By Hassan Mohammed
This is my 4th post on the Kaduna-Abuja train/railway; all praying for the train to develop faults or even beak down completely for the next 6 – 12 months. That is the only way the government will be serious about security on the Kaduna-Abuja highway where 99.999% of the populace follow; where poor people in 4 towns over 30 villages live.
Other than long queues of people that coil and snake around, here are some of the things what we now know from the reports we hear/read from those who ride the train:
The train cost anywhere from ₦3,000 to ₦5,000 on weekdays, and ₦6,000 to ₦8,000 on weekends because the staff connive with touts to hoard the tickets, make them scarce and premium.
We also know that some of these top public officials, rich and powerful people, including military generals, police officers (callously and shamelessly, if I may add) usually ask drivers to drop them at the train stations, while these drivers travel empty on the same road they are scared to follow to go and wait for them at the other end.
The train is no longer on time because, as we heard, politicians and government officials are delaying it. They keep people for 1 – 2 hours at the station waiting for Ministers, Senators and Perm Secs to arrive. If we consider how these people behave on our local flights, one is left with nothing but to believe. The most recent is yesterday, as passengers waited for about 2½ hours waiting for 2 Ministers to join.
Families are being bankrupted as they pay huge ransoms to free their members. Some are selling their assets like land, houses, cars and jewelries and also borrowing monies they may not be able to easily repay to free their sons, husbands, daughters, wives, fathers and mothers.
Importantly to me, the train and the rail lines are terrible. They are so bad due to our good maintenance culture and infrastructure management. It is crowded, dirty, smells, and it often breaks down. I’ll take that to be enough. Let it stop temporarily for 6 months to a year. That is the only way the roads will be taken care of.
We also know that the time it takes for most passengers to get to and from the train stations in Idu and Kubwa (in Abuja) and Rigasa in Kaduna is nothing less than 2 – 4 hours, depending on location. It is enough to go to Abuja from Kaduna and come back. It will definitely take a passenger about 1 hour from Sabo to Rigasa train station and another 1 hour from Kubwa to Asokoro or Idu to Mararraba.
The train is not friendly to poor people. Even the middle class and the rich are complaining. In fact, no one boards it for joy or comfort. That was 2 years ago. It is for security. And for every 1 passenger that joins that train, over 2,000 ply the highway.
Why should 1 life be more important than 2,000 because of economic situations? What happens to the hundreds of thousands to millions of people in Jere, Tafa, Buari, Suleija, Minna, Paiko who must come to Kaduna or pass through that road to Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Lagos, Port-Harcourt.
And one of the mistakes some of us make is the assumption that that road is just 158km stretch of highway meant for travellers from Kaduna to Abuja. Travellers coming from the Southwest, South-south and Southeast going to all 7 Northwest states up to other Northeast must pass through that highway. We are talking about hundreds of thousands traveling targets.
And so, when I hear/read people complaining about how much they suffered in purchasing tickets and the shitty treatment they receive on the train, I’ll continue praying for it to be worse. I don’t care. I want the train to stop, completely. Long may it continue until attention is given back to the roads that poor people are forced to risk their lives on.
It is so simple. Our roads are bad because the rich have the option to fly. Our schools are bad because the rich have the option to send their kids to private schools. Our healthcare system is so terrible because the President, governors, Ministers, Senators, their wives and other rich and powerful can travel out on our dime. They have options.
Remove the train option and 99% of those that patronize train, especially politicians and public officials will press for and find solutions to what they fear on the Kaduna – Abuja highway.