When our colonial Master (Britain) built the first railway in Nigeria in 1898 linking Lagos and Abeokuta in Old Western region today South-west Nigeria, it was only Britain, The United States of America and few other countries had such facilities then. Naturally, anyone would expect almost 119 years down the line, Nigeria should have built an excellent national rail network with latest models of fast moving trains seen in the developed economies, but that is not the case here.
Paradoxically, while many countries that started train services long after Nigeria perfected that mode of Transportation by using it for efficient human transportation, ours system remains in near comatose state. In countries like Germany, France, United Kingdom even in South Africa and Egypt, for instance, underground and surface rail tracks are linked to the seaports, airports and land borders. This ensures efficient movement of people and facilitates quick distribution of needed goods like machinery, bulk cargo like cements, wheat, fertilizers, precious stones, perishable and non-perishable food items like tomatoes, cows and medicals among others.
In South Africa, the metrorail operates commuter rail services in the major urban areas. The metrorail system consists of over 470 stations, over 2,220km of tracks and carries over 1.7 million passengers daily. In the United Kingdom, trains are preferred to buses and in some cases flights due to efficiency. If you want to travel to France from UK, many prefer trains to flight on daily basis. In all these countries, modern light rail, monorail and latest electric trains are rapidly replacing the old locomotives. According to global records, Europeans and Asians operates the fastest high speed trains in the world as seen in Shanghai maglev, Harmony CRH 380A and Targo Avril. Some go as fast as 360km/hr, making them excellent alternatives to air transportation.
But unfortunately today, Nigeria still rely heavily on the slower locomotive trains (some as slow as 35km/hr) that pollute the atmosphere. Worse still, the country is yet to develop hubs and spokes system for the trains to ensure total coverage of Nigeria. The railways remain a major revenue earner for operators and government alike. It is also a major employer of labour. Some transport analysts have described our railway services as a monumental disgrace, attributing its perennial wobbly and sorry state to blind politics, corruption, unchecked graft, ethnic differences and other challenges. They insist the railway sector should be well developed as Nigerian roads are death traps, while air travel remains elusive to the masses due to high cost.
A retired Director of the Transport ministry once said that some haulage cabals who, in their selfish bid to take over the lucrative inter-state transport/haulage business, masterminded the systematic killing of the NRC so that their businesses could thrive. Trains will definitely be more efficient and cheaper. They bribed their way to ensure that successive transport ministers and managing directors of the Nigerian Railways Corporations (NRC) were their anointed candidates. Every year, funds earmarked for rail track mordernization through the budget were squandered. Rail tracks were never maintained while some of the tracks have been washed off by erosion and all that.
For many decades, the nation’s rail system has been starved of the political will to move it to the next level. The last administration of President Goodluck did some work to revitalize our rail system. Some experts noted that the revamping of the sector by the last administration was more of a political campaign strategy than a long time repositioning effort. They alleged that the quality of the rail tracks and coaches deployed were not top of the range.
But in recent times, it has not been business as usual. With what the current minister is doing there and his appointments in railway sub-sector, things are taking shapes and our railway sector is coming back to life. This is why most of these cabals are not happy with the Current Transport Minister, Chief Rotimi Amaechi. They were most unhappy with President Buhari because of this appointment. President Buhari has vowed to clean the rot in the NRC as his administration intended to use train services to open up businesses at various agrarian towns and villages that have been denied access to modern transportation. With the construction of Lagos-Ibadan rail project and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano that will eventually terminate in Lagos and that of Lagos to Kano; then with Calabar-Port Harcourt-Aba-Onitsha-Benin-Lagos rail project being undertaken by the Chinese Government, I believe for the first time we have seen a political leader who has the political will to do the needful in this sector. I believe this sector will create over 1 million jobs both formal and informal jobs.
