“Po!! Po!!!!” the train blows its horn as it rides along its track. Pedestrians make last-minute efforts to cross to the other side. Passengers begin to gather their belongings as they await the approaching train. “Screech” the train comes to a halt. At that moment, as you look up to admire how the force of nature propels the train your eyes catch a horrible glimpse of men seated like kings on the very top of the train chatting, sipping alcohol and sometimes smoking marijuana.
Welcome to the Nigerian Railway system where passengers find it comforting to sit on the top of a train rather than inside the train. This has come to become a thing of tradition for these commuters who are often called “Federal” or “rooftop riders”.
Although the Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Railway Corporation have frowned seriously at this act, all their words seem to fall on deaf ears.
When PoliticsNGR visited the train station at Shogunle, Oshodi, Lagos on Tuesday morning at about 8:30 am, we noticed that the number of commuters who sit on the top of the train had reduced, however, many can still be seen with alcohol in one hand and marijuana in the other.
We decided to take a peep into the train because in the past those who sit on top always give the excuse that there is no available space to sit or stand in the train. To our surprise, there were still spaces to sit inside the train.
Our Correspondent spoke with the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Railway Corporation. Mahmoud Yakub, who said that they have taken preventive measures to stop this menace, however; despite this, commuters still sit on top of the rail.
He expressed belief that when the new Lagos-Ibadan-Abuja rail commences operations, this appalling situation would come to an abrupt end.
He told us; “To the best of our knowledge that is no longer news because if you check the trains now we pour dirty engine oil on top of the train so there is no way somebody can sit on top of all those coaches. There is nobody on the train unless you want to dirty yourself. Those things usually happen in the evening.”
He attributed the cause to the fact that people are coming into Lagos state every day and there is gross inadequacy of transportation.
According to him, “even if we do this one hourly it is still not enough. We wanted to use spike but people said how could we use spike to inflict injury on people that is why we pour engine oil on top of coaches. We have been prosecuting people but still, the more we persecute the more we see people committing the crime,”
Mahmud went on to say, “All things been equal with the new train that is going to start operation before the end of this assembly Lagos-Abuja-Ibadan that thing will be aggressive. We want our passengers to feel comfortable. “
He called on the media to “always advise us on what to do. How can we move your country vis-à-vis the rail sector forward? When you ask us then you ask an expert in the railway industry. If you go to India, Pakistan these are places where you see passengers hanging even on the wheel because of condition.”