Railways in most cities around the world have been used to create infrastructural and economic burst. In a place like London, the rail carries about 4.5 million to and fro work daily. It is one of the tourist attractions of Queen Elizabeth’s city. Unlike Nigeria with a massive population of over 180 million, the rail carries about 1 million people annually. It shows that the rail system is largely underdeveloped in the country. Teriba told the Punch that “no nation with the population of Nigeria can ever hope to attain economic development without efficient railway system.”
Several governments have made efforts to change the narrative, more recently from the inception of the democratic administration of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. The Goodluck Jonathan’s regime also pumped several billions into revitalizing the rail system through the Sure-P Intervention fund, with various projects lined up, including that of the newly commissioned Abuja-Kaduna railway by the Buhari administration.
However, the ruling government has presented a grandiose rail master plan that would cover several cities around the country, including the coastal rail project. In spite of this, many cities in the eastern part of the country did not benefit from the proposal. This has made many people in the region to ask the President to review its rail policies to include notable cities in the South-east, in view of the economic importance of the railway.
A lot of problems have challenged the development of an efficient railway system in Nigeria. According to The Punch, the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Adeseyi Sijuade admits “the industry still suffers from criminal neglect of over two decades by the government, says the Corporation had to look inwards to bring back some grounded rolling stocks by way of cannibalization”.
As a result of this, many commentators have criticized President Muhammadu Buhari for planning to construct a rail line to Maradi in Niger Republic. People are of the opinion that why would the President that was elected on popular sentiment to transform the country economically and infrastructural abandon that policy and embark on building a rail way line to Niger Republic when many strategic towns in Nigeria are yet to be connected to the rail?
The belief is that the territory is not part of Nigeria and as such would be unfair to many Nigerians who voted for Buhari.
Citizens have continued to criticize the ruling government for planning to connect a 55 kilometre rail line to Maradi, Niger from Kazuare –Daura-Kastsina-Jibia and stopping at Maradi, Niger Republic because it is largely of no economic interest to Nigeria, except to connect some Nigerians to their kit and kin resident in Niger.
They have continued to question the sincerity of the President’s promises to Nigerians. The Guardian asked “could this plan not be interpreted as part of the much touted consolidation of a certain hegemonic tendency causing tension in the country?”
Several supporters of the All Progressive Congress (APC) are calling on President Buhari to re-appraise his steps in order not to create mass political alienation of his party in the coming elections having been elected on popular support across the length and breadth of the country.