Media report last week to the effect that ticket racketeering has become a booming business among staff of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), security personnel and individuals at the train stations in Kaduna and Abuja is not only condemnable and reprehensible but also requires urgent action to nip the criminal trend in the bud.
According to the report, the situation has left passengers in a quandary as most ended up stranded at the two stations. Some of the passengers in separate interviews called on the relevant authorities to make sweeping changes to stop revenue leakages and save passengers from the daily frustration of paying more to obtain tickets.
They said government should introduce electronic ticketing system to ensure transparency and accountability so as to send the ticket racketeers out of the illicit business. The reporter, who was at the Rigasa Train Station in Kaduna, said that passengers thronged the station as early as 5am to get tickets for the train that departs 6:40am for Abuja.
As other passengers arrive later for the 10:30am trip, the station becomes crowded with all manner of passengers struggling to obtain tickets that are not available. A passenger at the Rigasa train station, Seyi Ajibade, described the development as “very unfortunate. People are not usually sure they would make the trip due to the uncertainty of getting ticket.”
According to Ajibade, the corruption that surrounds the ticketing system is undermining current efforts to revamp rail transportation, stressing that only electronic ticketing will solve the problem. She said: “I prefer travelling by train since its reintroduction, but I get frustrated anytime I come to the station to get a ticket.
“I want first class but as always, I am told that first-class tickets have finished, even when I do not see them selling to anybody. Also, getting the economy class ticket is equally a tug-of-war war. Sometimes, you will have to pay two or three times the price to get it from the dealers.”
Similarly, Joshua Afun, said getting a ticket had always been a difficult task. “Sometimes I come to the station as early as 6am, but will be told that ticket had finished. I am avoiding traveling by road to Abuja due to the insecurity and kidnappings that made the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway a death trap and den of kidnappers.
“Many of us turned to train service because it is safer, spacious, thrilling and fun, with beautiful view of the landscape and serene vegetation. But getting a ticket has become a matter of who you know or the size of your pocket.”
While on the queue, one of the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity sai that tickets were always scarce because it had become a booming business for the workers. According to him, the first-class tickets are mostly not sold at the counter because they have been shared among the officials who reserve them for very important personalities who will pay higher price.
He said: “The tickets are being given to touts to sell to desperate passengers at a higher price and remit extra N500 to the official and N200 extra for economy class tickets. Those involved are making as much as N20,000 to N50,000 per day.”
However, the Rigasa Station Manager, Aminu Ibrahim, declined comment on the allegation, saying only the NRC Public Relations Officer was allowed to speak to the press. Ibrahim however said the coaches conveyed about 1,000 passengers every trip to Abuja and back.
Meanwhile, as the train depart at 10:30am and arrive at Idu Station in Abuja at 1:30pm, the same scenario played out, as many passengers hoping to get the 2pm train to Kaduna were stranded with no ticket. One of them, Aliyu Musa, said he was at the station since 12pm, joined the queue, but only to be told that the ticket had finished.
Musa said: “When I arrived, I saw people already on the queue and I quickly joined them hoping to get a ticket, but noticed the ticketing office was locked. After staying on the queue for an hour and a half, a civil defence officer came and told us that the tickets had finished. We were all shocked because we did not see when the tickets were being sold.” Another passenger familiar with the system, however, advised Musa to go to the parking lot and get ticket, but at a higher price.
“I sat there and a few minutes later, he came back and said: ‘I have settled them,’ and showed me a little space outside the office where I stood throughout the journey to Kaduna.”
It is quite disheartening that some unscrupulous Nigerians will constitute themselves into a criminal gang to frustrate hapless Nigerians, most of whom have resorted to rail transport as a result of the rising insecurity and high cost of road and air transportation in the country. We, therefore, urged the authorities of the NRC to deal decisively with the bad eggs within its ranks.