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My Lagos-Ibadan train experience II: When reality bites hard

Without security, even the most enjoyable and pleasant experiences can turn sour without any notice.

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Lagos Ibadan train

So, after my first experience on the Standard Gauge Lagos-Ibadan train in December 2020, I have been on the route on 5 different occasions in each direction since then. The novelty of been a first-time passenger is slowly wearing off and teething issues or what we call the Nigerianness is beginning to rear its ugly head. The only joy I get these days is watching first-time passengers express and enjoy the novelty of a first time on the train and all the overexcited chatter amongst Passengers.

After the Christmas break in Ibadan, I decided to return back to Lagos via the train, and based on the information I had on the schedule, I had to get to the train station in Moniya before 8 am. If you have lived in Ibadan, you will appreciate how we love our beauty sleep, and waking up early is a sport we would not compete in (winning it is reserved for Lagos folks). Getting out of my Estate on the far side of Ibadan and getting to the station before 8 am via the popular Nissan Micra Cabs might be pushing it a bit. The Micra Drivers are notorious for stopping to pick passengers at any and every point and this tends to increase the travel time.

From Elebu I decided to take a Bike all the way to Ojoo which brings me closer to the train station and I could decide to take a cab or another bike. It was a cold January morning and the bike ride to Ojoo seemed to take forever with my facemask doing its utmost best to appear to cover my face (never mind about my nose and mouth), water streaming out of my eyes, and me pretending to keep up a conversation with the rider even though I couldn’t hear a word.

Read Also: FG increases train fare, as Abuja-Kaduna service resumes July 29

We got to Ojoo and I gladly disembarked from the bike and approached a cabman who insisted he would only take a charter to the train station and insisted on charging twice the fare I paid from my house. I politely refused and approached another bike who agreed to charge five hundred naira for the rest of the journey. Cue another long ride with facemask drama, dust, watery eyes, and the cold wind; but we eventually arrived at the station to what looked like a dust storm (the ground around the Station is mostly dust and it has not been tarred or paved).

At the station, there was already a sizeable crowd sitting on the plastic chairs provided for passengers and also at the ticketing/ registration points manned by the NRC Staff. As I pointed out in my previous article, cash is still the only acceptable form of payment and I promptly paid =N=2,500 for an economy ticket after providing a valid means of identification. Thankfully this time, there was no repeat of the scenes in Lagos where we had to endure our names been called out before we could purchase our tickets (I am an optimist and I keep looking for signs of improvement).

At exactly 7:50 am, the sound of a diesel engine announced the arrival of the train into the station (the gist is that it goes back to Kajola Station in Ogun State each night to be cleaned and serviced for the next trip). NRC Officials asked Passengers to please wait a few minutes for us all to be called to board, but as typical Naija folks, people pretended not to hear the advice and still approached the train.

Tickets checked to ensure we were all on the cabin we paid for and were assigned to sit in. The seat allocation system is something a lot of people are going to have to get used to in time. You still hear phrases like “Sebi na to reach where we dey go matter”, or the very scornful “oga when you reach Lagos, make you carry the seat go house” when someone insists on seating on his/her allotted seat. Recall the “anyhowness (please allow me the liberty of making up words, am sure that’s how the everyday words we now use evolved) I mentioned earlier, this is one of the many times it reared its head” and it always brings you back to the reality of where you are.

Exactly 8 am, we began the journey to Lagos and we were in Lagos by 10:30 am as planned. A smooth and uneventful journey and I looked forward to the next train ride as I disembarked at the under-construction Mobolaji Johnson train station in Alagomeji, Yaba.

Read Also: Train 7 project: NLNG reacts after NNPC, others delay decision 

On Friday, February 10, 2021, I decided to embark on an unscheduled trip to Ibadan to surprise my family (more like my wife for Valentine before they accuse me of schmoozing one Lagos babe), and so on, I closed early and went to the train station at Alagomeji. Ticket purchase and boarding have become a  routine and all was done smoothly. I was on board one hour before departure and so I got a chance to watch people. You will be amazed at how much you learn about humans by just sitting and observe people.

