Speed Trains for Nigeria

A good transportation system will be more beneficial to Nigerians than regular power supply. This may sound strange to youngsters who need power to enjoy their favourite TV programmes, play their favourite video games, listen to their music and expel darkness at night.

But let me explain. Lack of power supply has killed industries and jobs. As a result, many otherwise good Nigerians have turned armed robbers, terrorists and kidnappers. They have killed innocent people and have got killed.  However, the number of Nigerians that die as a direct or indirect consequence of lack of electricity pales into insignificance when compared to those killed daily on our roads.

The collapse of the rail system has “boosted” the business of truck owners engaged in haulage. The heavy-duty vehicles have destroyed our roads and are the major cause of road accidents. Remember the people killed when fuel-carrying trucks went up in flames? By the way, I was told that turbines and other heavy equipment imported by PHCN and independent power producers (IPPs) have been held up in the ports because there are no trains to take them to their destinations.

Trains can make a lot of difference in our lives. I remember when I used to frequent Port Harcourt from Enugu between 1983 and 1984. I paid N2. 50 for a second-class seat and N10 for first-class. [Nigeria Airways charged N45 for a flight from Enugu to Lagos in those days!]  The express train used to leave Port Harcourt at 8am and reach Enugu just before 3pm.

Today, the trains have disappeared. About 95 per cent of Nigerians now risk their lives daily on dilapidated roads. Families have been wiped out!

Had there been an efficient rail system, people travelling to their villages for Sallah or Christmas would enjoy safe and pleasurable trips.  There would be no human or vehicular congestion in cities like Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. The reason: Consider that one could live in Kaduna and work in Lagos if there were high-speed trains.

I was excited when I first read about high-speed trains in Japan, China, Spain, France and other parts of Europe. It takes a medium-speed passenger train just two hours for the 485km trip from London to Paris. In December 2010, a Chinese passenger train covered 486km/h. By 2003, Japan had the world’s fastest train that travelled 581km per hour. I don’t know which country holds the title now, but the race to produce 700km/h trains is on.

Imagine the benefits of having a train that travels 500km per hour in Nigeria. I would have no need to live in Abuja. It means I could travel from my village (440km away) to my place of work in Abuja in 50 minutes. Currently, within the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, it takes most people three hours to travel 24km from their homes to their offices in the morning because of heavy traffic.


Lying with Statistics

I wonder how many Nigerians accept the figures dished out by the National Bureau of Statistics in recent times. The government agency has just announced that the inflation rate in August was 17.6 per cent, up from 17.1 per cent in July. It had declared that the unemployment rate was 13.3 per cent.

Throw statistics to the dogs: I judge every government by the number of jobs it has created and the good life Nigerians enjoy. For it’s very easy to lie with statistics. If America says its inflation rate is 5 per cent and unemployment rate 7 per cent, it is understandable: the dollar’s value has been stable for 50 years and the US knows the number of its citizens that are on the dole. In Nigeria, however, common sense proves that the unemployment rate is between 75 and 80 per cent while the inflation rate is over 200 per cent.

What benchmark do our “experts” use to calculate the inflation rate anyway? A 50kg bag of rice was sold N8, 500 in March 2015; now the same bag goes for N25, 000.  I know that a loaf of bread sold 5kobo in 1980 now goes for N350 [N1 = 100k], and a bag of cement sold N3 in 1981 now goes for N2, 500 – an increase of 100,000 per cent. I still remember buying 48 cupfuls of garri with N1 in 1978; today each cupful is sold N100.

As to unemployment, the question should be: how many people in the working age group (15–60 years) are employed? Perhaps 13 per cent.

Some “tested and trusted economic experts” may find my analysis childish. Please ask them where their mature and informed theses have led the country. But economics is not rocket science – it is a way of life, something you can see and feel. When the “experts” want to lie, they tend to confuse us with jargons.

The Nigerian economy cannot get better and prices won’t come down until Nigerians start eating rice and fish produced by their farmers, wearing clothes and shoes made in Aba, and refining crude oil in their refineries with machinery made in Nigeria. That’s the only way jobs can be created too.  And that’s the only way to peace and security.

Let the elite thieves keep accumulating money – it will never solve their problems nor guarantee their security. They may bequeath billions of dollars in several bank accounts to their children, but in which country will their children live to enjoy the loot?



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