Home Opinion China Loans, Nigeria’s Rail Infrastructure and Nigerians’ ‘Freetown’ Mentality | Maroof Asudemade

China Loans, Nigeria’s Rail Infrastructure and Nigerians’ ‘Freetown’ Mentality | Maroof Asudemade



I have always been arguing thus: that Nigeria is rich to the extent of her many untapped resources still resident under the earth; that Nigeria is poor to the extent of not having enough monetary wealth to meet the insatiability of her sociopolitical and economic obligations. Nigeria used to be monetarily rich when dollar and pound weren’t ‘born well’ to take naira for granted. We had foreign reserve that placed us on the list of creditworthy nations. We boasted of surplus balances of trade and payment while our GDP was something to write heartwarming missive home about.

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There is no country on earth that has more monetary wealth than is needed to attend to needs that are multifarious at any particular point in time. If there’s such country with enough monetary wealth, countries like US, Britain, France, etc won’t have to obtain loans from Bretonwood institutions. But the countries mentioned have financial wealth only enough to cover commitments through the ingenuity and honesty of their leaders who live for their people to survive and thrive. They have A-rated indices of growth and development in terms of GDP, foreign reserves, rates of inflation, etc, which pride them as being creditworthy and economically healthy. What raw resources do most of these First World countries have that Nigeria does not have, if not more? Nigeria is only overburdened by the poverty of altruistic leaders and sacrificing followers, or how else can we justify that we are categorized among poverty-infested Third World countries, in the midst of countries to which we should be better in every facet, out of the reach of the First World countries with which we should be rubbing shoulders?

Nigeria has been stuck in the shackles of mono-economy circumstances. We rely only on oil to the ridiculous neglects of other money-spinning raw resources. We cover commitments with proceeds from oil while we watch with disdain Agriculture, for example, which used to be our prized money-machine which gave all the regions in Nigeria the only true items of development we still boast of till today. Railways and Airways which proceeds from Agriculture bequeathed to us were made moribund and destroyed. Industrialisation exited Nigeria with the reduction of Agriculture to something subsistence because there were no raw materials to keep industries running. Gradually, Nigeria has slid into economic regression and getting out of it has become a Herculean task.

Successive governments at the federal level had made efforts to cure our economic ills occasioned by the dearth of infrastructures and the lack of homegrown commodities that can stimulate exports. Each government, from the time the country returned to civil rule in 1999 to now, would claim to have created enabling environment for industrialisation to thrive. Yet, we import many token commodities we should have resources and expertise to produce at home, with the accompanying killing burden on naira against the dollar.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is also making efforts at rejigging the economy and placing it on a sound footing. Apart from embarking on massive road constructions and rehabilitations across the country, there are also sincere efforts to diversify the economy, away from reliance on oil, with a particular emphasis on Agriculture. To deemphasize imports and enhance production of homegrown commodities, borders are closed while the FG mandated the CBN to empower local industries and SMEs, which the CBN has been living up to. The FG did not stop at stimulating the economy through encouraging local contents only, the government also continued the rail projects initiated by the administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan. As we speak, many rail lines have been constructed across the country while train services have commenced in some rail routes.

The administration of President Buhari obtained huge loans from China to be able to put in place these rail infrastructures. These batches of loans have to be repaid with interest. Government does not have the financial expectations from elsewhere to repay the China loans except from the proceeds of the rail transportation. This explains why categories of train rates appear exorbitant. The government obtained the China loans with the assured hope that the infrastructures invested on could repay the loans. Transportation is not a social service, though the rates may be subsidised by the government. If the train projects were sponsored by foreign private investors, how do we expect the investors to recoup their investment?

There have been outcries from Nigerians over the train service rates from Lagos to Ibadan and vice versa released by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. For example, the economy class attracts 3,000naira. Those condemning the rates have argued that road transportation costs less to get to Lagos from Ibadan and return to Ibadan from Lagos. Those Nigerians are overwhelmed by the sentiment of the rates being out of the reach of the common man. However, we need to understand that operating train services comes with the expenses of maintenance and salaries/allowances of railway staffers. This is aside that the loans obtained to build the transport infrastructures must be serviced and repaid to China. There’s also the consideration of comfortability, safety and fastness which train services offer. Trains will decongest our highways while the rate of road crash will reduce. If truly Nigerians desire better life, we need to join hands with the government by way of sacrifice to make things work.

Meanwhile, the FG must find a way to regulate the train rates in a way that will not pose heavy burden to Nigerians who are going to patronise the trains. The China loans can only be repaid when the train services are patronised by Nigerians and it’s essential for government to make riding on the trains attractive to people.

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