Most of the passengers in the cabin I was in were first-time travelers and seeing the almost childlike excitement from gown men and women almost brought a tear to my eyes. Seating was an issue as always, but unlike my first experience, the NRC Staff seemed to have left people to sit where they liked or assumed passengers would sort themselves out. They only paraded themselves in between Cabins and were only concerned with the wearing of facemasks and generally looking very officious. The passengers on the train are a microcosm of us as a people and how we are both different, yet alike and  I will take my time to describe the different kinds of passengers on this most fateful of trips.

Mr. I-Am-a-well-travelled Nigerian was the star of the entire train ride. He conveniently was seated in one of the few seats with a table (I still wonder how they allocate or assign those seats) and could be seen and heard in every corner of the cabin. He had a voice in between loud and bold and I had to applaud his diction and the clarity of his arguments. He had an opinion of almost everything and regaled other passengers with tales of places he had and sundry experiences. Yes, there was a bit of exaggeration, but then which good story doesn’t have? The sole cabin Attendant who seemed to be available for questions was his ultimate showcase for his excellent wit and range.

According to NRC, the train only stops at the Abeokuta and Ibadan Stations for passengers to alight/ board along the entire route. So, we were all left confused when the train stopped at Kajola Station for a considerable length of time at the end of which it resumed the trip. That was when the unfortunate attendant walked into our cabin and was accosted by Mr. I-am-well-travelled and his gang of co-travelers. He was asked why the Train stopped for 10 mins and if there was a mechanical issue, we were not made aware of; to which he casually retorted,” no some of our Staff got off the Train in Kajola and some joined the Train”.

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The answer and the casual manner of his response did not go down well with his audience and he had to stand and endure a 15-minute lecture on why the rules for stopping and boarding must be universal if we are going to have a functional train system. According to them, what if the wife of an NRC bigshot wants to alight at any of the stations where regular passengers can’t get off, that means they will just stop. All in all, Mr. I-Am-A- Well-Travelled was a delight to have on board and life generally would be so boring without people like him around.

Mr. Excitable was a middle-aged man who I was not sure his obvious excitement was based on him been a first-time rider or it was just his everyday nature. He sat across the aisle from Mr. I-Am-Well-Travelled, was a constant listening ear for him, and did not sit down at any point in the entire trip. He let out whoops of joy and excitement at the sights and wonders we all beheld as the train traversed Hills and Rivers. It was both amusing and entertaining seeing a grown man show such childlike joy and exhilaration.

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The Young-Guns got on the train together and subsequently became immersed in their phones and laptops. I discovered toward the end of the journey they were first-time passengers, but their obsession with their gadgets had deprived them of the rich experience offered by the other passengers and the awesome scenery that was there to enjoy. At a point, I had to look over my shoulders at the ladies that walked in together and obviously knew each other but could somehow not keep up any meaningful conversation with each other.  As wonderful as our newfound gadgets are to the ease of living our lives, they are slowly taking away an essential part of human interactions which is face-to-face interaction that enriches our human experience.

So, we approach the Ibadan Ibadan station in Moniya and the reality of our Nigerian situation hits us. There was a light chatter amongst passengers about an ongoing situation developing in the Ojoo area. As we disembarked, an NRC Official was on the Platform and informed us that there was ongoing fighting between Yoruba and Hausa youths and there were reports of burning and looting in the area. According to him, the Cab Drivers and other persons had been made aware of the situation and the alternate routes they could take to avoid the escalating situation.

Off the platform, we went and into the open arms of an army of Taxi Drivers jostling for our attention. Unlike my previous experience, the Cab Drivers themselves organized passengers in groups based on similar destinations. This had the effect of significantly reduced fares and quicker departure times. Four of us cramped into the Taxi and off we went into the unknown that was the Moniya-Ojoo axis that night. It was just past 7 pm and as we approached the Oyo expressway junction from IITA, the road was blocked and we could see flames in the distance. An Amotekun Van speed past us in the opposite direction beckoning us to turn on the expressway to avoid what looked like a brewing conflagration ahead of us.

