NRC: Expensive Train Ride

By Suleiman Umaru

When Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state  and minister of Transportation  spoke at the just concluded Chartered Institute of Transport Administration, CIoTA, under the close  watch of Bashir Jamoh, who incidentally is the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration  and Safety Agency, NIMASA, that   he  has approved the fare for the Lagos- Ibadan 312Km  double standard gauge route rehabilitated at a cost of N1.53 billion  he kept people in the dark.

This is because  he did not  disclose the fare to be  paid by Passengers and cargo owners, patronizing  the  the Nigerian Railway Corporation , NRC, under the close watch of Fidet Edetalen Okhiria, an Engineer, train services. Unknown  to many, the government’s desire to source for money from anywhere  to facilitate the  provision of basic  infrastructural facilities  in the country  may have forced  it to see the  returned  train services in the country  as a veritable source of generating revenue .

 Note that the Buhari Administration  had procured  24 coaches and Locomotives  to be used on the Lagos-Ibadan route. Although  the Lagos-Ibadan train services operations  had Commenced   preparatory to its commissioning next  January, the NRC had said that it would only be making a trip daily for now  because the Civil  Engineering and Civil Construction, CECC, the state owned Chinese firm, which had  won the multi-dollar  Nigerian Railway Modernisation contract is still doing some works on the route which had  made it difficult  for the train to run at a maximum speed to avoid derailing and putting the lives of the Passengers in cargo owners in danger.

Tolu Ogunlensi, the Special Assistant to the Nigerian President  on  Digital  and New Media , had said that the train would be leaving Ibadan to Lagos by 8 am and back to Ibadan by 4pm, daily.  This  is to essentially to encourage potential passengers shuttling between Ibadan and Lagos for their business to plan their schedule to fit into the NRC time table.

Rotimi Amaechi: Minister of Transportation

 The government  may have disappointed the poor who had thought that the train services would be for them. The Value News learnt that scores of Passengers who had trooped out at the Iddo terminal, Ebute Emetta, one of the major stations of the 10 stations route to board the train to the  ancient  city of Ibadan on Monday, November 7, 2020,  were forced to travel by road when they were told about the fare that Amaechi, the minister of Transportation had said was’’ fair enough’’.

The Ticketing  Clerk  was said to have announced to the hearing of the passengers  who may  not have  been  aware of the fare from Lagos  – Ibadan train route  that the  First Class coach for the train services is N6,000.00 , N5,000.00 for the Business class  while the standard class   is N3,000.00. Described as very expensive, Mallam Abdul Yusuf, a shoe shiner, who thought he could relocate to Ibadan to start a new life  was forced to stay back in Lagos.  He lamented, ‘’the Buhari train services is not for the poor but for the rich who could afford it’’.

Already, Nigerians have expressed disapproval to  the fare on the train services on the Lagos-Ibadan route, insisting that that the government must reduce it. The minister , according to insider sources may have used the fare paid on the Lagos-Kano route  to decide  on what passengers  on the Lagos-Ibadan route should pay. A passenger who boarded  the first class coach  , fully air conditioned, with comfortable Seats and charging points for electronics was said to have paid N4,000.00  while the NRC also charges less than N3,000.00 for the second class coach.

Okhiria: MD, NRC

Many believe that signs that the Lagos-Ibadan train route may not  be as cheap  as people had expected when  Amaechi, the minister of Transportation , said  the government  would apply the same template  like the one  used on the Abuja-Kaduna route, which has been in operation since 2017, to justify the fares on the Lagos-Ibadan route.  He had said that the fare initially approved for the Abuja-Kaduana route   which was, N1,500.00 and the standard class goes for N1,050.00, was too cheap.

 He was said to have prepared the mind of the Passengers  that there would be an upward review of the fare  to in order to be able to maintain the  facilities. He had his way. This may have informed why he transferred the new  fare  on the Abuja-Kaduna route to the Lagos-Ibadan route.

NRC Passenger Locomotives

 Recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was said to have taken the first  $500 million from the China EXIM Bank, with the  Chinese government standing in as the guarantor for the Nigerian government, had opened the door way  for the  Buhari led  APC, government to borrow from the Chinese Bank  and other multi-lateral Financial Institutions  to provide basic infrastructural facilities in the country.

 The  former  President Jonathan was said to have used the  Chinese loan   to buy the first two modern  locomotives  for the  Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail line at a cost of N1.1 billion. The Buhari Administration, which as at March , 2020, had borrowed $3.121 billion, believed to be Concessional loans  on interest rates of  2.5% per annum was said to have added an additional  10 Locomotives to the route in December 2017 thus bringing the number of new locomotives used on the route to 12.

 But the   ministry of Transportation  and the NRC, officials  may have sit up to convince Nigerians that the coaches and Locomotives deployed for operations on the train routes  are good enough. This is because  of what happened  last Saturday as one of the passenger boarded Locomotives  along the Abuja-Kaduna route broke down, forcing resulting  in  the Passengers being stranded.

 The situation was so embrassing that Okhiria, the Corporation Managing Directors was forced  to speak out that  the Engineers are working  round the clock to ensure that there  would never be a peat  of  such in the future. He had blamed the turbocharger of the Locomotive which had  failed to the cause of the problem .   There are indications that the broken Locomotive was one of the last set of locomotives  that had been received by the government from the  chinese  suppliers last June. The government was said to have placed order for the Locomotives last March.   

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