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.
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.
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.
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.