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As we turned onto the expressway, other vehicles were turning away and facing oncoming traffic on the Oyo bound lane and at this point, some of the other passengers were very apprehensive and asked the driver to join the other vehicles on the other lane. I and another passenger looked ahead and asked him to proceed as the fires were raging one side only and we could safely navigate our way through the mass of young men with Cutlasses and machetes. As we approached them, they asked if there were any Northerners in our midst and asked a particular passenger to say some words in Yoruba before they allowed us safe passage.

After this frightening encounter, it was smooth sailing all the way to Ojoo and down to the University of Ibadan and the rest of Ibadan. The striking difference in the calm around the U.I axis and the chaos in the Moniya-Shasha axis was so striking and it felt like what we just experienced was some sort of movie. Finally, I got home safe and sound, but could not shake the feeling that a very enjoyable train ride could have ended in a dramatic way none of us could have envisaged.

The reality is we cannot insulate ourselves from the reality of the situation on the ground in our nation. Security is key and without it, even the most enjoyable and pleasant experiences can turn sour without any notice. Businesses thrive in a safe and secure environment and as a collective, we have to do all we can to lower the temperature and create an atmosphere of peace for us all to prosper.

On the advice of my wife, my train boarding forays have been suspended till further notice and I have grudgingly reverted to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for now and the trip is not very eventful, so it might provide material for me to write. I will open my eyes more as I go about my business, there is a lot to see; all we have to do is look.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. o Ajayi

    February 20, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    Enjoyed reading this!

  2. Anonymous

    February 20, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    Excellent piece

  3. Anonymous

    February 20, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    1. Being is different from been. One is the present participle while the other is a past participle of the verb be. Watch how you use them. Refer to the third and fifth lines of your article.
    2. February 10 was a Wednesday.

    • Anonymous

      February 21, 2021 at 5:35 pm

      Ah, you are supposed to write a book about your experience, wth.
      Too much words

    • Anatu Green

      February 22, 2021 at 6:36 am

      True.
      That’s the reason why editors are important to any publication.

  4. Seun

    February 20, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    An interesting read. I salute your effort in putting this together.

    I was almost cut up too in the Ojoo area crisis as I journeyed from Shaki that day to back to Lagos. It was surprising to hear about it later that night.

    On the rail route, I hope there are security presence from take off point to the destinations. This is very important.

  5. Yemi

    February 20, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    I did enjoy your stories. Thank you

  6. Fortunes inaya

    February 20, 2021 at 9:40 pm

    This is so hilarious and educating all together. Thank you Mr writer

  7. Adeleke Kazeem

    February 21, 2021 at 12:34 am

    Thanks a mille for this piece…

    • Vivian

      February 23, 2021 at 8:42 am

      Excellently written, it was worth my time… I could actually ictyre every scene. Thanks

  8. Ola Kayode

    February 21, 2021 at 1:00 am

    The title of your article “my Lagos-Ibadan train experience II, When reality bites hard” makes it seem you had nasty experience on the train but your nasty experience didn’t start till you disembarked.

    If the headline is clickbait, it’s slightly excusable but if bit, it’s disingenuous and very much so.

    • Olajumoke

      February 21, 2021 at 9:17 pm

      Exactly! Seems the writer exaggerated the title a tad bit in order to sensationalize it.

      In all it was a good read.

      • Olamipeju Idowu

        February 22, 2021 at 12:16 pm

        You have reminded us of an important national and humanitarian crisis in a light-hearted manner. I love your storytelling skills, Emmanuel.

        Going forward, pls get your articles re-read by someone who will pay attention to details.

        I look forward to the next.

        Best.

  9. Wahab Habeeb

    February 21, 2021 at 1:14 am

    A Well detailed and really captivating piece.
    Nice job, try adding more to do’s and more interesting points to watch out for especially for first-timers.

  10. Austin

    February 21, 2021 at 1:26 am

    Very beautiful article. I look forward to your subsequent articles.

  11. Kunle

    February 21, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Very nice and lovely piece. Well done. I wish I don’t miss out on your subsequent posts.

