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Ticketing, social distancing, seat drama, my experience on Lagos-Ibadan train ride

A first-time passenger shares an interesting and captivating experience from his Lagos-Ibadan train ride.

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“Daddy when are you coming back home? You said Tuesday the other day, now it’s Wednesday morning and you are still in Lagos; just say you are not coming soon…”

With those words, my 11-year-old daughter made my mind up for me. I had to leave Lagos that Wednesday back to Ibadan or else I would face some sort of revolt whenever I got home.

This was December 23rd, 2 days to Christmas and I did not fancy facing a mini rebellion from 3 young kids (with the tacit support of their mum of course), and so the decision was made to find my way to Ibadan unfailingly that.

Full disclosure before I proceed, I am a ‘Man-Chelor’ one of many scattered all over the nation and thriving so it seems. So what’s a ‘Man-Chelor’? It’s a completely made-up word that describes a married man that lives in a separate town or state from his family and usually has to commute to spend time with family during festive period especially. It can be very lonely e.g. food is a constant challenge, but it does have its perks (that’s according to some men, not me for the records).

The idea was birthed

Based on the tone in my daughter’s voice, it was a question of how to get to Ibadan in one piece and in the right state of mind which is not something that the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway can be said to give to any sane human being. I was in Lekki and this was 9am on Wednesday morning and I had my eureka moment.

I could take the train! I had read about the commencement of the Lagos-Ibadan rail and I quickly looked up the schedule seen on social media and the train departs Lagos by 4pm. I lived in Akoka on the Mainland and I could get home on time, pack and get to the station at the Alagomeji end of Muritala Muhammed Way on time to board the Train.

So I set off from Lekki at 11:45 am, got to Obalende to take a bus to Yaba, and if all goes well I could be home, freshen up and be at the station ahead of schedule. I got on the bus at Obalande and the bus was ready to move by 12:14 and I thought to myself I was way ahead of schedule, but Lagos has a way of messing with you; ahead of me on the bridge was massive traffic.

Apparently, the Mainland bound lane on Third Mainland Bridge has not yet been open and we were all stuck while waiting for it to open. For those that live outside Lagos, we have had to endure a partial closure of the Third Mainland Bridge for months now and the Mainland bound lane is closed to traffic till noon each day on paper; In reality, the traffic officials have to ensure all the traffic diverted from the Island-bound lane is completely off the lane before it is opened.

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So, most times you have to wait till 1pm before it is opened for mainland traffic. Anyway, as a good Lagosian, I sat down in the bus and enjoyed/ endured the usual bus banter amongst passengers which traffic tends to escalate.

Arrival at the train station and ticketing

I got home, took a bike (no the banning is more of an advisory to the Okada riders) from Akoka to Alagomeji and arrived at the train station at 14:50 to meet a large crowd outside the entrance of the Terminus (what is it with Nigerian Officials and making us huddle together in the middle of a pandemic?)

I joined the crowd and discovered we all had to put down our names and show a valid I.D Card before we could be allowed to purchase our tickets. Good thing I was aware of the I.D requirement and promptly produced mine to the NRC staff, who was one of a group of 3 staff taking down names.

Next, we had to wait while another Staff called out our names and you had to indicate and approach the gate for your temperature to be taken before you were allowed to approach the ticketing booths (only cash payments are allowed for now and a few folks had to scurry down to the nearest ATM to withdraw cash).

Eventually, we waited for like 10 minutes after putting down our names and nobody was calling us in, a few people approached the NRC staff and we were allowed to purchase tickets without our names being called out. I was kind of relieved my name was not called out, it felt a lot like being a kid in school all over again, but being able to buy a ticket without our names being tied to any particular ticket sort of defeated the purpose of providing identification in the first place.

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I walked up to one of the Ticketing Counters and promptly purchased a ticket for the economy carriage for N2,500 and off I went to the platform. The sight of the train with its gleaming colours and exterior under the bright Lagos Sun made me proud and some sort of patriotic zeal briefly ran through me.

Ahead, I could see other Passengers as they formed a very orderly queue to be screened before boarding the train. The platform like most of the imposing new station was still under construction and workers could be seen hard at work as you approached the train. Screening involved checks with a hand-held scanner and you were met at the entrance by a NSCDC Official, who was courteous and firm as he told you what carriage your ticket belonged to.

Stepping into a train for the first time and the ride

That feeling of stepping onto a train for the first time (maybe some folks had taken trains abroad), but few Nigerians can claim to have been on a train or have any memories of trains in the last 30 years. That patriotic zeal I described earlier ran through me and this time it was unmistakable. Since the Super Eagles had abdicated their God-given mandate to awaken our patriotic zeal, many Nigerians had forgotten what it feels like to feel that patriotic zeal. It was evident in the eyes of the passengers  and in their lively conversations all through the train ride.

A mild drama ensued amongst most of the passengers due to the numbers on the ticket and how it relates to who sits where. Due to social distancing requirements, only 2 passengers were allowed to sit in the rows of 3 and 1 passenger sat alone in the rows for 2.

