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Abuja-Kaduna Rail Route: Another Budding Business Hub

Abuja-Kaduna Rail Route, poor rail services
Posted: Aug 24, 2016 at 6:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


By Juliet Oyoyo

On July 26, 2016 life was breathed into the modern Standard Gauge Railway line which runs from Idu, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to Rigasa, a community in Kaduna state, with the inaugural train ride by Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari.

This marks the completion of the project which was started in 2005 under the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, running through the Yar’adua and Jonathan’s administrations.

Although subsequent trips have revealed some teething problems, the commencement of operations on that route may have opened another flood-gate of business opportunities for residents and investors in various categories of products.

From the start off point at the Idu Station, the service would, daily, traverse five communities lining the Abuja-Kaduna route. The communities are; Idu, Kubwa, Jere, Rijana terminating at Rigasa in Kaduna.

Although, the rail service, expectedly, which would also include Kaduna-Kano-Lagos states in the nearest future has been seen from the point of quick and affordable commuting between Abuja and Kaduna, it has been seen as another project that will greatly impact on the socio-economic lives of the benefiting communities.

In the past, the presence of train stations in a community helped to step up commercial activities in the area, especially for those who are into food vending, sales of disposable commodities like sanitary wares, and other products. The obvious crash in train services across most parts of the country took away these advantages.

For the Abuja-Kaduna, concerns may have been raised regarding the location of the Kaduna terminal train station at Rigasa with regards to security fears. This, however, does not take away the benefits to host communities.

To Rigasa in Kaduna state, which is a purely Muslim populated settlement, it is an opportunity to expose the community to a wider population of Nigerians and the derivable benefits, as the area has began to witness a large influx of business activities and development.

Our Correspondent was recently visited Rigasa, which is about forty minutes from the metropolis, to get a first hand view of the densely populated community.

At the Rigasa Station located at the extreme end of the community, business activities have already started springing up with shops, eateries and other socio-economic activities picking up among there.

The train which commences its journey from Idu at 7:00 am daily, arrives the Rigasa station by 9:40am and departs for Abuja at 10:40am daily except on Sundays (6 days in the week), while the last trip is scheduled for 18:00hrs.

Many passengers spoken with expressed satisfaction with the services but are hopeful of an increase in the number of trip to about four instead of the twice a day.

Okechukwu Odinaka, a resident in the area said there are great prospects for the train service in Kaduna but what has prevented many from patronizing the rail system was the location of the station; Rigasa.

“Agreed, many have the phobia of having to commute to Rigasa to join the train to Abuja. Their fears are hinged on the fear that Rigasa is a completely Muslim dominated area which was hitherto, known as one of the flashpoints of religious crisis which had in the past, engulfed Kaduna state,” Odinaka told Independent.

Continuing, he said, “Again, some say that if the station had been sited around the metropolis, the volume of passengers would have been very high, thereby increasing the revenue being generated.”

This position has however been roundly knocked down by some of the passengers who spoke with Independent.

Some of them are optimistic that the issue of insecurity to other passengers who are not Muslims does not arise, as they have expressed assurances that the Rigasa Station is expected to improve on the socio-economic wellbeing of the community and the residents.

One of the youths in Rigasa, Abdul Mainasa, said Rigasa community is desirous of progress and the economic empowerment that will come with full take off of the train service which will also help to improve on the lives of everyone.

“The potentials of the youths will be further harnessed through employment opportunities that will abound,” Mainasa said, adding that the youths with the ambition of becoming self-reliant have the opportunities of setting up their businesses close to the Rigasa Station thereby, increasing the number of self employed youths.

Despite these reassurances, much more is needed to convince some other non-indigenes due to the notoriety of various communities around the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway. From Kurmi Mashi, Bakin Ruwa, Kabala to Ungwan Muazu, motorists and commuters have different tales to tell.

The fears are quite high due to the fact that from 2001 till the last religious crisis that had rocked the state, many people had one bad tale or the other to tell. Therefore, the decision to locate the Rail Station at Rigasa was in bad light. This is the opinion of many as it would not generate the appropriate revenue that is expected for a project of such huge colossal amount.

Abiodun Olatunji, a Kaduna resident, in his view said it was completely a wrong sell by the government to have situated such a gigantic project in a place where safety of lives cannot be guaranteed at any given time if in the event that there is any crisis. God forbid! He exclaimed, as the community has become so notorious whenever there is any crisis.

The question being asked by many including Olatunji as it pertains to adequate security to safety of would be passengers is not out of place. What therefore is the guarantee that in the event of any breaches how would the security agencies protect passengers who are not in the safe confines of the premises?

Speaking with one of the staff of the Rigasa station on the likelihood of expansion, he told Independent on the condition of anonymity that Rigasa Station is only “Block Station” for the train service but that the Main Station would be located around Riga-Chukun in the nearest future.

At the Kaduna Junction one of the railway staff disclosed that the Rigasa Station is not in any way linked with the Kaduna Junction as that station caters for train services from Rigasa to Idu in the FCT.

On the services that are obtainable at the Kaduna Junction, he disclosed that patronage has remained what is used to be with passengers heading to Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Enugu still travelling as before. And, this includes the local train from Minna to Kaduna.

According to him, “The Port-Harcourt – Kano – Port-Harcourt scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays is always heavily booked due its moderate fares compared to road transportation and again, the high level of safety of the train services. The only issue, which passengers would want improved upon, is the issue of consistency of the train services.”

Recently, it was disclosed that the newly commissioned rail station has been able to rake in N5 million within two weeks of its commissioning. Observers like Mr Timothy Ketung, a resident of Barnawa believes that more would have been generated if the Rail Station had been sited where is accessible to all.

“Fear no go allow me go Rigasa ooh,” He said in  local pidgin which literally translates to meaning ‘I am too afraid to go to Rigasa.’

However, Mallam Yunusa Hadeija, a resident in Rigasa who spoke to Independent assured that “All hands will be on deck to assure people of their safety.

He said, “Yes, agreed, people have this impression about Rigasa but you need to know that a hungry man is an angry man. You see with this rail now,  the youths will begin to have something to do,  they will be engaged, and would want to guide against any problems that would scare passengers from coming to Rigasa.

“An idle mind is the devils workshop. But when the youths are busy, be sure that they would not have time for any trouble at all.”