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Railway vandals may face death penalty, says Amaechi

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The Federal Government is considering capital punishment for railway track vandals in the country, Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has said.

He stated on Monday in Abuja at a town hall meeting on ‘Protecting Public Infrastructure’.

The meeting organised by the Ministry of Information was attended by community chiefs, security personnel and various stakeholders.

According to Amaechi, rail track vandalism is a capital offence and its consequences should be treated as such.

He said, “I am not quantifying the material cost; what I am quantifying is the lives that will be lost. Imagine that a driver of a rail track is driving and suddenly bumps into a track that has been severed; what happens? It will derail.

“Each coach in Nigeria carries about 85 passengers; sometimes we carry 14 coaches; sometimes 20. So imagine you are carrying a train of 14 or 20 coaches with 85 passengers in each coach, if it derails, can you quantify how many passengers that would die in the course of one man thinking he is making money.

“So, it is not about the cost but the lives that would have been lost because of few people’s interest.

“Some people have recommended that since these people are killing people, if accident happens, people will die, so we should go back to the National Assembly and pass a law that does not only criminalise the action but its consequences should be death.”

The minister noted that if armed robbery, whether successful or not attracted life imprisonment, rail track vanderlism should not be any less punitive.

According to him, the track vanderlism is being done in collaboration with foreign partners.

Amaechi said, “In Jos, they arrested a Chinese company that bought those track materials from them, went to court and court found them guilty and fined them N200,000. So there must be consequences as N200,000 is not enough.”

He commended residents along the Lagos-Ibadan rail track as no incident of vanderlism had been recorded along the route.

He said, “Lagos and the Western District recorded one; North Weste 31; Northern District 10; North East 43; Eastern District 36 and North Central, 50 incidents of vanderlism. Abuja-Kaduna has 13; Warri-Itakpe, two and Lagos-Ibadan, nil.”

He said the ministry and the Nigerian Railway Corporation were working at reducing the rate of vanderlism but a lot still needed to be done.

The minister frowned on the rate at which the tracks was being converted to shops and restaurants, especially in Port Harcourt and Lagos and warned such offenders to desist or be ready to face the penalties.

“The solution is put them in jail; all you need to do is pass a law, put them in jail. I’m sure if you take 15 to 30 people to court and are found guilty, you put them in jail; it will deter others.

The Managing Director, NRC, Mr Fidet Okhiria, also reiterated the need to penalise rail track vandals in the country to serve as deterrent to other people.

He said, “It is dangerous; it can lead to death of people, delays operation and it is cost-effective.

“Due to the vanderlism, we have to send a monitoring train before we send a train, it costs money running in this condition. And in some areas, we are not able to run a train.

“What we are trying to do is to sensitise; let the communities know that government’s property is their own. Know that if you vanderlise the track, you don’t know who will be affected.

“Technology is not cheap and any punishment that will deter these offenders I will support it.”

Railway

Train passengers rise by over 400% in one year, says NBS report

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Nigeria has recorded an increase of over 400 per cent in train passengers within a space of one year, a new report by the National Bureau of Statistics has shown.

It also indicated that the Nigerian Railway Corporation generated N2.1 billion as revenue from passengers and cargo traffic in the first half of this year.

Apart from the biting economic lockdown imposed last year to curtail the spread of COVID-19, which adversely affected train service, the commencement of the new Lagos-Ibadan train service apart its inauguration in June this year and the reinvigorated Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail line must are seen to have contributed to the NRC’s performance.

The report, titled, ‘Rail Transportation Data Q2’ stated that 565,385 passengers travelled by the rail system in the second quarter of 2021 against 108,238 passengers recorded in the second quarter of 2020 and 424,460 in Q1 2021.

This represents a 422.35 per cent growth year-on-year and 33.20 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

The report also specifically stated that the NRC generated N1.08 billion from passengers in the second quarter of 2021 against N892.47 million in Q1 2021.

Goods or cargo traffic in Q2 2021 fetched N71.56 million against N26.19 million in Q1 2021, while income from other receipts stood at N41 million in the last six months.

A further analysis of the report shows that the corporation recorded its highest revenue from passengers in Q2 2021 with N1.08 billion, while the lowest revenue generation from passengers was recorded in the second quarter of 2020 (Q2 2020), with N320.34 million.

The report showed from all categories that the year 2020 (particularly Q2 2020) suffered the most losses and turnout of passengers due to the COVID-19 lockdown imposed by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of the virus across Nigeria.