So, the issue was who got to sit in the aisle and who sat near the coveted window seat. I sat down by the window and had a birds-eye view of the entire journey. The train set out from the Ebutte-Metta Station at 16:05 and moved slowly out of the station with an initial speed of between 25-45 kmph.

In a few minutes, we had passed Yaba and was already approaching Oshodi. Approaching the Agege Station, the elevated view provides a panoramic view of the entire area. One take I had from the different views the train provided was that Lagos was environmentally flawed and was swimming under a sea of sachet water nylon and styrofoam packs used for food takeaway at various celebrations.

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On the stretch of the rail line inside Lagos, you can see structures and houses that appear to have grudgingly moved out of the Right of Way of the Rail line and would not hesitate to encroach if they had their way. There are also the traders that line most of the route that passes through a market and just appear to shift just enough for the train to pass. Urgent action needs to be taken to prevent what is an accident waiting to happen (except it’s some kind of social experiment to know Lagosians’ threshold for pain and disaster).

My best views on the train ride were on the bridge as we approached the Kajola and Abeokuta Train Stations. The view is breath-taking and no words can describe it. You can just see lush green land mixed with Rivers and Streams in all directions and very few passengers could resist the urge to take pictures on both approaches.

It took approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from Ebutte Metta to Abeokuta through bridges and tunnels and we finally reached the Moniya Station in Ibadan, exactly 2 hours 30 minutes after we started the trip. An announcement came on asking all the passengers to wait until the train hostesses (at least I hoped that’s what they are called) come to show us in which direction to alight from.

Arrival at Ibadan

We all alighted into a station under construction like all the others and bathed in flood lights. This is the part of the trip where we realised we were still in Nigeria and that earlier described patriotic zeal seemed to evaporate in the wind.

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Moniya Station is technically on the other side of the main Ibadan at least for me and navigating back to the center of town was a big challenge. The passengers who had prior experience of the train and its final stop had made prior arrangements for transportation from the Station. The rest of us had to scramble for the 8 cabs/charter taxis that were on ground.

As a sharp Lagos boy, I quickly assessed the situation and found 2 other passengers who were heading in the same direction as I was, a kind of carpool. We quickly found a willing driver and agreed on a fare which we would split.

There was no point haggling over fare at that time of the day and in the area where the station is located. As we exited the dirt road from the Station, I noticed it was on the main road leading to Iseyin and Saki and led back in the other direction towards IITA to Ojoo in Ibadan. I engaged Laide, the cab guy who agreed to take us to Ring Road on the other side of town and according to him we were 220 passengers on the train. This he said was disclosed to them by the NRC Staff who gave them the figures to allow them get adequate number of cars and taxis to the station to pick passengers as they arrive.

In the absence of a shuttle service, this appeared to be the best arrangement they could come up with in the interim. On this particular evening, the cabs were not enough and most passengers appeared to be stranded. The public-spirited Laide called the local Taxi Union Chairman in Ojoo park to let him know, so he could send more cabs.

This aspect of the trip sort of dampened the excitement but all in all, it’s a ride I would encourage everyone to undertake, at least for the bragging rights of experiencing the much talked about Lagos-Ibadan Train ride.

My takes from the trip

  • In the interim, there is a need to adjust the times for the trip to allow people arriving in Ibadan ample time to get home before it gets dark.
  • Construct some kind of a barrier to maintain the rail’s right of way
  • Move back the traders along the train’s route.

It is just the first few weeks of the test run, so we cannot be too harsh on the Operators. All in all, it was a very smooth and enjoyable ride.

I intend to take the train back to Lagos to have another experience I hope I can share. I will keep you updated.

 

Written by Emmanuel Ojie

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    Columnists

    IMF revised growth projection: a tale of vaccinated optimism

    In Q4 2020, the economy surprisingly escaped recession evidenced by the 0.11% y/y rise in GDP.

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    Explainer: What does GDP actually mean, and how does it affect you?

    Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised its Nigerian growth projection for FY 2021 from 1.5% to 2.5% in its World Economic Outlook.

    According to the IMF, the improved optimism stems from the expectation that available vaccines would continue to quell the diverse mutations of the coronavirus, which had surfaced in different strains recently. The IMF also cited the effectiveness of policy supports in the short to medium term.

    Recall that the Nigerian economy closed FY 2020 in the negative (-1.8% y/y), having suffered consecutive growth contraction in Q2 and Q3 2020, leading to the economic recession. Worthy of note is that in Q4 2020, the economy surprisingly escaped recession evidenced by the 0.11% y/y rise in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) following the relaxation of the lockdown measures starting in July 2020.

    READ: Real estate sector GDP positive in Q4 2020, but still in the woods

    The recent adjustment of the IMF’s forecast is hinged on some expectations. One, the OPEC+ alliances will continue to manage crude oil supply. Hence, more activities in the Nigerian oil sector which constituted an average of 8.52% of the total GDP in the last two years. Secondly, the coronavirus curve will continue to flatten amid the mass deployment of vaccines, while the stop-gap measures adopted at the heat of the virus would continue to spur economic activities toward the pre-pandemic levels thus fuelling the necessary recovery.

