Ticket racketeers are making brisk business at the Rigasa Train Station in Kaduna State in connivance with officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), our correspondent reports.
The e-ticketing application of the NRC for Abuja/Kaduna train had collapsed on Friday, thus the corporation advised travellers to purchase their tickets at the stations.
Daily Trust reports that the rate of banditry along the Kaduna-Abuja road forced many motorists to abandon it for the train. Last week, bandits operated four times along the road, killed a notable Zamfara politician, Sagir Hamidu and kidnapped many road users.
Though government had announced the deployment of more security personnel to the Abuja/Kaduna road to clear the kidnappers, passengers are sceptical about it.
It was gathered that the racketeers, in connivance with the NRC officials, buy tickets in bulk and resell to desperate passengers for N5,000 and above.
A standard ticket goes for N3,000 at the train station while on the application it goes for N3,195 including bank charges for the 6:40am train.
To buy a ticket through the e-ticketing application, our correspondent reports that details of passengers, including name, email and phone number are required. The passengers are only allowed to buy two tickets through the platform.
Investigation, however, revealed that the racketeers use “Mr” as general name to enable them to buy tickets in bulk. They use email@example.com as email address.
Around 6am when our correspondent went to the Rigasa Train Station yesterday, many passengers were seen struggling to buy tickets. The train station was rowdy. The crowd forced the NRC officials to abandon the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols.
It was also observed that routine security checks were jettisoned. Passengers checked into the train without their bags being examined with metal detectors by officials of the NRC.
A passenger, who bought from one of the racketeers, said he paid N4, 000 for the standard ticket. He said many passengers abandoned the queue to buy the tickets from racketeers.
“Many of us left the queue at the booking office to buy from the touts when we were told that it had finished. I bought mine for N4,000 when I begged. He told me N5,000,” he said
Another passenger, a public servant, said he bought his ticket for N5,000. He said the ticket was sent to him via WhatsApp.
Inside coach 17, our correspondent saw many passengers carrying tickets bearing “Mr”. It was the topic of discussion during the two hours trip as five people had tickets with ‘Mr’.
An activist said he bought his through a commercial driver that operates at the Rigasa Train Station.
“When I approached him and said I had no ticket, he told me the amount and after negotiation, he requested my phone number. He sent the ticket to my WhatsApp and I gave him N5,000. The name on the ticket was Mr. and the email reads; firstname.lastname@example.org,” he said.
There was laughter on the coach when a regular passenger of the train, Abayomi Awoseyin, brought out his ticket and it reads Barrister Fatima. A male passenger, travelling with a ticket bought in a woman’s name.
Awoseyin said he bought the ticket from a tout when he could not get it from the booking office.
“I came to the train station very early with the hope of buying from the counter since I could not do so via the application. But the counter had closed early and the only option was the racketeers.
“I think they deliberately did that so that the station would be chaotic and passengers would be desperate. They won’t make money if the system is working. I feel bad that they have to push us to this,” he said.
In the coach, a civil servant narrated how an NRC official bought eight tickets using the same email but different names.
“I got my ticket through an NRC official who bought eight through their platform. You know the platform only allows you to buy two tickets at a go but he bought eight,” he said, urging the NRC to end the racketeering.
Speaking to our correspondent, one of the racketeers said they bought the tickets from the booking counter.
“We bought ours like any other person from the booking office. It is not the collapse of the application that caused the surge in passengers, it is kidnapping.
“Many people have abandoned the Kaduna-Abuja road for the train. One of the trains has developed a fault. Government should allow the ‘standing’ ticket to accommodate the increasing number of passengers. This is a global trend,” he said.
Meanwhile, many angry passengers forced their way into the train without tickets during the 10.30am service on Monday. It was gathered that the passengers overpowered the officials stationed at the scanning arena and jumped into the train.
A resident of Kaduna, who was at the station at 5am yesterday, said at the time he arrived, he was told that there were no tickets for the 6.40am and 10:30am trains and was advised to wait and purchase a ticket for the 2pm train.
“By the time the train came, many of us who had been at the station as early as 5am started to protest, the place became rowdy and the passengers overpowered the railway officials. By the time the train came, many of us who had been at the station as early as 5am started to protest, the place became rowdy and the passengers overpowered the railway officials.