How racketeering, fraud threaten Railway’s e-ticketing platform

Following complaints by passengers of the Nigerian Railway Corporation rail service, the Federal Government introduced the e-ticketing platform to checkmate the fraudulent practices at the various stations, especially those on the Abuja-Kaduna corridor. FAITH YAHAYA reports that despite this measure, there are still compromises of these seemingly foolproof measures.

Most Nigerians preferred land transportation to air and sea modes of movement from one point to the other. But that was then. These days, more Nigerians have a preference for the rail mode of movement. Several factors contributed to why the majority of travellers jettison their once chosen means of transportation.

Lack of sustained infrastructural development, especially roads has left the existing ones dilapidated. Travelling by road became something of an afterthought. This is so because the traumata travellers encounter while journeying to their various destination in their cars are better imagined. They sit in their cars for never-ending hours. The experiences are sickly sweet.

Added to the problem of bad roads that make travelling by land hellishly dangerous is the bourgeoning insecurity in the country; a situation that has encouraged more Nigerians, especially the affluent, to embrace the rail mode of transportation.

Of late, the Federal Government has realised the need to diversify the transport infrastructure by building more roads and rail lines to mitigate the problem associated with land means of transport.

One of the rail lines built by the government is the Abuja-Kaduna train service. This action has resulted in serious passenger traffic. The traffic makes it difficult for passengers to secure seats in the coaches. Securing a seat usually requires the purchase of a ticket which would be shown to the officials at the various stations before one is allowed to board the train.

The high demand for the tickets has created an opportunity for sharp practices at the stations. Some corrupt officials have devised means of selling tickets to desperate passengers at under-the-counter rates. With the fear of abduction, and robbery on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway, and other roads in Nigeria, some passengers have no option than to buy the ticket at exorbitant prices.

There were several complaints in the past by passengers and concerned Nigerians over the hardship most people go through just to get a ticket to travel on the Abuja-Kaduna train service. There were cases of ticket racketeering which were mostly attributed to the members of staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) working at the various stations along the route.

The attention of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi was drawn to it and he threatened to sack perpetrators of the act during his unscheduled visits to the stations.

One would have thought that the threat would have reduced the act but the perpetrators seem to always be a step ahead as they have found a way around their fraudulent practice which continues to boom. Following the complaints and continuous practice, the Ministry of Transportation worked with the Nigerian Railway Corporation and decided to introduce the e-ticketing platform as a measure to check and eradicate ticket racketeering practice, and increase passenger fare purchase options.

It was estimated that the e-ticket sale will generate N16 billion by 2029. The late Director-General of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Chidi Izuwah had said that the sale of an online ticket for train services would hit N16 billion by 2029.

He said: “Financial model shows that NRC and the Federal Government will earn over N16 billion as revenue from e-ticketing by 2029. That will provide additional revenue for the government.”

On the introduction of the online platform, the Minister, a few years ago, said: “I agree that it is a solution to the madness that we have in Rigasa Station down to Idu. It will go a long way to reduce the madness because if people can buy their tickets from their offices and homes, they will not be coming to the train station to cause the chaos we are seeing there.”

In January this year, in response to the yearnings of people, Amaechi launched the N900 million e-ticketing platform of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would ensure that passengers get a better travel experience from the country’s train service network.

He said: “Today marks the beginning of the automation of ticket sales in all our major stations on the Abuja-Kaduna train service. I believe that deploying the secured ticketing solution is in line with world best practice and will enhance efficiency, save time and promote accountability while also reducing leakages and promoting economic growth.”

Sadly, barely three months after e-ticketing was introduced, it is faced with some challenges. Currently, there are reports of renewed ticket racketeering and fraud.

The Minister, during a world press conference recently, disclosed that those breaching the e-ticketing platform smiled home during the Easter break as they sold tickets at exorbitant prices. He alleged that the perpetrators were conniving with members of staff of the NRC and the SecureID Limited (the company responsible for the e-ticket platform) at the various stations. He expressed fear that if the practice is not checked, it could lead to serious challenge.

The Minister said: “I have consistently said that members of NRC staff would try to breach what we put in place and if they match ID to the purchaser, there will be no problem but when they want to breach it, they don’t ask for ID.

Culled from The Nation

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