Commuters, entrepreneurs in N/West laud revival of rail transportation

Commuters, entrepreneurs in N/West laud revival of rail transportation

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Commuters, entrepreneurs in N/West laud revival of rail transportation

 Commuters and entrepreneurs in the North-West geo-political zone have lauded the Federal Government for reviving rail transport system as it has helped to addressing economic and security challenges in the zone.
The respondents, who spoke during a survey on the impact of railway transportation, said apart from creating business opportunities for both small and medium scale entrepreneurs, mostly petty traders, it had also provided safer and cheaper option for travelers.
They described the rail transportation as a welcome development, saying traveling to Abuja from Kaduna by road was risky due to the daring activities of bandits, which had led to the complete abandonment of the highway by private and commercial motorists.
They wondered what the situation would have looked like if there were no train services to serve as an alternative.
Mr Rotimi Hassan, the Port Manager of Kaduna Inland Dry Port (KIDP) said apart from rendering miscellaneous services, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) was doing its best in encouraging export to improve on the country’s balance of trade.
“The Federal Government considers exportation as a source of generating revenue and therefore encourages people to diversify in the export business to balance our international trade,” he said.
Hassan said KIDP, with the support of the NRC, had concluded arrangements to commence export consolidation services to support exporters doing business in the northern part of the country.
“The NRC has indicated its readiness to commence rail haulage after test-running of the rail lines from Zaria to Jebba and Lagos to Jebba,” he said.
Meanwhile, small and medium scale enterprise operators at the Rigasa Rail-station in Kaduna State said economic activities had picked up in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and security setback.
Mallam Iliyasu Kabir, who operates a provision store, told NAN that the station served as a rallying point for exchange of goods and services, in addition to its revenue generation potential.
“Every business operator here pays tax, besides the profit we are making, which is enough to meet our personal needs; we would have had no business being here if the sector was docile,” he said.
Abdullrahaman Dan-Katsina, another provision store operator, said the security challenges, especially in the state, had forced a lot of travelers to resort to the railways, now considered the safest means of transportation.
“Almost everybody prefers the railways to other means of transportation due to the security challenges, as such we record increased patronage due to influx of people at the station,” Dan-Katsina said.
Mr Thompson Alkali, a civil servant, noted that the rail system was still the most economical and safest means of transportation considering the incessant cases of kidnapping in the state.
“It makes more sense that one is traveling with a means that is cost-effective and safe.
“The N3, 000 fare from Kaduna to Abuja, is reasonable when you consider the cost of fueling your car to embark on same trip, in addition to the probability that you might have unknowingly signed your death warrant by choosing the road option,” Alkali said.
However, Mrs Sarah Gambo, an entrepreneur, said the only problem with the railways, was the menace of middlemen who engaged in sharp practices at the station, especially ticket racketeering.
“Issues of tickets racketeering could be minimised if the sector goes completely digital in operations, which would allow for transparency,” Gambo said.
In Kano, cross section of people lauded plans by the Federal Government to revive passenger train services in the state, saying the move would boost economic activities and create employment opportunities.
Currently, rail services in Kano bordered on transportation of goods only.
Malam Aliyu Muhammad, a commuter, said that rail transport was the safest in view of the security challenges in the country.
He said that besides the security aspect of it, railway transport was cheaper, compared to other means.
According to him, boosting the rail transportation system will open up avenues for economic activities.
Also speaking, Mr Kasim Maigwandu, a resident of Railway Quarters, Kano, said patronage of trains had increased because of its double advantage of affordable fare and guarantee of safety against kidnappers.
“Railway transport is the most affordable means of transportation and its passengers feel secured considering the current security situation in the country,” he said.
He also explained that developing rail transport would reduce the pressure on highways, thereby increasing the lifespan of roads and reduce money spent on repairs.
Another resident, Alhaji Usman Suleiman, said for long, people had accepted rail transportation in Nigeria because of its affordability.
“With the worsening security situation on our roads, a lot of people, who, hitherto had no interest in rail services, have suddenly embraced same,” he observed.
In Sokoto State, although there are no railway services, some residents said they were anxiously waiting for the commencement and completion of railway project promised by the Federal Government.
The Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amechi, had announced plans for the construction of rail line linking Jibia in Katsina state, to Sokoto.
Also in Kebbi State, residents said they were eagerly awaiting the fulfilment of same promise to link the North western states with railway lines.
Alhaji Musa Bawa, a resident of Birnin Kebbi observed that government had intensified efforts in reviving rail lines but nothing had started with regards states that never had railway service in the past.
“Government is reviving rail lines in some states but we want to see same here in our state, especially given the current security challenges in the zone,” he said.
Murjanatu Buhari, a student of Umaru Waziri Federal Polytechnic, who hails from Zuru Local Government Area, said that train services would ease the hardship encountered when traveling to Kaduna state and Abuja, through Gusau, Zamfara state.
“Bandits have taken over the route from Sokoto to Gusa’u; hardly a day passes without having some passengers kidnapped along the road,” she lamented.
Alhaji Musa Shu’aibu, a businessman in Birnin Kebbi said if train services were introduced in the state, the business community would be the biggest beneficiaries.
Shuaibu explained that the Gusa’u to Sokoto to Kebbi rail line, if established, would boost commercial activities, thereby generating revenue for both the Federal and state governments.
Also in Katsina, respondents hailed the move of the Federal Government to construct a railway line from Kano to Katsina, and from Katsina to Maradi in Niger Republic, saying the initiative would boost economic activities among citizens of the two countries.
One of the respondents, Alhaji Ibrahim Ingawa, a businessman said there would be free flow of foodstuff and livestocks between Nigeria and Niger Republic, to the advantage of both countries.
“Nigeria is blessed with foodstuffs that can cheaply be transported by rail to Nigeria, and Niger also has livestock that can be transported to Nigeria through same means,” he said.
Another respondent, Malam Bishir Babbar-Ruga, said the initiative would revive the memories of the 19th century trans-saharan trade between Nigeria and Niger.

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