In the last couple of months, many travellers and observers have complained about the rip off that is going on at the newly inaugurated Abuja-Kaduna train service. The rip off continues on the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport- Abuja City centre train service too. The rip off of customers which involves cluttered pay points, artificial scarcity or hoarding of tickets, over invoicing, active black market ticketing, doubling and tripling of ticketing rates among others. This has made the service cumbersome, introduced sharp practices, cutting of corners, poor service, and insecurity. This situation is perhaps at the core of why we just refuse to make progress as a people. Whatever we touch, we turn it upside down.
As a result, this week, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have arrested five suspected train ticket racketeers. The commission’s acting Spokesman, Mr Tony Orilade disclosed this in a statement in Abuja earlier in the week. The suspects include Clement Zakka, Udim Samson, Adams Danladi, Otitomoni Omobolanle and Hassan Dauda. Orilade said that the commission swung into action after receiving an intelligence report alleging that some group of people at the Idu and Kubwa train stations had been racketeering train tickets.
This, he said, made it difficult for actual passengers to have access to tickets and further sabotaging government efforts in ensuring easy transportation across the country. “The suspects were arrested during a sting operation at the stations. They will soon be charged to court,” the statement informed.
In the same vein, operatives of the Kaduna Zonal Office of the EFCC, acting on intelligence report, had also arrested ticket racketeers at the Rigasa Train Station. Multiple sources say investigations revealed that some members of staff of the station in connivance with some touts were defrauding unsuspecting travellers and selling train tickets at rates way beyond the face value.
For example, “for economy ticket of N1,300 to N1,500 they were selling at a rate of N2,000 to N5,000 and First Class which goes for N2,500 was being sold for between N7,000 and N15,000”. Three persons, including a staff of the station and two touts were equally arrested. The Station Manager, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Parcel Booking Officer of the Kaduna Railway Station have also been invited for questioning by law enforcement agencies. The Abuja-Kaduna train service and the attendant rush for the tickets heightened following current spate of deadly kidnappings on the highway between the nation’s capital and neighboring Kaduna state. The highway has degenerated into a death zone following the spate of kidnapping that has refused to go.
We are left with the question: what would have happened if the train service had not been inaugurated up till now, how will people then commute? But the bigger question as it relates to the train service is how is it that we cannot maintain a simple train service? A train service that is not even complicated with diverse connecting services and routes yet we are determined to mess it up. Nigerians who have gained employment in the service are bent on destroying just to satisfy their personal greed? You can imagine, the workers are determined to sell tickets of N2, 500 for upward of N15, 000 yet will turn around to accuse politicians of being corrupt? If the tickets were proposed at N15, 000 each, Nigerians will cry that it is too expensive yet ready to purchase same via the black market after some pushing and shoving. We understand that apart from the inflated ticket prices, desperate commuters pay bribes to get these tickets.
What will then happen when the train service covers the whole country with multiple interconnections and plenty staff with millions of travellers and goods? It appears the staff are not bothered about the survival of the service so long as they make illegal money today. Every opportunity for a Nigerian is to look for ways to line their pockets to the detriment of fellow citizens. As it is, it has become imperative to give up the running of the train service to a private sector third party. The train service must be run professionally with appropriate pricing. It is obvious now that it is safe and secured. To attract further investment in the sub-sector, the running and management of the service must as soon as possible be privatised.
Ticket price must be ticket prices. Under no circumstance except for operational unforeseen circumstances must it be increased. Increments are usually undertaken after consultations and ample notice to customers.