    • Anonymous

      February 21, 2021 at 12:19 pm

      It is not even excusable for an educated adult to make use of “been” in the place of “being”, much more a journalist, that is what you did twice in this interesting article.

  12. Olatunji Olafasakin

    February 21, 2021 at 8:27 am

    Security of lives and properties is very important in nation building. Looking forward to more travel stories as this. 😊

  13. Meemee

    February 21, 2021 at 11:01 am

    This was a fulfilling read. Nice one.

  14. Gracey

    February 21, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    Your article is captivating, i must say… Do you by any chance know ifthis train travel through the north and where can one board any???

  15. Lydia

    February 21, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article. If I ever see you on the train I will change my carriage for fear of the nickname you might give me😃
    Well done

  16. evelyn brisibe

    February 21, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    I think I was in the same trip to Ibadan with you, I took the train for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed myself, only to spend more than an hour on the road due to the crisis that night, it dampened the pleasure of my trip that day

  17. Anonymous

    February 22, 2021 at 3:19 am

    Good piece, but please distinguish between been and being. You used been instead of being the continuous present tense. Thank you

  18. Grace

    February 22, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Scanned through as I usually do, didn’t really notice errors even if there Were! This article does make a refreshing difference from the real newspaper articles that have extremely embarrassing grammatical bobos which are so rampant these days. No one to put the situation in check!
    To Emmanuel, there is always room for improvement…. The sky is the beginning. Cheers

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Columnists

Currency deregulation and finding the true value of the Naira

Why does a government borrowing heavily choose to subsidize the dollar?

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A colleague said to me, “it’s uncanny how your Central Bank’s policy on Foreign Exchange is similar to that of Zimbabwe of 2008”.

I had to go check what Zimbabwe did and where it led them to.  Zimbabwe. after a bout of hyperinflation, abandoned its currency. Nigeria’s current arrangement may get us there.

It is a good time to own a BDC. BDC licenses can cost as much as N15m now. The same license cost about N3m some years ago. Why has it gone up? A BDC can generate a weekly return of N1.3-1.4m just on a $50k bid.  Most people can live on that. With a spread of N65 on a dollar: official at 410 and parallel at 475, why do you have to sweat?

So what is the impact of this? A long run destruction of the economy, a higher subsidy than calculated on petrol and a significant market distortion. A distortion that profits less than 1% of the population and sending a higher number into poverty.

READ: FG rejects IMF’s advice to devalue the naira

With, until recently, accretion to reserves impaired by low crude prices and low volumes, there is a rapid depletion of the country’s reserves. Why does a government borrowing heavily choose to subsidize the dollar?

The answer is corruption. Corruption played out supported by perceptions of what could happen to the middle class if the Naira were allowed to float. Nigerians tend to politicize the exchange rates. It’s for them a sign of economic management. Governments in power have that awareness. It’s part of the play in sustaining corruption.

The future is bleak. The external reserves shed over a $1billion in the last few weeks. Nigeria is consuming the present and the future. There is really nothing to show for the years of interventions. With the ongoing challenges in security and rising poverty, the destination is going to be a crash.

It is time for market unification. It is time for Nigeria to move to find the true value of the Naira. It must stop the corruption in the markets.

 

Written by Demola Adigun

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Columnists

Tinted windows: A quest for privacy and our collective need to be safe

There is an urgent need to balance out the need for privacy/comfort for vehicle owners and the overall security of the society.

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It is 6:30 pm on a cold harmattan smothered evening on Oregun Road in Lagos, and Sola was driving his friend’s car as they headed for an evening hangout. Fred, the owner of the car is sitting in the front seat as Sola attempts to make a U-turn just before the exit into Opebi Link Road when a commercial motorcyclist (Okada) comes speeding on the driver’s side.

In the ensuing crash, the Okada rider was sent flying into the air and his bike slid into the middle of the road. As is normal in Lagos, a large crowd had gathered taking pictures and generally being a nuisance and when they saw the occupants of the car were all young men, the assumption being that they were drunk and that was the cause of the accident.