In June, the NBS had said the NRC generated N5.79 billion as revenue from passengers and cargo between 2019 and the first quarter of 2021 (Q1 2021).

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NRC builds N320m hotel for Lagos-Ibadan train passengers

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The Nigerian Railway Corporation has constructed a N320m hotel at its Ebute-Meta station in Lagos.

The Railway Guest House is said to have 40 rooms with a lot of facilities to make travellers’ stopover there a pleasant and memorable stay.

Specifically, the hotel is equipped with a swimming pool, restaurant and meeting hall, among other facilities.

Speaking at the opening on Wednesday, Timothy Zalanga, Managing Director of Railway Property, said the project marked the beginning of a new business strategy for the NRC, focusing on property development rather than leasing of lands.

“This project shows that with the focus of the present regime on Railway Development, many more can be achieved in the overall interest of the general public,” he said.

Zalanga said 60 per cent of the construction cost was funded from replacement costs of some of the NRC structures that were demolished to pave way for the new Lagos – Ibadan standard gauge line to get into Apapa port.

The remaining 40 per cent was funded by Railways Property.

NRC Managing Director, Fidet Okhiria, said that the guest house would be managed by hospitality and lifestyle company, Ojez Group, following a successful bidding process involving over 30 entities.

Managing Director of Ojez Group, Joseph Odobeatu,

said security within the hotel would be provided by the Nigerian police railway command, private security and an internal security team.

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Excitement as NRC holds train tour for senior citizens

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From left, Former Secretary of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr Uduma Uduma; Dr Ngozi Nwosu, a former Medical Director of NRC; former Managing Director of the NRC, Mr Nathaniel Okoro, Director-General, National Senior Citizens Centre (NSCC) , Dr Emem Omokaro at Obafemi Awolowo Station, Omi Adio town, Ibadan, during the Business Class Train Ride Funfare... on Thursday.

Many elderly people were excited last week when the Nigerian Railway Corporation organised a special train ride for senior citizens to keep them fit and improve their lives.

They had the exciting fanfare in the business class of the just inaugurated standard gauge Lagos-Ibadan train and it was mainly attended by retired senior staff of the NRC on Thursday

Managing Director of the NRC, Fidet Okhiria, said this during a two-day bi-monthly management and senior staff meeting held at the corporation’s corporate headquarters, Ebute-Metta, Lagos.

He said the train tour was held in conjunction with the Nigeria Senior Citizen Centre (NSCC).

Okhiria spoke on the need for senior and management staff to network for the progress of the system, stressing that the Federal Government’s efforts towards transforming the entire railway system, through the modernisation project, must be sustained by the workers.

The NRC boss urged workers to be more proactive in the discharge of their official responsibilities.

He advised them to brace for the challenges of the modern rail transport industry.

One of the guests at the special train ride, pioneer Managing Director of the NRC, Nathaniel Okoro, said it was heartwarming to witness the transformation of the Nigerian railway and commended the Federal Government for the progress made in the standard gauge rail.

He said, “I am happy to see the success of the standard gauge railway project because I was invited by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002 to draw a 25-year master plan for the development of standard gauge railway line in Nigeria.

“The report was submitted to Obasanjo in 2002 and after he left government, the report gathered dust. But we thank God that President Buhari-led administration resuscitated and implemented the project.”

Okoro, who just turned 90, advised his fellow senior citizens on need “to celebrate ourselves because we have made our contributions to the development of this country. I retired on a salary of N3,500 per month and that was the highest salary  then.”

He also said, “I urge Nigerians to learn and understand the history of Nigeria to enable them to appreciate the development that has taken place from the past so they can relate it to the present.

“I am persuaded that life is a wave, emotions build up eventually, reach a peak; and drift away. Worries, anxiety and fear come and go in a similar way. They don’t last forever even if they feel like they will,”

Director-General of the NSCC, Dr Emem Omokaro, while addressing the elderly citizens, said the centre was established to promote a fundamental positive change in perception, attitude and paradigm about aging and old age.

According to her, the centre promotes economic development opportunities in investing in enhanced capacities of senior citizens for the benefit of all and a cohesive community.

“The centre was set up principally to identify the needs of senior citizens and to cater for them in varied domains such as health and well-being, income, security, training and education, capacity enhancement, counselling and sports,” she said.

Omokaro said the centre would work diligently to ensure that a day is set aside in Nigeria to celebrate senior citizens.

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