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The Journey On A Train

The Journey On A TrainIt was a bright Tuesday morning at exactly 8:00 am, on 30th, August 2017. The streets of Lagos were busy as people were already set for work. While so many were battling with the traffic congestions on the roads, probably some would already have been at work. One could hear the mixture of pleasant and unpleasant noises on the streets ranging from advert screams from traders, vehicles horn and the usual activities of the Lagos bus conductors.

“Oyingbo, Costain, Oyingbo” the dark short conductor with almost toothless mouth “shadowed” me and I joined the transit without wasting time. “Shadow” is a term used in describing the process of wooing passengers to join the commercial buses in Lagos. This time around MMS plus was paying another August visit to the NRC to continue with an investigation into the alleged fraud in the corporation.

Again, I wasn’t impressed with sight of the facilities and trains at the Ebute Metta (EB) station; however, I continued on my mission. I had adequately prepared myself and decided to see things for myself as advised by the workers I interacted with during my previous visits.

I arrived at the EB station at about 11:30 am for the afternoons Train which in learnt would take off between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm. Since I knew some of the staff might know me, I quickly mingled with some of the passengers waiting for the train as well. I was however not too lucky because the train was delayed.

“What kind of country is this? I have been here since morning with the aim of catching up with the 8:00 am train but up till now the train hasn’t moved and there is no assurance that it will come” a woman said out of frustration as a little child she was carrying on her back screamed.

It was already around 2:00pm and no information was given out at least to console the passengers. One of the young men had told me in the course of our interaction that the Train often disappoints and so he wasn’t bothered with what was happening.  I quickly seized the medium to discuss with him the possibility of not paying the designated fare for tickets while on board.

“That’s what I do; in fact I can’t remember the last time we paid for tickets. You can ask my brother here, obtaining the normal ticket amounts to a waste of money when you can maneuver your way by just giving the checker stipends inside the train.” One of the passengers educated me.

“But how can I do it? Because I am only with N100 and I am going to Ijoku (from Ebute= Metta to Ijoku). I am afraid the checker might hand me over to the task force or police” I asked

“This must be your first time on the Train. Look, I am supposed to pay nothing less than N500 each for the two rams and the tickets for the three of us N690 (N230 each) making  the total of N1,690 but I will just give them N500 and they will even collect it joyfully because it will go to their personal pockets.” he responded confidently

“when you enter, you may be lucky to be seated amidst those guys that understands (regularly board the train without tickets) they will ask you to contribute so that they give it to the checker in bulk but if you are not, just tell the checker you don’t have ticket and give him whatever you have. At times they can take N150 from you or less. It depends on your bargaining strength. Even if he shouts, don’t panic, they are working hand in hand with the task force. He would only want you to increase the settlement and if you don’t have, he will take whatever you give him” he told me in a convincing tone.

At this point I knew I was with the right people to help my investigation. I was able to ascertain the veracity of the alleged fraud of passengers evading tickets as a regular habit on Lagos Train.

“Now I am getting to the root but I must board the train and see things” I said to myself.

At about 3:45 am, the train headed towards Iddo and after some minutes the bell was rung indicating tickets sale. The train approached around 5:20 pm and I joined others in struggling for a seat but unfortunately I missed my friends in the course of struggle. They probably had entered another coach.

Without wasting time, the thunderous horn of the train sounded, indicating its readiness to move. This of course would be my first experience on the Train. I was lucky to get one among the dirty and stinking seats. The whole place was littered with faeces and smelling unpleasantly. To make things worse, the woman sitting next to me began to narrate how she mistakenly stepped on faeces on that same place prior our arrival that she had to buy a bag of sachet water to clean the place before she could sit. The stinking seat was the evidence to her story.

The entire Train was very old and dirty, quite rough and activities on the Train were not coordinated as sellers gallivanted from one coach to the other in advertising their products. As we proceeded, the train bends from one side to the other as if it was going to fall. I hardly had a space to breathe as the entire place was filled to the brim. Without exaggeration, those standing seem to be more than people sitting. My informant had advised me to endeavor to follow the Train to Ikeja before alighting.

When it was few kilometers to Oshodi, I saw two young men putting on a green apron with NRC inscription on the backside. One was at the entrance of the coach while the other was doing the checking. He collected people’s ticket, stapled and returned it to the owner. I was already thinking of how to handle my own case because I sat amidst people with tickets and it became obvious that I was the only one seated on the roll without a ticket. Then, I kept close watch on the checker knowing that I was with enough money to pay for the penalty tickets which should be the double amount of the original N230 for ticket.

N100, N50 Does IT

Fortunately, I saw the real act; a man who didn’t have the ticket gave the checker N100 which he quickly kept in his pocket. This went on repeatedly as I moved to the other coach on the moving train where I witnessed another incident.  The checker requested for a young man’s ticket in expectation of either the ticket or bribe but was shocked with the man’s refusal to provide both.

“Is this man on the same mission with me” I asked myself.  The checker after shouting went to the other corner of the train to call a man who didn’t bother to introduce himself neither was he on any uniform. I suspected he should be one of the task force. After bragging for while, the supposed task force only ordered the man to alight at the next bus stop. By then, we were very close to Oshodi. “Nobody can ask me to go down, I am going to Ikeja. Na today I don dey settle you?” the young man replied. Surprisingly, he was allowed to alight peacefully at Ikeja without any payment. A signal that he had been offering them bribe in the past.

In all, I counted more than eight (8) people that gave the checker money (inducement) ranging from N50, to N150 without any penalty ticket issued.

The train was almost at Ikeja, when the checker walked up to me where I was  standing, and asked for my ticket. I just stood still and was looking at him “where is your ticket or I ask you to pay that N230 now” he roared like a lion. This time I was close to the coach exit since the train was slowing down, I knew we were at Ikeja where I would alight. I attempted moving to the other side but he drew me back with the aid of his colleague on the same uniform. “where do you think you are going, has he released you? He asked. I then brought out N100 and he stared at it “take it from him” he said to the other man.  I had patiently looked at them to see if I could get their tag numbers but there was nothing like that on them as claimed by the district PRO. Among about five of them on the green apron, only one was with Identity card which he buried inside his shirt so that, his identity wouldn’t be known. Only the lanyard hanging the I.D card was seen outside. A lot of people without tickets induced the checkers without any a single penalty ticket being issued

It is my observation that a lot of people on the train who know about this fraud no longer bother to obtain tickets since it’s cheaper and easier without tickets.

 

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