By Lucy Nwachukwu/Kaduna
Gov. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State said respect for COVID-19 guidelines by passengers and not security is the main issue on the Abuja-Kaduna rail service, which restarts on Wednesday.
El-Rufai said this Saturday at the test-run of the new coaches by the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC) in Kaduna.
“The train is secure, the train is well protected, even the Abuja-Kaduna highway is well protected, there has not been a kidnapping case there since October last year.
“So, I’m not worried about security. What I want to appeal to people that will use the train is to ensure that they keep physical distancing, wash their hands as the COVID-19 is still very much around.
“Infections are rising and the fastest way to get it is a congested train.
“So we must be very careful, we must not insist on going on the train if it is up to the capacity and everyone must wear his face mask before entering the train, throughout the train ride and after.
“That is what I will appeal to everyone because this disease is still with us, we have not reached the peak and when we reach the peak it comes down and there is likely to be a second wave,” he said.
The governor lauded the Federal Government and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, for their efforts in the operation of the railway service.
He said:“We requested the Federal Government to suspend the train services at the time of the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but we believe now that it is time to resume the train services.
“And we had written a request weeks ago, when we relaxed the lockdown.
“We have been briefed on all the measures that the Federal Government has put in place to ensure physical distancing, hygiene, sanitary observance to protect everyone and we are looking forward to this.
“We are also grateful that the number of frequency for the train has been increased because more and more people will use the train to go to Abuja and from Abuja to Kaduna.”
On the increased fares, El-Rufai said it was appropriate to increase fares.
According to him, the fares were too low and that is what have led to the racketeering.
“If you come to buy the tickets, you can’t get it, you have to buy it from a middle man and it’s twice the price.
“So why shouldn’t the government capture that. So it is quite right and I fully support the decision by the Federal Government to increase the fares.
“In fact the fares should even be slightly higher than this to make it difficult for middle men to come in between.
“But I have also appealed to the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the Minister to computerise and make electronic the purchase of the tickets, to cut out middle men,” the governor added.