A Police patrol team on routine patrol arrived at the scene to forestall the breakdown of law and order and immediately moved the crowd away after pictures of the accident scene had been taken. The experienced Inspector who led the team noticed the windows of the car were dark and heavily tinted- with small holes cut into it to allow a limited view of the side mirrors. This limited the angle of view of the driver as he made the turn and thus the accident.

A very high percentage of accidents at turnings/ intersections in Nigeria are caused by poor visibility on the part of drivers in heavily tinted vehicles. The use of 5% tint (which is the darkest form of tint) is most prevalent in quasi security vehicles such as the Toyota Hilux in convoys and in vehicles owned by personnel of government security agencies.

Tinted windows are a fad amongst Nigerians and a status symbol especially for politicians and the wealthy. Tinted windows are basically two kinds: the factory tinted and the fit for purpose tints installed by the owner of the vehicle. Factory tinted windows have the tint coloured into the windows themselves and so it is not removable; while for the fit for purpose tint involves the use of a layer of film over the glass and it can be removed.

Some of the reasons for a window tint in a vehicle include a level of privacy for the occupants, protection from UV rays / the glare of the sun and to provide a look that is pleasing to the eye. Tints were initially only included in Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) because they do not come with a covered-up luggage area (Boot) and so the tint provided some sort of cover for the items in the Boot from prying eyes.

Factory tinted windows have a pigment inside of the glass themselves; while the purpose fit tints require the installation of a nylon film over the window that creates a tint in varying degrees. The degrees range from 50% which is the same as a factory tint, 35% which is a light and acceptable tint, 25% tint which is dark and acceptable in most instances and the 5% tint which is very dark and not acceptable in most instances.

Factory tint can be found on the rear windows of most new and fairly used SUVs and trucks. Tints are measured by the Visible Light Transmission Percentage (VLT%) in terms of the amount of light (UV rays that they allow into the Vehicle) and the 5% is the extreme of the spectrum with very little light coming through and thus it is very dark inside the vehicle especially at night, while the 50% is the very start of the spectrum with plenty light into the vehicle, thus it is bright).

In Nigeria, the Police determines and regulates the use of tints in vehicles and what is acceptable in the entire Federation. The Laws of the Federal Republic Nigeria places the onus and burden for the regulation of the use of tint in vehicles on the Nigeria Police both as a regulator and enforcer of the rules and procedures.

In the beginning, the Police only licensed vehicles with factory tinted windows, but in recent times the permit has been issued for non-factory tinted windows. According to the regulations, exemptions are issued for owners with a medical requirement for these types of tint for their vehicles and owners are required to provide evidence from government-owned hospitals for the permit to be issued.

Some of the reasons why window darkness is regulated include safety issue for vehicle occupant and other road users (i.e., you cannot see clearly enough especially at night and thus become a danger to yourself and other road users). Secondly, law enforcement officers need to be able to see the occupants of a vehicle at any point in time (this might be for purposes of a routine search or just so that occupants are visible in the event of harm being done to anyone inside the vehicle).

In absence of a clear scope from the Nigeria Police on the acceptable levels of tint, what we have in play in Nigeria is individuals opting for varying levels of tints based on their own desires, needs and their location. The existing laws have been widely ignored and this has led to the proliferation of some of the harshest degrees of tints in vehicles in Nigeria and profiteering by unscrupulous groups and individuals in the market for vehicle tints. Road users have been known to be subject of inducements from law enforcement officers especially on the highways between states in the federation.

There is an urgent need to balance out the need for privacy/comfort for vehicle owners and the overall security of the society. The Nigeria Police has on several occasions raised the alarm about the use of dark tinted vehicles by kidnappers and armed robbers. This led to the issuance of the Tint Permit which required a physical inspection of the vehicle and capturing of the biometrics of the owner.

The non-enforcement of the original policy and its dilution with all manner of exemptions have totally eroded the initial gains of the policy. On the Portal for the tint permit hosted on the website of the Nigerian Police, there is a clear notice to vehicle owners informing them that the permit is only issued for factory tinted vehicles and there is a need to enforce this provision if we are going to eliminate the dangerous levels of tints we presently have on our roads.

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While it is understandable that some individuals want to guard their privacy, public safety comes first.

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