Nigeria’s new train offers a strange trip


Published — Saturday 9 March 2013

Last update 9 March 2013 2:26 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Before his 30-hour train journey to northern Nigeria began, David Adedamola was quite excited to ride the just-revived service.
In December, the colonial-era track between Lagos in the south, Nigeria’s largest city, and Kano, the second city some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) to the north, re-opened after having been defunct for decades.
It is part of plans by Nigeria’s National Rail Corporation to revive train travel across Africa’s most populous country, using both the tracks laid by the British while building new lines.
The country’s decrepit roads are among the most dangerous in the world, with passenger vehicles and lorries often involved in deadly collisions or attacked by highway bandits.
Travel between Nigeria’s southern and northern hubs is key to commerce, but also retains symbolic significance in a country split between a mainly Christian south and mostly Muslim north.
A recent 37-hour train ride from Lagos to Kano was a hot, crowded and sometimes frustrating journey, but it was nonetheless welcomed by Nigerians who were finally seeing a service provided by their government.
Much of the country’s vast oil wealth has been squandered through decades of corruption.
At the Iddo station in Lagos, ticket purchasing was hectic, with passengers who had never before traveled by train in Nigeria uncertain about prices and routes.
Adedamola, a 41-year-old accountant heading to the third last stop on the Kano line, Kaduna city, secured an “executive sleeper cabin” for the trip expected to take twice as long as the bus.
The bare cell of a cabin included a narrow bunk-bed without pillows, a chair and a non-flushing toilet, and as night approached on the first day of the stop-and-go journey the cheery accountant’s nerves had started to fray.
On most Fridays since the service re-opened, the rail corporation’s director of operations, Niyi Alli, has gone to Iddo to oversee the midday departure of the Lagos-Kano train, because, he said, “this is our flagship line.”
Alli told AFP he was confident Nigerians will turn back to rail, a once dominant means of travel.
“I don’t want to talk about the state of our roads,” he said. Trains are “a cheaper, safer option.”
Despite waves of deadly sectarian violence in parts of the religiously divided central states and an insurgency in the north, Alli said there is still “a massive migration of people in both directions on a daily basis.”
For the vast majority of those travelling by train, the 10,000 naira ($ 63) sleeper cabin was too costly, and despite the frustrations Adedamola faced in the executive cabin, those in the cheaper cars endured worse.
An air-conditioner breakdown in one of the first class cars sparked raucous protests from those wondering why they had paid $18 to sweat for 37 hours when those who spent $12 in the economy class were provided with a cooled car.
Economy passenger Bamidele Ibrahim, a 51-year-old mother of two, was doing her best to cope with the conditions.
With a wide and bright smile, she said she was disgusted by the state of the toilets, charging the cleaning staff with failing “to do their work.”
She was headed to Kaduna and had resigned herself to a sleepless trip on a thinly cushioned bench in a train prone to significant and unpredictable gyrations.
“In this chair?” she said, when asked if she expected to get some sleep before reaching Kaduna, where she moved from Lagos after getting married some 25 years ago.
The train was half-full at departure but gradually filled with each stop, so that by nightfall of the first day it had become difficult to move between cars, with both luggage and people heaped throughout the aisles.
For many of those who boarded later on the route, their tickets had been rendered useless as all the seats had been occupied.
Many complained, but Elizabeth Bukay, 37, who purchased a first class ticket in the southern city of Ibadan, decided to spend the night on a white plastic chair rather than fight for her seat.
The dress-maker and single mother of three was headed to her home in Niger state and, the seat mishap aside, she said anything was better than the bus.
Road travel “used to make me throw up,” she explained.
The trip to Kano had been advertised at roughly 26 hours, but after an overnight derailment involving another train and various other unexplained delays, the journey came to an end 36 hours and 47 minutes after it began.
It was after midnight, and passengers disembarking at Kano who did not have a private car waiting were told to sleep on the platform as the public buses would not return until morning.
Soyinka Abiodun, a police officer on board, perhaps spoke for the group shortly before the train approached its final stop.
“The journey is becoming boring,” he said.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

KADUNA, Nigeria: Three years after his family fled their northeastern Nigerian home to escape threats from Boko Haram militants, Mudasir Gambo must have thought his luck had changed when he won a ticket to perform Haj.But in a cruel twist of fate, t...
RIYADH: Indian and international media has published an erroneous story of a 55-year-old Indian housemaid in the Kingdom who, it said, lost her right hand in amputation surgery as a result of torture by her Saudi female boss.First Secretary (Communit...
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia summoned the Czech ambassador to protest against a new translation of Salman Rushdie’s blasphemous book “Satanic Verses,” the SPA said on Friday, 27 years after the sacrilegious novel triggered global demonstrations and a death t...
RIYADH: Thirty-three percent of 1,252 coronavirus cases reported over the past four years took place within hospitals.According to statistics, 413 cases emerged inside hospitals, while 12 percent of total cases involved health workers inside hospital...
RIYADH: The forensic board in Riyadh has issued orders against 194 people who committed medical mistakes last year. Among them are 165 Saudi doctors and 29 non-Saudi doctors, according to an online newspaper.Among those who have been punished for med...
JEDDAH: Talented American student of Sudanese origin Ahmed Mohammed Al-Hassan arrived in Jeddah on Friday morning to perform Umrah and visit his relatives. The Kingdom last week invited Al-Hassan to visit the country for Umrah. On his arrival at King...
RIYADH: Abdul Moneim Al-Mushawwah, the director of the Sakina Campaign, which operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, revealed what he called a fierce electronic campaign against the Kingdom led by Iran.Al-Mushawwah said th...
JEDDAH: A local college has signed an agreement with a bank to provide loans for students to complete their studies.The agreement was signed between Najwa Salem, executive director of Batterjee Education and Training Academy (BETA) and Turki Al-Juhan...
RIYADH: A new weekly program entitled “Yemen After the Storm” will begin Monday at 9 p.m. on Tabah Saudi television to be aired from Madinah and will last for 30 weeks.“The program will be a medium for Yemenis and Saudis to extend their gratitude to...
MAKKAH: The Makkah municipality will build the first footbridge in the Sharaie area in east Makkah at a cost of SR5.358 million. The municipality has announced the location to the implementing company, who will begin work at the beginning of next mon...
DAMMAM: Approximately 800 male and female participants gathered along the waterfront at Dammam Corniche recently to take part in a 60 minute walking tour on the occasion of the World Walking Day, which coincided with World Heart Day.According to stat...
RIYADH: The number of vacant positions in government jobs has reached 319,474 which is 20.5 percent of total government jobs. Most of these vacant positions are in the health and education sector, an online newspaper reported, citing an unnamed sourc...
JEDDAH: A smartphone is a modern day distraction as it is taken everywhere, demanding attention multiple times a day. Whether it’s a phone call, a snapchat story, a Facebook and Instagram notification or someone retweeting your tweets.A Saudi husband...
Police said a young Saudi woman in Tabuk was found covered in blood after she tried to commit suicide recently by cutting her wrist.The authorities said that the woman was found alive inside the toilet of a well-known mall after the information was...
JEDDAH: The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) is linking up with various companies and the National Organization for Joint Training (NOJT) to offer 1,035 jobs in 59 sectors to Saudis at a career fair here on Oct. 13 and 14.Mohiuddin Hakm...

Stay Connected