News / Africa

Nigerians Skeptical of Rail Revival Plans

A picture taken on September 20, 2012 in Abuja shows a train at standstill on a track under construction at the building site of the Abuja light rail project.
A picture taken on September 20, 2012 in Abuja shows a train at standstill on a track under construction at the building site of the Abuja light rail project.
Heather Murdock
Nigerian leaders have championed the revival of the nation’s rail lines for years.  And with a recent boost in infrastructure funding, the leaders say new trains will create jobs and revitalize the economy.  But some analysts say train projects are one of the Nigerian government’s biggest scams and they note that money for rail transportation in the past has disappeared.

This town is only about 30 kilometers outside of Abuja’s posh city center, but it feels like another country.  A few generators rumble in the marketplace because city power hasn’t been on in weeks.  Most stores are unlit, and shopkeepers say they have never had power in their homes.

Osa sells bright purses and shoes in a store owned with her fiancé, Kenny.  They’ve heard of the city’s latest rail plan, a project that’s expected to get 500,000 commuters from other parts of the Federal Capital Territory surrounding Abuja into the city center for work everyday by 2015. 

Osa is optimistic.  "We should have faith and it should work for us," she said. "Maybe people in the past might have failed us but maybe someone that is coming now will provide it for us".

Kenny, however, has doubts. "2015, to be frank with you, is not going to work.  It’s not going to work.  That I’m sure of because they have not even started anything," he said.  "They’ve not started anything.  It’s not going to work."

Chinese boost

Despite past disappointments, some officials say it will work this time, because this time they have the money to do it.  A Chinese loan of $500 million will cover more than half of the nearly $825 million project, which includes two of six planned rail lines. 

Jonathan A. Ivoke, the executive secretary for the Federal Capital Territory Administration transportation department, says workers have started building the first two lines, and the other four are expected to be done over the next ten years.

“The project was invigorated," he said. "The issue of the scope of work, the issue of consultancy and the issue of funding was solved.  So we are expecting that with these assurances set aside that nothing will inhibit the project, except maybe supernatural issues."

Ivoke says for Nigerians living in the many "satellite towns" surrounding the capital, the trains will make life easier by alleviating the grueling traffic into the city and give the economy a much-needed boost. 

"Transportation is an enabler of the economy," he said. "When people move from place to place, they go from their house to their work place, from their house to the market place.  From their house to the offices, from their house to the school.  The meaning is that they are carrying out economic activities."

Previous disappointments

It’s hard to find a person in Abuja who doesn’t agree with Ivoke on this point.  The director of the Institute for Anti-Corruption Studies at the University of Abuja, Kabir Mato, says without trains, consumer goods plod across the country on trucks, keeping prices high while most people live in absolute poverty.

But he says he’s tired of train plans because these have been floating around since before Nigeria transitioned to democracy in 1998.  The current Abuja rail project was first conceived in 2006 and the government says it’s 22 percent complete. 

"From the military days up to this moment, governments have kept the promise going that we will revive the railway system," he said. "A lot of monies are appropriated on an annual basis.  And perhaps by the end of every financial year 50, 60 or 70 percent of the appropriated amount is expended.  But trains are not moving.  Trains are not moving."

Mato says the larger the project is in Nigeria, the more likely the funds will be stolen.  If even half the money set aside for train projects had actually been spent on train projects in the past, he says, there would be trains everywhere.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid