The rising incidences of kidnapping along the Abuja-Kaduna highway has created a chaotic situation at Idu and Kubwa Train stations in the Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Vanguard gathered that the activities of the dreaded kidnappers and armed robbers, operating with sophisticated weapons now make even some of the top brass of the military and security organisations to park their cars and take trains between the two cities.
The insecurity on the Abuja-Kaduna road, has forced a lot of travelers to abandon the road, thereby exerting pressure on the train service, with unprecedented large number of passengers moving to the stations, leaving a rowdy ticketing process.
Our investigations have shown that although the Abuja- Kaduna journey takes an average of about two hours, travellers who want to ride on the trains could spend more than those two hours to obtain tickets.
It was gathered that obtaining train tickets has become so difficult that a would-be traveller needed to know an official of the station at Idu, Kubwa of Rigasa, the Terminal point in Kaduna, to grab a ticket.
The alternative has been to stay at the train stations for several hours or buy tickets from corrupt station officials and their collaborators, touts for prices twice or thrice the fare.
Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arrested eight of such people early this month, specifically on April 7 2019, following intelligence reports on their activities.
According to the EFCC, those arrested and questioned include Clement Zakka, Udim Sunday Samson, Adams Danladi, Otitomoni Omobolanle and Hassan Dauda.
Their mode of operation is to deny travelers tickets, saying tickets for the next train had been sold out. Later they would surreptitiously approach desperate would-be travelers and tell them they could arrange tickets for them, if they would pay more than the face value.
Officially, the Economy ticket costs N1, 300 but the racketeers sell it at between N2,000 and N5,000, while the First Class tick which goes for N2,500 is sold between N7,000 and N15,000.
In spite of the EFCC raids on the stations, it was learned that in less than one month, the touts are back, conniving with ticketing officers to reserve tickets for the highest bidder.
Commuters who spoke to Vanguard, suggested that the ticketing process be automated, reminiscent of what obtains in the aviation industry.
They complained that there was currently huge loss of man-hours, with some travelling back and forth between Kubwa and Idu in order to obtain tickets.
The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, has said additional two coaches would be added to Abuja-Kaduna rail to address the growing concerns of passengers over incessant issues of ticket racketeering on the Abuja-Kaduna railway.
He said the coaches would be moved from the Warri – Itakpe axis to the Kaduna-Abuja axis in order to reduce the upsurge caused by high demand for the service, but this is yet to be implemented.
What commuters are saying: Even the Generals are also packing their cars to join the train
Barr. Nyaku A. B, a businessman, said of his experience: ”My experience about the journey has been a pleasant one, it is comfortable from the train to the point of arrival, I can say it is very satisfactory.
”However, the process of obtaining the train ticket and sometimes the boarding, is where the issue is. Coming to ticketing process, I find it so disappointing and embarrassing that in this period of technological development, the ticketing system being practised so far is shameful.
”It is shameful in the sense that people can buy ticket online, but here we have a rail way station saying that they will not sell ticket before the day of your journey, even on the day of your journey, you cannot also buy ticket until the last train has departed and then they will say people should queue up. I find it very absurd to see that happening in our society today.
”Today I sent somebody to queue and buy ticket for me, he went there about 11 O’clock in Kaduna for a train of 2 O’clock. They told him they would not sell ticket to him until around 12 O’clock. The surprise thing is that he was the first person to be on that queue, waiting for that 12 O’clock. Immediately they sold about twelve tickets, they said it was finished for first class, so, that means something is wrong somewhere.
”Ticketing system should not be administered this way. I can understand that from the time they commissioned the rail way, it will take some time for them to organise themselves but even up till today, they are still operating that system. I think those in authorities cannot say they are not aware.
”I don’t know what instruction is given by the Minister of Transportation but I do know that sometimes, there is a disconnection between instructions given and implementation.
I am even aware that the law enforcement agents had intervened but the bottom line is the ticketing process itself. Once you say you cannot sell ticket till the day of the journey, and then on the day of the journey, you cannot sell until the last train departed, that is where the problem is.
”That is why when you go to Kaduna, you see a massive inconvenience, a huge crowd trying to buy ticket and they will not sell ticket until the recommended time. I do not see the logic in that. I am recommending the computerization of the ticketing system, where somebody can buy his ticket online.
Reason for choosing rail travel
”It is for obvious reasons, the insecurity on the Abuja-Kaduna route, even though there are issues of insecurity is everywhere, the Abuja-Kaduna route in particular has become notorious for kidnapping.
”Even the Generals and security officials are also packing their cars to join the train in order to avoid the risk. So that is why we are joining the route to minimize the risk.
Reacting, Haida Mahmoud, a student in Kaduna, said: ”This is my first time of coming to Idu train station. In other stations one has to suffer before getting ticket compared to Kuwa and Kaduna. At Kubwa I could not get ticket since 12 O’clock that is why I came here.
”I chose train because it is safer, unlike the road which is not safe, with robbery and kidnapping. The train is better.
There should be improvement on the ticketing process. At Kubwa, we had to write our names and queue just to get ticket, I do not think it is ideal for us to queue and pass through the rigour people are currently going through.
In his reaction, another passenger, Isaac Sambo, a Kaduna-based businessman, said: My family won’t allow me use Abuja-Kaduna Road. The challenge I noticed here is the issue of ticket.
”The whole place was so rowdy in Kaduna that we had to stand in the train on my way back to Abuja because there was no space in the train. I think there is need for more coaches. On Wednesdays, they run only two service, morning and evening, unlike the rest days they run 6 a.m, 10 a.m., 2 p.m. 6 p.m.
”Government needs to provide more coaches and start online ticketing to improve the entire process. Sometimes, it takes the intervention of the EFCC to come and arrest some ticketing staff due to ticket racketeering going on at the stations in Kaduna and Kubwa stations.
”Sometimes, they will tell you there is no ticket but someone will come from behind and they will meet him and give the ticket. They will just call them, reserve ticket for them. At a time they were even hiking the amount from N1,500 to N3,000. But after EFCC raided them, it has subsided.
”The reason I chose rail is for safety, the Kaduna-Abuja road is no longer safe. The issue of kidnapping is on the increase. Almost every day, we hear people had been kidnapped. This is the only safest route for people to travel. I would have preferred coming to Abuja by road with my car because if I come, I have to run around and do other things but because of this issue of kidnapping, I have to abandon my car and take train.
”Even if I want to take my car, my family members will not allow me, they will say no please just take train and come back safely. We still want you alive.
Yakubu Mohammad, a pilot, said: Tickets should be sold online. So far, I think the operation is good in keeping to time, the only major problem is the issue of selling the ticket. I think they should go online, it makes everything easier and avoid people coming to queue.
It makes it a lot easier just as it is done in the airline. Online you can see what time and tickets available, people will save time and it will bring in efficiency in the process.
Yahaya Abdulahi, a cab driver, said in his reaction: ”Security should be taken seriously. The operation for me is on-going but there are a lot that need to be done. The way and manner people buy ticket should be discouraged. When you come to train station here a lot of things are not available, in the night there is no light from the train station to the main road and no security in view. In that case, government needs to look into these areas to see how it can help people using the train station.
In addition, the security within the train station is very porous, there is no security anywhere, people pack in and go out anyhow, without security checking their vehicle. In that case, it is not safe for someone to come in here.
“I do now what is going on inside the station but for outside, that is all I can say.”