Lagos – Ibadan: Train passengers without tickets to be charged N20,000 fine – NRC MD

Recently, a video of some workers of the Nigerian Railway Corporation collecting money from passengers onboard the Lagos-Ibadan train surfaced online, leading to a backlash and calls for sanctions. In this interview by TOLA ADENUBI, the Managing Director of the NRC, Engineer Fidet Okhiria reveals what could come next….

These questions were been asked during the interview 👇🏿

When you saw the video of some of your workers collecting cash from passengers onboard the Lagos-Ibadan train, were you disturbed?

“I was seriously disturbed that despite all the disciplinary measures that we have taken against errant staff in the past on same issues, some workers could still indulge in such actions. After serious warnings handed out to NRC officials, that some of them could still go and ask for cash from passengers onboard the Lagos-Ibadan train was something that got me worried. I believe that the only approach to get rid of this menace is to continue to eliminate those workers that come foul of the regulations guiding the operations of the NRC. On the latest one that happened on the Lagos-Ibadan train, we have placed them on suspension already. They are nine in number; six station staff and three monitoring officers. The three monitoring officers are supposed to monitor the train to ensure that people pay the right fare. To think that they got themselves involved in such practice is unbecoming of our standard. We also want to thank the lady who shared the video online for escalating it. I want to appeal to Nigerians that on no account should they go and board any of our trains without obtaining a ticket. We don’t sell tickets inside the trains. Any passenger who wants to board our trains should ensure that he or she has obtained tickets from the station. Any passenger caught without ticket onboard our trains will be slammed a N20,000 penalty. After the issuance of a N20,000 penalty ticket, such passenger will be handed over to the police for proper prosecution and payment of the penalty. That is the law guiding our operations.

Aside suspension and dismissal, is there any other effort aimed at stopping this issue of staff asking for cash from passengers?

Yes, what we are putting in place to end this menace is e-ticketing. We have been going through the process for the past four years, and we have finally got the concession approval for the e-ticketing. The contractor is already deploying it, but it’s not something we can just open to the general public immediately. There has to be a trial run of the process to test its reliability and functionality. It is a process that remits payments automatically into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of government and thus, it has to be tested before being thrown open for use by the general public. We will be commencing a trial run of the e-ticketing process on the 16th of October 2023. Hopefully by the 23rd of October, 2023, we may launch it officially if everything goes as planned. It’s a process that also requires the integration of the National Identification Number (NIN) for security purposes.

Why has it taken this long for e-ticketing to come onboard the Lagos-Ibadan and Warri-Itakpe train?

We first needed to go to ICRC and only got the first approval around April of 2023. After the first approval, we signed and finalized the necessary documents and the contractor had to bring in their hardware. No two lines are the same. Every line, Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Warri-Itakpe are different. The coaches and tracks might look the same, but terrain, stations and sitting arrangement differs. Each line has their uniqueness and differences. E-ticketing involves payment of money, so it is better to put necessary steps in place to avoid stories that tell.

Now that the nine workers have been placed on suspension, is there a possibility of them being dismissed?

Yes, they can be dismissed if found guilty by the management committee set up to investigate the infraction. We have dismissed several workers for similar infractions in the past. We normally do due diligence to ensure that nobody goes to Court tomorrow for wrongful dismissal and start dragging us with litigation issues. We normally investigate this kind of issues and arrive at what form of prosecution with the aid of the Public Service Rules (PSR). As I speak to you, they are on suspension and their respective managers have been asked to issue them a query. A management committee has been set up to be chaired by the director of Operations. The Committee will interrogate and investigate the issue before recommending to management what sanction should be meted out to the suspended workers.

How much of revenue is NRC losing to incidents like this?

Definitely, we are losing revenue. Even if it is just one person that fails to purchase his ticket, the NRC has lost money. Not at this time when the cost of diesel is skyrocketing. We run our trains on diesel and sourcing for diesel is an issue for us. So, its important that we earn the needed revenue to continue to run our operations while also remitting to the TSA what should go to government.

Has the NRC been able to break even given the high cost of diesel?

If you say break even, it depends on the angle you are looking at it. Yes, we still manage to get money to buy diesel, but sometimes, we owe the diesel suppliers. With the new Finance Act, any money we earn, 20 percent goes to government. So you see that it is not all the money that we earn that is available for us to use. We always struggle to ensure that the trains don’t stop working due to a lack of diesel. But now that we have begun freight operations, we are currently moving cargoes from the Lagos Port to Ibadan and also moving cement from Papalanto. This freight services are helping us to shore up our revenue. It costs us less to move cargoes than to move people. With cargoes, you don’t have to worry about the air condition coaches or any passenger wanting to misbehave. We have more police and Civil Defence operatives following the passenger trains than the cargo trains. So you can see that it costs us far less to run cargo train compared to what we spend when we run passenger trains.

Culled from Tribuneonline