Consequently, transformation of the NRC eventually consumed the then Managing Director of NRC, Engr Adeseyi Sijuwade, who was sacked by President Buhari. But most of the staff at the Corporation are not ready to move along with the change mantra of this present administration. With reference to the specific Lagos-Kano and Calabar to lagos Rail projects, I will like to state that the two projects are very important projects to the Nigeria masses and I believe that is why this present government included them in 2016 and 2017 budgets. We in the South- east who travel almost every day through roads will like these projects to be completed. I believe that when completed, these routes will be the busiest of all. If Lagos-Ibadan rail project is completed, I believe it will reduce the populations in Lagos and the cost of housing will come down.
Otimkpu writes via: email@example.com
Nigeria and the demand for paper qualification
By Umukoro Eloho
The fact that a wide disparity exists between students of yester-years and today in Nigeria is uncontestable. Gone are the days when primary school leavers popularly referred to as “year seven” used to be employed by government as teachers in our primary schools. Of course, most of the teachers at that period were not as educated as the current ones but one good thing was that their products were well educated. They portrayed in the way they dressed, talked , walked , ate, wrote and did everything that they were educated.
When Education was education, those who passed through secondary school were even hotter. We cannot even talk of university because after all, how many universities did we have in the country then? The standard of education was very high. Parents were proud of sending their children to school.
The product of that system actually made Nigeria proud. They joined in the struggle for independence. They did not know anything about bribery and corruption; they were highly disciplined, committed to the unity and peace of Nigeria; they had many positive attributes in them.
Almost every teacher in primary school in Nigeria today has a minimum of Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE) qualification but he or she is nothing to write home about in terms of quality. Because of the problems facing the secondary system, it does not help the unfortunate products from primary school. It is therefore, very unfortunate that many who are secondary school products are not different from their illiterate parents; they cannot read letters for their parents as it used to be in the days of “year seven”
Most of our tertiary institution graduates are not better than the “year seven” products. Since the foundation is poorly laid, the tertiary level (system) lacks the magical powers to produce products different from their origin.
It is, therefore, not very shocking to come across some graduates today who can hardly express themselves in English clearly; they hardly behave to show that they are educated. Incidentally, these are the people who hold the key to our future in this country.
A lot of things are wrong with the Nigerian educational system. First, is lack of respect for education by the government. Most of the schools do not have facilities that enhance effective teaching and learning.
It is unfortunate that in most of our schools today, both primary and secondary, pupils/students sit on the floor to receive lessons under trees. Teachers, apart from their meager salaries, do not have offices, and tables, chairs and other tools particularly textbooks that can help them deliver.
Teaching has become a despised profession; people take to it as the last option. A teacher is no longer respected in the Nigerian society. After all, his salary is nothing to write home about. Political offices have taken over the position of teaching in the current Nigeria in terms of attraction.
There are basically numerous problems to be tackled in order to restore the lost glory of our educational system. Fundamentally, is the emphasis Nigeria has on paper qualification rather than knowledge or practical skill.
In Nigeria, it is not what you know or the knowledge you went to school and acquire but the paper in the name of certificate that is the order of the day. Efforts by the Obasanjo’s administration to merge Polytechnics and Colleges of Education with Universities was to make every Nigerian to be a Degree holder regardless of whether the knowledge was there or not.
A policy was introduced that only Ph.D. holders can be recognized for lecturing in the University. Of course lecturers without Ph.D. cannot get their promotions when they reach certain grade. The point is that the conditions of admitting a candidate are often overlooked because the policy wants everybody to be a Ph.D. holder.
Parents are not left out in these our myriad of problems as most of them are not happy with principals who refuse to embark on examination malpractice in their schools so that their children and wards can get the required grade for tertiary admission. They are not after the knowledge the children can acquire.
Let’s join hands with the present administration under president Muhammadu Buhari to combat any form of educational irregularities by cueing in the change campaign which begins with you and I.
Eloho is a student of the Department of Mass Communication, Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger state