Managing Director/CEO, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offence Commission ICPC have launched investigation into the hoarding of train tickets by officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation NRC, which has led to arbitrary hike in fares.

This decision to investigate the development follows public outcry mostly by train services users, especially on the Abuja-Kaduna axis due to high passenger traffic occasioned by the rampant cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of crime on the Abuja –Kaduna road, which now made rail transport the preferred choice for all classes of Nigerians. This is also given that there is no airport in Kaduna, thus prompting some officials of the NRC to make brisk business out of the ugly situation.

Managing Director/CEO of the corporation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, who confirmed this development while speaking at the sidelines of the just concluded National Transport Summit organised by the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration Nigeria CIoTA held in Abuja, also admitted that the management has received complaints of ticket racketeering and hoarding, which often leads to increase in the face value of the tickets.

He also disclosed that the management of NRC has at different times played host to operatives of the two anti-graft agencies, who came to make enquiries and look into the books of the corporation over reports of ticket racketeering and hoarding with the attendant hike in prices of the tickets.

He however disclosed that the management is currently working towards the introduction of electronic tickets to address the issues of racketeering and hoarding, which he said has already been approved by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission ICRC and awaiting the final approval of the Federal Executive Council FEC, before its eventual rollout.

But he also admitted that due to the high volume of traffic on that route in the face of few wagons, some top government officials do call him in advance to reserve tickets for them and members of their families, many of who he cannot say no to, a development that worsens the scarcity of the tickets.

The MD also admitted that due to the security situation in the area, the Abuja-Kaduna Road, the passenger train services have been over-stretched, a development that was worsened by the dearth of coaches and wagons.

While giving a situation report on the availability of passenger rail services across the country, he disclosed that the corporation is currently rendering skeletal services because of the ongoing expansion into standard gauge projects on most of the narrow gauge tracks, many of which he said are at various stages of completion.

It was gathered that some of the projects would be completed before the end of third quarter of next year. For instance, the Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor, which is currently being test run would come into full operation before the end of first quarter of 2020, among several others billed for takeoff next year.

The NRC-boss however regretted that the greatest challenge faced by the corporation in its efforts and resolve to link up the country with rail lines remains the issue of vandalisation and theft of its equipment, which in addition to high cost of replacing them, also causes delays to the projects.

He cited the instance of the Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor where a total of 10, 000 bolts and nuts as well as 5,000 chips had been vandalised and carted away in the last few months, which he argued was not good for the country, especially at this point in Nigeria’s quest to develop her transport infrastructure.