The glorious days of railway transport in Nigeria now exist only in the mind. ‘The NRC was published by an Act of Parliament in 1955 for the sole aim of carriage of passengers and freight in a cost-effective manner. In the 70s down to early 80s, railway transport remained the best form of traveling in Nigeria. Many Nigerians believed that traveling by train, apart from being cheap and affordable, also helped to reduce congestion on the road as well as save commuters the stress of jumping from one bus to other. ‘Also, the locomotives in the NRC fleet then operated at their optimal levels, ferrying passengers and goods from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, Enugu to Zaria and Aba, with relative ease and in record time.
Also, the locomotives in the NRC fleet then operated at their optimal levels, ferrying passengers and goods from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, Enugu to Zaria and Aba, with relative ease and in record time. For nearly 25 years running, the story has never been same again for NRC. In fact, it has become a case of gradual extermination of the railway transport in Nigeria.
Solomon Adesanya (not real name) used to work with an insurance Corporation in central Lagos, but resided at Agbado. By 05:30 every day, he would be up and on his way to catch the first train service leaving Agbado for Iddo at 06:05. And from Iddo Terminus, he would take a bus to CMS, about 10 minutes distance, from where he would walk to his office. ‘But with the passage of time, this essential service rendered by the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, started declining, and the outcome as in the case of Pa Adesanya was inconsequential frustration, lateness to office and the urge to go on retirement, occasioned by inability to cope with the stress caused by chaotic daily traffic challenges. ‘Pa Adesanya however was not the only Nigerian affected by the ailing NRC. Today, many Nigerians, given the chaotic traffic situation in major cities across the country, are not left out in the quagmire. The early morning rush always sees the locomotives filled to the brim, with either workers heading to their places of work or traders and students going to their respective destinations.
There is also the case of Mr Peter that works as a receptionist at Ikeja but stays at Sango, he leaves home as early as 6am every day to catch up with the first train at sango, He complained of the locomotive filled to the brim, thereby allowing other passengers to stand especially during the peak hours. The checkers in the coaches use the opportunity to ply illegal business by shortchanging the fare ride, some men use the opportunity to harass ladies in the train sexually because the coaches are filled to the brim, some use the opportunity to steal from fellow passengers that are not careful with their wares.
Some young reckless men take advantage of the filled coaches to sit on top of the coaches endangering their lives as many people have being killed in the process.
Passengers of the train service also lamented the constant delays and stoppages encountered during the course of journey, arising from technical hitches and faulty systems in the refurbished trains being used by Nigeria railways. This is contrary to claims by authorities of the NRC that it is undertaking a transformation of the nation’s rail line system.
Some first-time passengers also expressed disappointment with the situation and blamed the railway authority for poor maintenance. “This is my first and I blame myself for entering. Look at this railway people, they load people in thirteen coaches and then do not care about whether they are capable of getting them safely to their destinations. They didn’t conduct any checks on their engines, no checks at all and he“There is high level of lack of maintenance. If they can maintain this thing very well, it would solve a huge transportation problem for us but I think the problem is from the management and lack of technically qualified personnel.
This one is not the Federal Government’s fault. All the delays and challenges we encountered are simply as a result of lack of technical know-how. They have no adequate knowledge about how this works. They need to upgrade their knowledge about it. re we are.”
However, one of the members of the technical crew who said the locomotive engines have become old and they expect to do better when new engines arrive. “These engines have tried. We are expecting new engines and when we get them, we shall have a better service.” He said.
According to experts, the problem of rail transportation in Nigeria have being traced to the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act of 1955, which gives only the Federal Government the power to operate the railway in Nigeria, leaving out states and private investors.