The recent commissioning of the much talked about Abuja-Kaduna rail line by President Muhammadu Buhari with his pictures riding on first class cabin, which took the internet by storm there by arousing my journalistic instincts.
There is no doubt, of course, it was a promise kept. With the official handover to the Nigerian Railway Corporation for commercial activities, younger generation of Nigerians, frequent travellers as well as businessmen and women who may want to travel in a relaxed and friendly manner at a cost effective rate giving the mouth-watering offer of N900 for executive coach, N600 for second class and N500 for economy fares can now smile. But this smile can be short lived if further legislative input is not taken.
MY UNSAVORY EXPERIENCE
After the one-month free test rides which witnessed a high level of enthusiasm by commuters ended, I was already itching to savour the experience by parting with my hard earned money for the rail way trip.
At 1:20pm, August 25th in the company of two friends I hurried off to Kubwa to meet up with the 2pm train.
I arrived at 1:40pm and quickly purchased my train ticket at the rate of 600 naira, in the absence of other class of tickets the train station was so beautiful but lacked coordination, the security apparatus both human and material resources unsatisfactory.
Two security personnel were seen checking luggage’s place on a small bench with scanner… I nearly screamed. Thanks to Buhari who have kept those boko boys in check.
The waiting area was filled with passengers waiting to board I was told that the train leaves at 2:30 pm, while waiting I decided to look around, ask questions and take pictures.
I was still filled with excitement and eagerness to board a train for the first time in Nigeria; yes actually it was my first time ever!!!
After much dilly dally, the time finally comes, squeezing myself into what seemed like a line, our tickets were checked by a man who looked like boko haram, sorry a passenger!!!
He did not seem different from many of us no uniform or regalia (lol!!!! expected some cabin/train crew trips….)
We were directed to form four lines for the different compartment and we began to file in (Yes filing in a rush I mean!!!).
Before then I caught a glimpse of the train tracks, it has a dual carriageway looked firm and well placed.
In another few minutes the journey began, smooth and calm, announcement were made on the various stops, Asham, Rigere and final destination Rigasa 10 minutes into the trip someone who appeared to be the train assistant came to the seats to ask for our tickets and perforated them (Yes someone because again he looked like a passenger).
The only group who distinguished themselves were the cleaners who were seen dressed in orange customized shirts moving around at intervals.
Soon it was 2 hours past and 04:45 pm it did not feel like it, yes did I forget to mention the announcements in between yea I recall the voice saying we are almost at Rigasa (Somewhere in Kaduna)which is the final destination.
I quickly bought my return ticket walked around the station took some more pictures and questioned the security officials on the train schedules at 10 mins to 6pm the train was ready to board (Back to Abuja) everyone rushed and Yeaaa I managed to get the middle seat with a table and sockets my friend had monopoly and I buried myself in the game (My friend Obehi bought the train station and sold it to me, in the game of monopoly) within another two hours we arrived Kubwa.
Amidst the excitement and ecstasy of the light rail system launched formally on Tuesday 26th July at the Idu train station lies a haphazard project which only a little more key efforts with the right legislation and implementation from the National Assembly.
In less than one month of commissioning the electronic information board no longer functions, no proper security mechanism, lack of coordination and poor management of Staff and passengers.
The Nigeria Railway Corporation Act ’55 has existed for 6 decades!!! This act has not been amended until the 8th Assembly under the able leadership of Bukola Saraki did the needful by amending and passing the bill for 3rd reading on 21 July 2016.
A technical committee made up of stakeholders with legal and technical expertise was set up by the senate leadership and committee on Land Transportation this bill of high priority was changed to National Railway Bill 2016 due to far-reaching recommended changes.
The obsolete model act of 1955 was adorned with restrictions and rigidity to innovations investments, and private sector management making the regulator, the operator.
Some of the major amendments that the new bill will achieve include providing a legislative framework to stamp out all impediments that hindered the attainment of an effective Railway system over past years and allow private sector, local and foreign investors.
It will also open doors for rapid deployment of Rail systems across the nation, competition effective service delivery to Nigerians, this achievement by the 8th senate should be replicated in due time by the house of representative for onward executive assent in the interest of Nigeria and its economy.
Only then can Nigerians truly jubilate at the milestones of the railway industry. The regulator in this sector cannot remain the operator. We have to get it right.
President Buhari should not hesitate to sign the bill immediately it lands on his table, only then will Nigerians say, “Bravo!”
Perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection we catch excellence – Vice Lombardi.
CYNTHIA FERDINAND U.