    Whilst we note that the forecast is achievable going by the current macro-economic clime amid the low base from the dip in FY2020, there are some downside concerns. For instance, the continued spate of insecurity does not bode well for the agricultural sector (which contributed 25.54% to GDP in the past two years).

    READ: IMF lifts 2021 global GDP growth to 6%

    The ongoing NIN-SIM integration portends the likelihood of stiffening the performance of the telecommunication sector (one of the key drivers of the recovery in Q4 2020) if not quickly nipped.

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    Reiterating our positions on the need to optimize the economy further, the government needs to bridge the existing infrastructure deficit, diversify its source of foreign exchange receipt, eliminate bureaucracies that stifle businesses, and promote measured economic liberality that suits the nation.


    CSL Stockbrokers Limited, Lagos (CSLS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria. CSLS is a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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    Columnists

    Did OPEC+ April fool the oil market?

    OPEC+ understands the sensitivity of the oil markets, so it prepares accordingly.

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    Saudi, Russia agree to cut oil by 20 million barrel, Further oil production cut required to keep oil price above $40 in 2020 , OPEC + deal to boost Nigeria’s earnings by $2.8 Billion

    Before the April 1st meeting of OPEC members, the consensus was that OPEC+ would roll over cuts. This was clearly because last month’s rollover was the right decision, as Saudi Arabia said the group’s cautious approach had brought dividends.

    When the market corrected last month, limited supply gave prices the support it needed. In an event where production cuts were eased last month, oil prices would have declined further than what we witnessed.

    However, the group decided to increase output albeit gradually. The increase in output is an optimistic decision that there will be an increase in demand. The demand recovery will begin this summer as vaccines would have been rolled out and accelerated. More people will travel as economies begin to open, hence a return to jet fuel. The decision is clearly a U-turn on their cautious strategy in recent months.

    READ: Why NNPC should be commercialised

    Oil prices follow an “up the stairs,” “down like an elevator” movement. Understandably, OPEC+ understands the sensitivity of the oil markets, so it prepares accordingly. The JMMC technical meetings that precede OPEC policy meetings highlights how much the decision-making process entails. This month, there were no policy recommendations the first joker card played.

    So on Thursday, the 1st of April, when discussions on easing cuts were debated, it appeared as a surprise. The demand for more oil was much lower than it had been before the March meeting.

    Nigeria supported a rollover of the cuts. However, there have been question marks on the country’s conformity and honouring its compensation plan, just like Iraq and Kazakhstanboth oil-producing nations who have also submitted their compensation cuts.

    The importance of conformity and compensation plans cannot be overstressed, especially as OPEC+’s excess oil production rose to 3 million bpd as reported last week. The extension of the compensation plan till the end of September, which was recommended by JMMC, is to protect the interests of the group.

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    In addition, the oil ministers of Angola and Oman supported a rollover. The rollover discussed was for the month of May. During the meetings, traders were curious about updates on Saudi’s 1 million voluntary cut and if Russia would ask for another exemption.

    READ: Saudi government reports drone attack on Riyadh oil refinery

    During the meeting, Algeria’s minister suggested a two-month rollover which was different from the one-month rollover, plus gradual easing of cuts that the United Arab Emirates supported. Bahrain and Brunei supported a rollover. Kuwait as well. At that point, Saudi Arabia noted the oil ministers who were in agreement with either a one-month rollover or two-month rollover.

    Notably, Saudi Arabia’s minister pointed out that as summer approached, there was avenue for domestic demand to rise and the need to gradually increase output in the second half of the year. It was on this premise that sources revealed that Saudi Arabia might ease their voluntary one million cut by May.

    According to sources, Saudi proposed: May 350k OPEC+ ease and 250k KSA, June 350k OPEC+ ease and 250k KSA, and July the remainder to reach 5.6m barrels.

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    Russia agreed with Saudi’s proposal (a very cordial relationship developing between both nations). At this point, it appeared that the group was in support of a gradual increase in output.

    READ: Nigeria’s new and ambitious offshore crude prospects excites IOCs

    Saudi Arabia emphasised the compliance aspect again, as it appeared that some countries were taking advantage of other countries’ cuts.

    The group finally reached a consensus on a gradual increase for a 3-month periodthe last joker that gave oil traders the poker face.

    The easing would be May 350k, June 350k, and July 450k for OPEC+. For Saudi Arabia, it would be May 250K, June 350K, July 400k.

    Prior to the meeting, the U.S energy secretary had emphasized that affordable and reliable means of energy should be the priority of Saudi Arabia and its counterparts. However, the Saudi energy minister denied its role in their decision. Perhaps this might have prompted the decision of the group. Debates on Joe Biden’s energy policy ensued afterwards. Analysts claim Joe Biden cared about clean energy and cheaper gasoline, and not the profitability of Shale.

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    Unity appears to be guiding OPEC’s recent decisions and prices have been stable, unlike last year’s tumultuous crash after the group’s division.

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