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Before Gbenga Aina, a software engineer, checked the site of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to book a seat and buy a ticket for his sister going to Kaduna, he was optimistic that there would be no hitch.

But providence had other plans for Aina, as he found that trains for that day and next were fully booked. That is not all. He decided to go to the Abuja station, hoping to find a passenger willing to sell their space to him.

One hour later, he was still out of luck. While leaving the station perturbed, a furtive voice called out to him, “Oga, are you going to Kaduna? I can help you get tickets from a friend. My name is Ahmed”

“Please help me,” Aina responded. “My sister has to go back to Kaduna today but I found that the coaches are filled for two days.”

Ahmed, who appeared to be in his early 30s, said, “That is not a problem. I can get five tickets for you but it is more expensive than what you will get online. If you can pay N6,000 for one, I will get them now.”

Aina wanted to ignore the stocky man’s offer initially but changed his mind when he remembered that the offer appeared to be his last chance.

“I had no choice but to pay N6,000 for a trip that shouldn’t exceed N3,195. That was so painful to me,” he later narrated to Nairametrics.

“I was shocked when I got on board and realized the train was not full but some individuals had decided to hoard the tickets, so they could sell higher in the black market,” Aina said.

READ: FG flags off $3 billion rail project that will connect about 14 Southern, Northern states

Another patron simply called Fitila took to Twitter, last Sunday, lamenting about activities of some individuals, who deliberately frustrated the efforts of the Federal Government to aid a good transportation system in Nigeria.

He tweeted, “Went to drop my sister at the train station in Abuja. The whole ticket for today and tomorrow is fully booked online.

“We had to buy economy class from the black market for N6,000 yet the train is empty. How is Buhari our problem when we are unfair to ourselves. We are horrible people.”

READ: Lagos says blue, red rail lines will be ready by December 2022

Amanda is another patron, who also lamented over the same issue as Aina on Twitter.

She tweeted in response to Aina, “You are lucky you got it for N6,000…I got mine for N10,000 … wickedness in the highest order the ministry should be aware of this.”

One-Eyed, another Twitter user, said, “The online ticketing was supposed to make it easier. Some of those workers at the station need to be dealt with. They book all tickets and try to sell them at exuberant prices. You enter a train and most of it is empty. Was told to pay 5k for the ticket of 2700, I canceled my trip o.”

READ: Transport Minister says $1.9 billion for Kano-Maradi rail to be sourced from Europe

Demola Alimi also took to Twitter lamenting over the racketeering of tickets.

“If this is true then the online ticketing system hasn’t solved the problem of racketeering. People should be free to buy as many tickets as they want, the control is to allow boarding on a 1st come 1st serve basis. Govt. makes more money and the train is available for everyone to board, “Alimi said.

A Software Engineer, Segun Mustapha, told Nairametrics that he was not surprised when he read about the activities of the black market operators on Twitter.

Though, he admitted he has not experienced such but called on the Rotimi Amaechi led-Ministry of Transportation to ensure such activities are removed from the system.

He said, “It should not be a big deal for the government to do of it has the political will to do such. We used to experience similar situations in the aviation industry before now and that was easier because airlines are operated by private firms.

“It is a system failure because it is not the touts selling at exorbitant rates that were booking the tickets online but we should not allow such to linger. Government should ensure that tickets booked online are not re allocated at the station, if it is determined to get rid of the black market operators.”

If the e-ticket platform is sabotaged, Olawale Ademilua warned that existing and potential customers would be frustrated and may revert to other means of transportation.

He said, “I believe those activities are teething problems peculiar to a new development like the rail transportation, which should not be treated mildly, else it will come to stay. We should ensure that the e-ticket platform are not sabotage to frustrate customers.”

Efforts to get the response of the spokesperson of NRC, Mahmood Yakub, were abortive, as he could not respond to the allegations when contacted by Nairametrics.

He said, “I cannot respond now to the allegations, call me on Monday.”

What you should know

  • Since the launch of the Abuja-Kaduna train service in 2016, Nigerians have emphasized the need for an e-ticketing platform to enable Nigerians book online so as to curb the unabating ticket racketeering and reduce passengers stress of going to the station to purchase tickets.
  • The Federal Executive Council in January 2020 approved the sum of N900million to a private firm, Secure IB, to provide a secure automated fare collection solution for the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
  • Amaechi had explained that the agreement, which would be on a public-private partnership basis, would have the company, SECURE IB, spend the sum of N900million for the E-ticketing project and receive 20% of the revenue that would accrue from the project.

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