We Must Repay This Loan - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Friday, January 14, 2022

We Must Repay This Loan

                  •Ibadan standard gauge rail 

The Daily Crucible | Friday, January 14, 2022

By Kayode Obisanya

The Buhari administration had scored a first, more that a century after the old narrow gauge rail track appeared in the South Western part of Nigeria, the administration has successfully midwived the construction of a standard gauge rail-track from Lagos to Ibadan, the third of such after the Kaduna-Abuja rail line and the Warri-Itakpe rail line.This is no doubt a commendable effort coming from the present administration considering the paucity of fund and the fact that the government had to look out beyond the shores of our country for fund to finance the project running over to $2 billion.  It is highly commendable.The infrastructure deficit we have in the country has had to do largely with our lack of management of our scarced-earned resources and government borrowings had largely been defective because of our non-commitment to projects to which they are tied.

However, if we do not change the way we administer government properties we will continue to suffer.  The same way like we had always in the past.The Lagos-Ibadan rail line if effectively managed should not suffer the same fate like many of our projects in the past. However, it is unfortunate that the Nigeria Railway Corporation has been vested with the responsibility of managing for Nigerians, this particular investment. This is scary when one considers the antecedent of this particular organization in the past.  It superintended over the moribund narrow gauge rail track always running at a loss. 

At a particular time, the old railways was managed by Indians with little or no success.  It is quite disheartening to note that the railways have relapsed to their old ways.Since the inauguration of the Lagos- Ibadan standard gauge rail line the workers had had to go on strike nationally why should this be so? For instance,  travelers were shocked to find that there were no services between November 19th and 21st, nationwide.This is a reflection of bad management. The Corporation in this new outing, is too young to be suffering this fate.Why should the running of the Lagos-Ibadan service be lumped with Kaduna-Abuja and Warri-Itakpe under the NRC,  The new rail services nationwide should have been handed over to private companies to manage and not the Nigeria Railway Corporation otherwise we are investing in another failure. 

If we want to make success with this project we should divest the Nigeria Railway Corporation of its running.  Otherwise, the whole project will be doomed to failure. A testimony of the Corporation’s lack of vision is that a rail service of this magnitude is operating in Lagos Abeokuta and Ibadan, and guess what, no publicity. How can this happen in the 21st century. If it had been a private company the media would have been awashed with information about their services. 

Even in Abeokuta the Ogun state capital, only few are aware of their operations. What stops everybody in Ogun state from knowing that the Federal government had inaugurated train services in some parts of Ogun state. When their activities is not even known in Abeokuta what can we say of places like Ijebu-Ode or Shagamu which otherwise would also have been interested, have they been in the know.Everybody in Ogun State should have by now be able to say that the train services is operating at so and so time of the day.  How many people in Oyo State and Osun know that there is train service from Ibadan to Lagos on daily basis.

How many people in Lagos know that there is rail service from Lagos to Abeokuta and Ibadan on daily basis.This shows that the Nigeria Railway Corporation has not awaken to its responsibility.  At least there should be campaign on some selected radio channels as well as the printing of hand bills etc. distributed round the state, what of the social medial? Poor, shameful.The management needs to seek the support of state governors in these three States to help advertise their services to the people.  Also, the road to the railway terminus in Abeokuta is untarred and dusty the management need to seek the assistance of the State government to help tarred the roads. Because of the bad roads, Okada riders charge N300 to commute passengers to the terminus something that should not have cost more than a N100.  This will encourage patronage of the train service in Ogun State. 

So also is the issue of fare, the Corporation charges the sum of N2,000 from Abeokuta to Lagos on its economy class coupled with the N500 spent to get to the terminus that is an average of N2,500.If one spends this amount on travelling to Lagos from Abeokuta and also spend the same amount on the return journey that is an average of N5,000 it is on the high side. If these issues are not addressed, I’am sorry the train service may greatly suffer setback and put the payment of the loan in jeopardy. Reduce the economy class to N1,000 for a trip and plead with the Ogun State government to tarred the roads. So that cars and buses could ply the route. Embark on effective media publicity in Ogun, Lagos and Oyo States where the train passes through. Few years before the train services was inaugurated, some discussants on a radio progranmme had raised the hope of the common man that if Nigeria had efficient train services one can reside in Abeokuta and work in Lagos but with this reality how many Nigeria can spend N6,000 daily commuting to their work in Lagos from Abeokuta. Of course we now know that its mere wishful thinking.  However, the management can still do well to reduce the fare and attract more patronage to shore up their revenue. One can understand the enormous cost of the project but we should not price it out of the reach of the average Nigerian.   We must pay back this loan it is up to the Ministry of Transport to heed these advice.

Kayode Obisanya, a veteran journalist, writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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