An analysis of debt service documents reveals that the cost of servicing debt for railway projects in the first half of 2023 exceeded the revenue of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) by 1,208.5%. During this period, the government spent $38.59 million (N29.98 billion at N777/$) on servicing debt for loans obtained for the Nigeria Railway Modernisation Project (Idu Kaduna Section) and Nigeria Railway Modernisation Project (Lagos – Ibadan Section).
The total railway revenue during the same timeframe was N2.29 billion, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. Despite a 53.65% increase in the number of passengers traveling by rail in the first quarter of 2023, the NBS reported a 63.02% decrease in revenue from passengers, totaling N768.44 million. In the second quarter, the number of passengers increased to 474,117, with a corresponding revenue of N1.10 billion.
In light of these figures, the House of Representatives recently expressed concern over low revenue generation from the Nigerian Railway Corporation, attributing it to insecurity and ticketing issues, with paper tickets still in use. The Minister of Transportation, Saidu Alkali, highlighted that the implementation of e-ticketing would enhance revenue and curb ticket racketeering.
On a positive note, the NRC reported that over 63,000 people benefited from the free train ride initiative declared by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for yuletide travels. The free train service covers all passengers’ services operated by the NRC and is in addition to a 50% discount on inter-state transportation. The NRC Managing Director, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, commended the federal government for underwriting all costs associated with the free train service, urging passengers to obtain e-tickets through the website for efficient service.