Art and Culture


todayAugust 22, 2022

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The security agencies should secure the railway tracks

For an administration that has shown remarkable interest in infrastructure development and rehabilitation as key to economic restoration, President Muhammadu Buhari’s achievements in the rail sector stood out. Even where some of the rail projects were inherited from previous administrations, their speedy completion under Buhari came as a welcome relief to the populace. In quick succession, the strategic rail link between Abuja and Kaduna and that between Lagos and Ibadan were completed and pressed into service. Soon afterwards, the long abandoned Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri line was put into service. The traveling public heaved a sigh of immense relief. Travel among these centers of social and economic activity witnessed a remarkable increase.  

A long distressed and sceptical public savoured the benefits of improved and safe travel and haulage. A hitherto moribund Nigeria Railway Corporation sprang back into life and began recording impressive revenue returns. Encouraged by the success with these newly completed rail projects, the government embarked on more ambitious rail projects. These include the controversial Kano-Maradi line to Niger Republic and a rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri narrow gauge line.

Of late, however, the increasing nationwide scourge of terrorism and general insecurity has forced a suspension of services along most vital rail routes. The attack, murder and mass abduction of passengers on the Abuja-Kaduna route forced a suspension of services on that route. This has been followed by similar terrorism induced suspensions along both the Lagos-Kano and Ajaokuta- Itakpe routes. Similarly, to the surprise of the travel public, services on the lucrative Lagos-Ibadan route has been scaled down. Effectively, therefore, almost the entire national railway system has been shut down for reasons mostly of insecurity.

 The economic loss has been instant. The Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) has lost over N3 billion in revenue since the shut down on the Abuja-kaduna route alone. The losses on the other routes are still being tallied. Add to these revenue losses the indirect economic losses from the truncation of citizen economic activities tied to rail travel by passengers as well as losses on freight and haulage services.

Worse still, most of the new and revitalised rail projects were funded with loans from foreign lenders. The repayments of principals, interests and other contingent costs continue to run and pile up. This is in an economy that is, by all sensible estimates, distressed and tanking. In this induced state of suspension, railway assets will keep deteriorating as rail lines, rolling stock, stations and other ancillaries remain unused. Staff redundancies and eventual job losses will ensue in a country with nearly 40 per cent unemployment.

There are other intangible but even more consequential losses. The national social and cultural integration benefits of rail linkage of our vast geography have also been halted by the scourge of insecurity. And this is coming at a time when the nation is divided along most lines of geography, culture and inter communal proximity. As the rail system is suspended, safety of travel on our roads remains perilous and precarious. The scourge of highway kidnappings and robbery remains an ever-present headache in most parts of the country. Air travel is no credible alternative. It is elitist and expensive.

All things considered, the recent losses in the nation’s rail sub sector of the economy ought to be treated as an emergency. The security of our rail routes and assets is a national security issue. It touches on the ability of the Nigerian state to protect and secure aspects of our sovereign space. It is not too much to ask the security agencies to surveil, track and escort railway tracks and activities. Our economic survival dictates it. Citizen confidence and convenience demands it. The imperative of sovereign territorial integrity compels a stiffer response than the present attitude of indifferent and lazy surrender to the forces of anarchy. 


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todayAugust 22, 2022

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