi Train Station, Igueben, Edo State, on Saturday.
Among the victims are the Manager of the station, Godwin Okpe and head of security of the station, simply identified as Ikhayere and 29 passengers.
The incident is coming 10 months after bandits attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train service, killing 14 passengers and abducting 65 others. They were released after spending months in captivity and paying ransoms.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive of Nigeria Railway Corporation, Fidel Okhiria confirmed on Sunday that security agencies were on the trail of the abductors believed to be armed herdsmen.
He said, “The police, vigilante and Army are all after the people in the bush; that’s all I can say. There are certain things that we need to clear before we issue a statement.”
The Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, also affirmed that efforts were ongoing to rescue the abductees.
“We will give necessary support to Edo State Police command and Railway Police Command on the rescue of the abducted victims; efforts are being intensified to rescue them and arrest the culprits,’’ he assured.
When asked about the nature of support being given to the state command, Adejobi simply stated, ‘’Support is support. It’s a security matter’’ and declined further comment.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has also dispatched police special squads, including the Intelligence Response Team and Anti-Terrorism Squad to Edo State to rescue the victims.
The squads, it was gathered, would complement the efforts of the police in the state.
‘The IRT and the anti-terrorism squad to Edo from Force headquarters. But the security agencies should have taken pre-emptive measures by deploying armed agents around the stations.
“There are communities around the area who can also give information to the security agencies. Though the area is forested, it is not that thick.
‘’They (security agencies) should liaise with the community and vigilantes for information on the kidnappers. There was a time I complained about that station when I was going to Warri. It is a bit lonely and isolated; it is not by the roadside. I don’t know why they didn’t take note of that fact. I saw a few policemen but they were not enough.
‘’They should have posted at least 10 policemen to guard that station. I know they have closed the terminal at Ayangba road; they are using the one at Itakpe. They should have taken note of the incident that led to the shutdown of the terminal at Ajaokuta.’’
Two children aged between two and five, whose parents were believed to have been abducted, were in the custody of the Police Headquarters in Agbor, Delta State.
Most of the victims, it was learnt, were from the South-South and South-East.
The Itakpe-Warri train is the only train service for passengers going to the South-East and South-South.
Passengers going to Benin, Warri, Agbor, Asaba, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa and Aba are known to patronise the train service.