It was morning at the Yaba terminus of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, with the scorching sun searing into human flesh. The terminus, as usual, boomed with traders, buyers and shuffling feet of passersby. By noon, a calamitous incident suddenly brought the feverish human activities to a forceful stop. It happened a moving train crushed two traders to death. The incident occurred on 12 July, 2007, but similar incidents had taken place thereafter.
On 27 September, 2012, a middle-aged woman was reportedly killed by an Ijoko-Apapa bound train at Oshodi area of Lagos. Also, on 17 February, 2017, a little girl was said to have been crushed by a train at Fagba Rail-Crossing, also in the state.
The foregoing incidents lucidly show negligence by residents to their safety around the railway. It also demonstrates slack by the authorities, namely the federal and state governments, the NRC and the railway police commands, to enforce the law and regulate human activities around the rail tracks.
Trading along the rail lines are prohibited, but recalcitrant residents and corrupt government officials, who collect rents from them have combined to sustain the deadly practice.
Moreover, traders along the rail tracks have cited government’s inability to sufficiently provide trading hubs affordable to the poor for their dangerous choice.
Ronke Ojo, a fish seller at railway Yaba terminus, told Newsbreak.Ng she couldn’t afford the exorbitant shop rent at adjoining Tejuosho Market, which the Lagos state Government concessioned to a private developer.
Ojo, who claimed to have been trading by the rail track for over 20 years, said the shops are “really expensive”. “But if the government gives us the shops for free, I will accept it, my customers will still locate me”, she said.
Chibuzor Kalu, who deals in phone accessories, echoed similar concern. He also said the rail track is a strategic trading point and easily accessible to his customers.
Moreover, Egbunu Jonathan, who sells sacks at Agege rail terminus, also said the place was good for his business. When asked if trading close to the railway was hazardous, Jonathan said: “In fact, it is the safest place to sell and you don’t have to worry about someone coming to burgle your shop. What I have is a makeshift kiosk that is collapsible and usually taken away after the day’s business.”
Francis Nwankwo, who sells fries along the same rail track, said by selling therein they also offer service to the government.
“We dey even help government. As we dey sell for here, we dey keep the place busy, make snakes no come dey worry people for the area,” he said.