Abuja Rail Line: In one month electronic information board Broken, Security Porous; A Reporters Diary
The recent commissioning of the much talked about Abuja-Kaduna rail line by
President Muhammadu Buhari with his pictures riding on first class cabin,
which took the internet by storm there by arousing my journalistic
There is no doubt, of course, it was a promise kept. With the official
handover to the Nigerian Railway Corporation for commercial activities,
younger generation of Nigerians, frequent travellers as well as businessmen
and women who may want to travel in a relaxed and friendly manner at a cost
effective rate giving the mouth-watering offer of N900 for executive coach,
N600 for second class and N500 for economy fares can now smile. But this
smile can be short lived if further legislative input is not taken.
MY UNSAVORY EXPERIENCE
After the one-month free test rides which witnessed a high level of
enthusiasm by commuters ended, I was already itching to savour the
experience by parting with my hard earned money for the rail way trip.
At 1:20pm, August 25th in the company of two friends I hurried off to Kubwa
to meet up with the 2pm train.
I arrived at 1:40pm and quickly purchased my train ticket at the rate of
600 naira, in the absence of other class of tickets the train station was
so beautiful but lacked coordination, the security apparatus both human and
material resources unsatisfactory.
Two security personnel were seen checking luggage's place on a small bench
with scanner… I nearly screamed. Thanks to Buhari who have kept those
boko boys in check.
The waiting area was filled with passengers waiting to board I was told
that the train leaves at 2:30 pm, while waiting I decided to look around,
ask questions and take pictures.
I was still filled with excitement and eagerness to board a train for the
first time in Nigeria; yes actually it was my first time ever!!!
After much dilly dally, the time finally comes, squeezing myself into what
seemed like a line, our tickets were checked by a man who looked like boko
haram, sorry a passenger!!!
He did not seem different from many of us no uniform or regalia (lol!!!!
expected some cabin/train crew trips….)
We were directed to form four lines for the different compartment and we
began to file in (Yes filing in a rush I mean!!!).
Before then I caught a glimpse of the train tracks, it has a dual
carriageway looked firm and well placed.
In another few minutes the journey began, smooth and calm, announcement
were made on the various stops, Asham, Rigere and final destination Rigasa
10 minutes into the trip someone who appeared to be the train assistant
came to the seats to ask for our tickets and perforated them (Yes someone
because again he looked like a passenger).
The only group who distinguished themselves were the cleaners who were seen
dressed in orange customized shirts moving around at intervals.
Soon it was 2 hours past and 04:45 pm it did not feel like it, yes did I
forget to mention the announcements in between yea I recall the voice
saying we are almost at Rigasa (Somewhere in Kaduna)which is the final
I quickly bought my return ticket walked around the station took some more
pictures and questioned the security officials on the train schedules at 10
mins to 6pm the train was ready to board (Back to Abuja) everyone rushed
and Yeaaa I managed to get the middle seat with a table and sockets my
friend had monopoly and I buried myself in the game (*My friend Obehi
bought the train station and sold it to me, in the game of monopoly*)
within another two hours we arrived Kubwa.
Amidst the excitement and ecstasy of the light rail system launched
formally on Tuesday 26th July at the Idu train station lies a haphazard
project which only a little more key efforts with the right legislation and
implementation from the National Assembly.
In less than one month of commissioning the electronic information board no
longer functions, no proper security mechanism, lack of coordination and
poor management of Staff and passengers.
The Nigeria Railway Corporation Act ’55 has existed for 6 decades!!! This
act has not been amended until the 8th Assembly under the able leadership
of Bukola Saraki did the needful by amending and passing the bill for 3rd
reading on 21 July 2016.
A technical committee made up of stakeholders with legal and technical
expertise was set up by the senate leadership and committee on Land
Transportation this bill of high priority was changed to National Railway
Bill 2016 due to far-reaching recommended changes.
The obsolete model act of 1955 was adorned with restrictions and rigidity
to innovations investments, and private sector management making the
regulator, the operator.
Some of the major amendments that the new bill will achieve include
providing a legislative framework to stamp out all impediments that
hindered the attainment of an effective Railway system over past years and
allow private sector, local and foreign investors.
It will also open doors for rapid deployment of Rail systems across the
nation, competition effective service delivery to Nigerians, this
achievement by the 8th senate should be replicated in due time by the house
of representative for onward executive assent in the interest of Nigeria
and its economy.
Only then can Nigerians truly jubilate at the milestones of the railway
industry. The regulator in this sector cannot remain the operator. We have
to get it right.
President Buhari should not hesitate to sign the bill immediately it lands
on his table, only then will Nigerians say, “Bravo!''
Perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection we catch excellence
– Vice Lombardi.
*CYNTHIA FERDINAND U.*
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