NRC, BRT must compensate train accident victims – Falana

Ogunsakin Mustapha
6 Min Read
Femi Falana SAN

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN on Wednesday held the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) culpable for the train accident that happened at Ikeja, Lagos last Thursday, and advocating that the corporation should  pay compensations to the victims of the accident, both wounded and dead.

A BRT bus carrying full passengers most of whom were civil servants was last Thursday crushed by a train at PWD, Ikeja, Lagos, after the driver attempted to drive fast past the railway.

Falana who is also Chair, Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB) said both the BRT operators, and NRC are insured and therefore should compensate the victims of the accident.

He called on Lagos State government to challenge both BRT operators and NRC in court if they failed to compensate the victims.

His statement reads:

Sometime in September 2018, a police Inspector, Philip Kolo, and a commercial motorcyclist were crushed to death by a train while crossing the rail line at Public Works Department (PWD) bus-stop along Agege motor road. In a very insensitive reaction to the unfortunate incident, Mr. Jerry Oche, the Lagos District Manager of Nigeria Railway Corporation said that, “We have warned passersby, motorists and other road users to stay away from railway tracks. Railway track is a very dangerous place to toy with; everything involved is iron both the rail tracks and the train itself.”

A similar accident occurred on 1st May 2019, when a tricycle rider and three passengers lost their lives in a crash on Shina Peters Road, Iju-Ishaga, in the Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area of Lagos State. It was reported that the rider was about to cross the railway line in the area when a speeding train crushed the tricycle. As usual, the management of the NRC blamed the accident on the recklessness of the rider of the tricycle.

Last Thursday morning, a Lagos State Government staff bus with registration no 04A- 48LA, was crushed by a moving train at PWD, Ikeja. The train was coming from Ijoko to Iddo. The tragic accident recorded some casualties as the staff bus was fully loaded with government staff going to the office in the morning. While blaming the driver of the bus for the tragic accident, the Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr Fidet Okhiria said “many cars stopped when they got to the level crossing while the Lagos State Staff Bus driver continued moving, which I don’t know why.” He further stated that, “Maybe the driver thought he could pass before the train got nearer to him. He could not pass, and then the train crushed the bus.”

Femi Falana SAN

On his own part, the Permanent Secretary of LASEMA, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu said “the immediate cause of the incident was due to reckless driving on the part of the bus driver while trying to beat the train traffic signal before the moving train rammed into the bus.” The surviving passengers have also heaped blame on the driver, Mr. Oluwaseun Osinbajo for ignoring their advice when they asked him to stop for the moving train to avoid the accident. Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police has announced that the driver of the government staff bus that collided with the moving train at Shogunle, Ikeja has been arrested and will be prosecuted soon. The management staff of the NRC should equally be charged for the criminal negligence that led to the accident.

While washing off his hands like Pontius Pilate, the NRC Managing Director, Mr. Okhiria urged Lagos drivers to be more careful when passing through the level crossing, to avoid train accidents. He cautioned that when motorists get to the level crossing, they should not ignore the point where they should stop. Mr. Okhiria ought to be told that the NRC contributed majorly to the train accident. Since it is a case of contributory negligence the NRC management and the owners of the BRT bus must be compelled to pay monetary compensation to the families of the survivors and the staff that were crushed to death by the train.

If compensation is not paid as soon as possible the Lagos State Government should direct the Ministry of Justice to approach the Lagos State High Court for legal redress on behalf of the survivors and legal representatives of those who were killed in the accident as both the ill fated train and the BRT bus are insured. However, the advice of Mr. Okhiria to Lagosians to be more careful when passing through the level crossing is not the solution to the incessant killing of motorists and passengers by trains. Such advice will not prevent the occurrence of similar accidents in future. The Federal Government should compel the management of the NRC to erect metal barriers in all railway level crossings in order to regulate movement of traffic and avert the incessant deaths recorded at railway level crossings in the country.

Femi Falana SAN,
The Chair,
Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB)

March 15, 2023

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