The Kwara State Government has confirmed that hoodlums set two coaches of the Nigerian Railway Corporation on fire in Offa on Tuesday.
However, the state government said the burnt train coaches had been grounded for several years, contrary to widespread reports on social media that the train was hauling goods to Kano from Lagos when hoodlums attacked it.
The state’s Commissioner for Works and Transport, Rotimi Iliasu, made the clarification in a report on Friday by Voice of Nigeria (VON).
Although the commissioner denied that the coaches were deliberately set ablaze, a staff of the NRC at the Offa Station was quoted by VON to have confirmed that hoodlums were responsible for the fire.
The staff, who reportedly asked not to be named, said the miscreants had for years used the rail coaches as their hideout and place of smoking Indian hemp.
He said the fire probably started accidentally from their lit weeds dropping on a seat in one of the coaches.
According to the NRC worker, the incident occurred at about five o’clock Tuesday evening.
The Kwara State Fire Service also confirmed the incident.
“At about 5.17 p.m., an event happened at Offa Railway Station in Offa, Kwara State,” the spokesperson of the agency, Hassan Adekunle, said.
“Due to the heroic efforts of firefighters, two of the 15 coaches contained by the affected train were burned,” he said.
The NRC worker told VON in an interview that the coaches had been abandoned for six or seven years.
He said only one coach was burnt and a half portion of a second, out of the four abandoned coaches.
The official said firefighters spent about 30 minutes to put out the fire and were later joined by good Samaritans to prevent it from spreading to the other attached coaches.
He said the heavy presence of the miscreants have been a big threat to members of staff of the NRC in Offa.
According to him, the station superintendent immediately reported the matter to the Divisional Police Officer at the station but the hoodlums had fled before officers reached the scene.
Reacting to the incident, the Offa Descendants Union (ODU) decried the report that a North-bound train was set on fire in Offa.
According to a statement by its spokesperson, the union lamented that the incident was stretched beyond its limit to cast “aspersions on the name and fame of Offa.”
“ODU in its investigation discovered that two (2) abandoned train Coaches of over 6 years have become hideouts for miscreants who smoked and left cigarette droppings that caused the fire outbreak in the two abandoned coaches” the statement added.
The union urged the NRC to rehabilitate its abandoned properties in the town, including its staff quarters and train coaches, and to work with the security agencies to get rid of miscreants occupying the properties.