The multi-billion dollar rail system has come under intense scrutiny after a second ‘terrorist’ attack in less than 6 months.
The government of Muhammadu Buhari came in with so much promise after a landslide victory in the general elections in 2015. This was on the back of the promise of “change” after a perceived lack of direction from the prolonged rule of the People’s Democratic Party since 1999.
It was always going to be a tall order to fix things but Nigerians still put their faith in Buhari. Fast forward to 2022 and the perception of the Buhari government is at an extremely low point such that everyone connected with it is not rated highly.
Nigeria has plunged into more problems from increased levels of poverty, economic hardship and insecurity.
While the Buhari government has not been able to meet up a lot of the things promised, much to the displeasure of Nigerians, it has consistently touted itself in one area: infrastructure.
It’s very common for the government to commend itself on a number of ongoing projects such as the rehabilitation of the Second Niger Bridge, various federal roads in the six geopolitical zones raised with Sukuk funds, introducing initiatives to boost the Agricultural sector especially rice production, establishment of more tertiary and vocational institutions among others.
The manner in which they go about it makes one think that is all they are interested in. Even at that, the gains are not so massive with other areas such as energy, healthcare and security still needing serious infrastructural change.
The infrastructure project the incumbent government has lauded the most is the modern railway system connecting the North and South. It is a project still in the works that has cost an estimated $5 billion, with routes between Lagos and Ibadan as well as Abuja and Kaduna, already in operation.
Movement in Nigeria can be a nightmare. Road transport is supposed to be the most accessible and affordable but the reverse is the case with kidnappings and armed robberies ever increasing thanks to the so-called ‘bandits’.
Not forgetting roads going bad due to environmental factors like erosion and man-made errors like poor maintenance. Moving by road is now something that requires intense prayers before embarking on a journey for fear of the unknown.
When it comes to water transport, there’s fear of boats capsizing, making it less of a popular option. For air transport, increased fares and safety concerns from periodic faults with aircrafts give one more worries.
Rail transport is supposed to be the game changer as it is much safer, secure and isn’t supposed to be faced with mechanical problems or security challenges like the others. It thus probably makes sense for the government to brag about the project, at least to instill some confidence in Nigerians.
That, however, changed when an attack occurred on the Abuja-Kaduna route in October 2021. This was then followed by a train on the Lagos-Ibadan route stopping midway after running out of diesel due to a fuel gauge error.
An even bigger problem happened on March 29, 2022 when another ‘terrorist’ attack occurred again on the Abuja-Kaduna train route after an explosive device went off, causing damage to the train and injury to people, with more than 300 on board.
Some were shot at by the terrorists, losing their lives in the process, while others were kidnapped and are yet to be found till date. The incident has left a very dark hole in the hearts of Nigerians who worry that absolutely nothing is safe in the country again.
Indeed, if a train could be attacked in such a manner, the government has nothing to brag about. Safety of citizens should be the foremost responsibility of the government. If it cannot be guaranteed, it will only fuel more distrust of the establishment.
Of course the government has promised to intensify efforts in identifying the culprits of the attack while doing the same in finding the kidnapped victims.
“The various arms of security are working night and day to unravel the mystery surrounding the attack as a whole,” Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, said at a Federal Executive Meeting on Wednesday.
“What I can assure you is that as we speak, the respective arms of the government are actually engaged in getting those victims released.
“It is natural for a father or a mother of a kidnapped person to be worried and to be concerned.’’
It’s all a similar script being played out here. Vague promises of the return of those missing, only for years to run by with no results. It’s been done with the Chibok school girls, the Dapchi school girls and a host of other children and adults taken into captivity but no trace till this very day.
The Buhari government at this point has run out of anything that can give it a positive image. Trying to clean up and mend the reputation might be a little too late as the hurt is too much to bear from affected citizens.
If the government has any pride left, it should simply not brag about anything it sees as an achievement as it will only add more fuel to the fire and will further tarnish the reputation of those within, especially those vying to occupy the seat at Aso Rock that becomes vacant next year.
Disclaimer: This article is the opinion of a Pulse Contributor, it doesn’t reflect the opinions of the company.