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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora