In this report, FIDELIS UGBOMEH writes about the menace miscreants sitting on rooftops of trains and hanging from sidedoors. He also highlights ways this can be tackled.
It is now routine to see commuters on roof top of moving trains in Lagos dancing, drinking alcohol, and throwing pebbles at motorists and passers-by in the broad day light and at nights.
Oftentimes, the attitude of these commuters reputed for climbing rooftop of coaches and standing on sidelines of locomotive engines leads to deaths and injuries sustained by innocent commuters caught in the cross fire of throwing stones and dangerous weapons by roof top climbers and passers-by.
Two years ago at Ikeja railway station, commuters who sat on the roof of some Coaches threw pebbles at motorists damaging the windscreen of some vehicles and injuring some people. The following day some youths at Ikeja railway station mobilised and attacked passengers inside an Ijoko to Apapa bound mass transit train leaving about seven passengers with deep injuries.
The irony of it all, on that fateful day was that the commuters on the roof top who instigated the attack took to their heels on sighting the angry miscreants that were fully armed with Knives, Cutlasses, Stones and other dangerous weapons while the innocent passengers inside the Coaches suffered the outrage.
In the month of December, 2017 at Abattoir area of Iju the same ugly instigation by the roof top climbers took place. LEADERSHIP Sunday findings show that commuters on the roof top at about 8:00p.m after several intake of Indian hemp and alcohol on that fateful day, threw stones at area boys who usually hung around the fringes of Abattoir and two people were injured.
The following day, it was gathered that the miscreants instead of reporting to the appropriate authorities took laws into their hands and threw stones and bottles indiscriminately resulting into various degrees of injuries sustained by innocent passengers returning back home from work.
In 2017 at Agege railway station, a stone thrown by one of the roof top climbers hit a baby tied to the back of her Mother and the baby later died. As soon as the news spread, the Agege community vowed to take their own pound of flesh and once again unleashed harm on the innocent passengers inside the Coaches.
Similarly , on November 16, 2018 to be precise, the roof top climbers in their usual manner threw stones and bottles at the squatters staying in makeshift structures between Agege and Iju and unknown to the passengers on same day the miscreants in retaliation threw stones at passengers resulting into injury of two staff of the Corporation and several passengers.
The Corporation’s management reacted promptly by organising a combined team of Nigerian Railway Corporation and Railway Task Force to dislodge and arrest the roof top climbers as well as commuters who hung on the doors of coaches.
Over 100 passengers found culpable were arrested and detained at the Nigerian Railway Police Station, Ebute -Metta Junction.
Some of the commuters who could not afford to pay N50,000 fine were taken to court for prosecution and later sentenced to three months imprisionment.
Apart from recklessness of commuters reputed for climbing roof top of trains, some commuters who hung from the doors of coaches suffered casualty and injuries.
The driver of the truck took to his heels and abandoned the truck which was later towed to Railway Police Station at Ebute-Metta Junction.
Another case in point happened at Agege Level Crossing when a Locomotive engine with passengers hanging around the engine collided with a parked Volkswagen bus leaving many of the commuters injured.
Consequently the Lagos State Government and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) wrote seperate letters to management of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) over the danger inherent in climbing the roof top of trains and the need to put a permanent end to it.
According to the letter written by China Civil Engineering Construction Company: the organisation managing the ongoing construction of Lagos to Kano Standard gauge railway line, passengers hanging on the doors of coaches could be injured if they collide with equipment of the company parked side by side the narrow gauge railway line.
Reacting to these developments vis a vis efforts of the Corporation towards curbing the roof top menace and hanging on doors of coaches, Lagos District Manager of the Corporation Engr. Jerry Oche said “We have embarked on series of campaign on dangers of climbing roof top of trains to no avail” adding that there was no other option than to arrest the culprits.
He noted during screening of some commuters after the periodic raids carried out by the Police and NRC Task Force, it was discovered that some of the culprits have more than N50,000 in their pockets and are married with children.
According to Oche, the fact that some of the commuters arrested had more than N50,000 in their pockets showed that perpetrators were not trying to evade payment but that they had ulterior motives.
Oche stated further that the Corporation went to the extent of erecting Iron Cross Bars at strategic locations across the railway but that the commuters have deviced a method of lying down flat on the roof bed as soon as the trains get to that location.
A regular commuter of Lagos Mass Transit Train (LMTT) Mr.Tunji Alao faulted management of the Corporation for exposing youths to danger due to the porosity of railway stations adding that there should be a perimetre fence along the railway corridor especially near the railway stations.
He averred that the railway stations should be fenced in such a way that each station will have one entry point. Alao also suggested that there should be Policemen stationed permanently inside the coaches to caution and arrest commuters who either prefer to climb roof top of moving trains or hang on the doors.
Mr.Eric Umezurike Managing Director, First Rit Nigeria Limited suggested that in order to curb roof top climbing and hanging on doors of coaches, management of the corporation should make conscious effort to refurbish or purchase old and narrow gauge Locomotive engines.
He stated further that it will be difficult to enforce the law when demand for more coaches is higher than supply, adding that the law banning overloading and climbing roof tops can only be enforced when there are enough coaches to carry passengers.
Mrs. Beatrice Egunje blamed commuters reputed for climbing roof top of trains saying, “How can anyone with his right senses climb roof top of trains.” She implored management to refurbish additional coaches and increase the frequency of trains and by extension reduce congestion. She suggested that management of the Corporation should take drastic steps to curb roof top climbing and save the nation from embarrassment.