STILL WAITING FOR START OF EASTERN RAILWAY CORRIDOR
BY DONS EZE
On March 9, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari performed the ground breaking ceremony of Eastern Railway Corridor rehabilitation in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, amidst mixed reactions stemming from the fact that the Eastern Railway corridor was to run on the obsolete narrow gauge track, while the Western Railway corridor and other rail lines in different parts of the country, which started much earlier, are running on the modern standard gauge track.
To some people from the eastern part of the country, there was not much to celebrate about the rehabilitation project, because, to them, the government’s action appears to be an official endorsement of apartheid system, whereby the easterners were being treated as second class citizens.
Why should other railway lines across the country run on modern standard gauge with loans obtained from China, which all of us would, on maturity, pay back, while the eastern corridor was excluded, or run on obsolete narrow gauge? This was humiliating. Nevertheless, the people decided to accept what they were given in good faith, after all, as they say, “half bread is better than nothing”.Let something start happening, they said.
The people of the East are great travellers, and they are commercially oriented. The non-functionality of the railway for a very long time has done them uncountable harm. It has deprived them of many things. They would be very glad to see the railway return to life again, no matter how antiquated the rail lines passing from their end would be.
A few days ago, I visited the Enugu station of the Eastern wing of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, but saw that there was nothing practically going on there. There was nothing happening, no activity. All the offices were firmly locked up, while the entire place was completely deserted.
However, in what used to be the passengers’ louge, I saw some people lying on the bare floor, perhaps, sleeping. Whether they were people with some loose nuts in their heads, I did not know. I did not talk to them. I simply looked around and left.
Then, I tried to take some few steps along the rail lines, but saw that the grasses there were taller than my height. So, I did not continue, but made an about turn, else some dangerous reptiles hibernating inside these grasses, made a mince meat of me.
We now begin to ask: how about the rehabilitation work of the Eastern Corridor of the Railway, which our President with fanfare, flagged off about five months ago, since early March this year? When is the actual work starting, or has it started elsewhere, with Enugu still in the waiting? Or, is it still in the pipeline, or, have they done us the more you look, the less you see? So many questions.
This administration has spent more than six years, and since then, nobody from this part of the country has travelled by rail. All the roads in the East are in deplorable states, dilapidated, and very dangerous to travel by, while to travel by air is unpredictable.
We again ask, what is the fate of the people of the East? Which side them dey?
Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI