When the present President Mohammadu Buhari led federal government was sworn in about two years ago, one thing that was clear is that the government resolved to pursue projects that would touch the ordinary people.
Though we cannot on a holistic view discuss the people-oriented projects generally in this editorial, one of them that is very populist is the development of the railway system.
Shortly after settling down, it is on record that the government commissioned the Abuja-Kaduna railway standard gauge line, which was almost completed by the previous government.
Also, the government did not leave anyone in doubt about its interest in the railways when a couple of months ago, it repeated a ground breaking event for the take-off of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line. This, according to the federal ministry of Transportation, was the first phase of the planned Western-Northern standard gauge rail line.
In a related development, an American multinational corporation, General Electric, is to support the Nigerian railway system with 20 locomotive engines and 200 wagons worth over N30bn, even as there are moves by the federal government to seal a concession deal with the firm.
In view of these, it is heart breaking that some elements within and outside the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) would be involved in activities to undermine the good intentions of government.
Hence, it is commendable that the Minister of Transport recently used the sledge hammer to check some of these excesses, as recently the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, fired the Manager of Idu and Rigasa train stations including all the ticket sellers and porters.
According to the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the move is not unconnected to extorting of passengers and the need to address the menace and restore passengers’ confidence.
Amaechi during an inspection tour to the rail station at Idu and Kubwa, Abuja, said that, passengers had complained on social media of the activities of these managers, porters and the ticket sellers.
“When I discovered that the complaint lasted for over four weeks, it showed that, it is not a lie and that is why I have to come to check. You know, Nigerians are human beings and whenever the system fails, it is because the person in charge of the system has allowed it to fail and that would not happen under my watch.
“The emphasis from the public is that we should concession it so that they can take over. When concessionaires put their money, things would run well because, there would be multiple coaches and it would increase competition. I think the best thing to do is to remove the ticket sellers in Idu and Rigasa and also remove station manager at Rigasa and let’s hope that would address it,” he said.
Though we implore the Minister to conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine the final fate of the affected officials, we nonetheless call on the Minister to work with the Nigerian Railways Corporation management to look at other areas that need attention.
Ticket racketeering may also be an issue in other stations, the menace of train roof top riders, the use of hard drugs on train rides, the abuse of railway properties across the country, the dearth of skilled manpower among other issues must be addressed to move the system to the next level.