By IKENNA EMEWU
In about 2007, the government of Nigeria conceived the idea of enhancing the transportation possibilities of the federal capital.
This was a three-pronged: plan of easier movement within the city of Abuja; into the city of Abuja and out of the city.
The cumulative effort was to make sure that the city with better, easier and more affordable transport system would foster more virile and bigger economy for the city and by extension the country.
Therefore, in July 2016, the Abuja-Kaduna railway link came into operation. Some one year into the operation of the service, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) disclosed that the railway link moved over five million passengers between the two cities.
In a nutshell, the General Manager of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), Engr. Tao Tong, in charge of the railway projects told ACE Online that the Abuja Railway Mass Transportation (ARMT) is the first rail mass transit project in Nigeria history and the first country to provide mass transit transportation in West Africa. It’s social and impacts target are:
To greatly reduce the burden of the masses for transportation as one of the fastest means of transportation.
Increase the surrounding land value and movement of downtown populace to satellite towns will be increased as it will also promote capital economic development.
The project will provide enormous job opportunities for the teeming Nigerian labour market during operation.
Local excellent operation management team and talents will be trained for Nigeria Mass Transit System in future.
The project shall be helpful to improve the Nigerian external influence and further cement the friendly relations and diplomatic ties between Nigeria and China.
The Abuja-Kaduna highway for years was the most dreaded transport route in Nigeria with almost daily robbery and kidnap attacks.
But the railway option has been found to be far safer, faster, more convenient and accessible from the Idu terminal station and the Kubwa station.
However, beyond these benefits already known, there is the tourism advantage also built into the project.
ACE Online witnessed it this week during a pleasure ride with the intent of discovering the tourism benefits of the railway transport between the two cities.
It is a pleasurable trip sitting in the cozy, comfortable and air-conditioned train cars and savouring the beauty of the landscape and countryside travelling between Nigeria’s capital city and the old northern regional capital.
Someone just hopping on the train and taking a tour is enough sight-seeing, vacation and education.
The trip of 2.15 hours from the Idu terminal enables the beautiful rocky mountains of the north central Nigeria region unfold before the traveller. It is also a rare opportunity to see the vast flatlands, valleys, farm fields, rivers, ravines and rivulets that dot the entire stretch.
With the good view of the landscape, the trip also brings a discovery of the villages that dot the land, the industrious Nigerians in the hinterlands as they labour in the rain and sun in their fields and their efforts and great contribution put into growing food for the entire population of Nigeria.
Their efforts look so commendable that even one that had overlooked the benefits and the dignity of labour would be forced into a rethink.
Such tour opens one’s eyes to the reality and the need for our local farmers to get some aid in mechanization of their food production processes in cultivation, tending, harvesting, processing and movement of their outputs to the markets.
The poor and hapless rural farmers still do everything from cassava, rice, corn, cereal and vegetable cultivation with their bare hands.
Makes you see imbalances
As the long vehicle hurtles by, the seeming opulence and privilege of the good-looking urban families and travelers aboard the train stands out in sharp contrast with the poverty stricken toiling farmers in their fields.
It is a trip many Nigerians living with privileges should take and think deeper about the need to create a semblance of equality of the citizens.
Seated relaxed in the coaches brought in from China and the infrastructure also built by the Chinese construction firm (CCECC), the ride brought back a good recall of the joy of riding on speed trains all over China from Qingdao to Qufu in Shandong Province, from Hangzhou to Guangzhou, from Fuzhou to Shanghai, from Guangzhou to Guiyang and Chongqing back to Beijing.
Railway transportation has over the years grown to the most accessible, affordable and comfortable transport system in China, the country with the best railway technology and transportation.
It brings a wish and longing that the CCECC projects paid for by the government of Nigeria would add value to the nation’s economy and tourism through a virile railway transportation system.