Massive corruption rocks railways' ticketing system
Nigerian train

Adebayo Obajemu

Though the Federal Government through the Nigerian Railway Corporation was said to have generated about N5bn revenue from the Lagos-Ibadan train services in 2022, that number could have been much higher if the corporation had blocked all leakages, especially fraudulent ticket racketeering.

Business Hallmark’s investigations revealed that the coaches in the train, which plies the Lagos-Ibadan rail line have a passenger capacity of about 900/1000 passengers per trip.

Data gleaned from NRC showed that from January 1 and August 10, 2022, the Lagos-Ibadan train operated six trips daily, generating a total of N18m daily. Further findings showed that for 221 days, the NRC recorded a total of N3.978bn on the Lagos-Ibadan train services.

Nothing has affected the dwindling revenue of the railway more than the internal sabotage of tickets racketeering . The standard gauge in operation now was as a result of the 2012 $1.5 billion contract awarded to China Civil Engineering Construction Company for the construction of Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway by the Good luck Jonathan administration.

Earlier earmarked for completion by 2016, but it was not until June 10, 2021, that former President Muhammadu Buhari finally commissioned the project.

As this reporter hurtled towards the ticketing cashier at Agbado station with ATM in hand, the cashier shouted at the top of his hoarse voice, “Cash only,” after I had requested for permission to make a transfer or use the point-of-sale machine to buy a ticket from Agbado to Iddo in Lagos.


I pulled out a N1000 note to pay, and he said there was no change, after he rumpled N200 to my hand, saying he had no N100 cash. As if it was his right to ” withhold” my remaining change, on complaining he threatened to return my N1000; adding abrasively that he could not turn himself to “change”.

Surprisingly, in spite of the hype to start e-ticketing to whittle down fraud, at the Agbado station, like elsewhere, only cash is accepted, as no digital or online payment system is in place.

There were no request for the passengers’ details such as name or any form of identification, while buying the ticket. The train was about leaving Agbado for Iddo, and the ticket was sold for N700. Then came the real McCoy as this reporter had to fight his way into the coach as entering
became a battle for the fittest. There was no check for tickets before entry, and some passengers hung on the moving train to their destinations.

At the Yaba station, as in Agege, it was the same. Cash, not digital payment. At Iddo, a regular passenger, who identified himself as Taiwo told this medium that “ticket racketeering is not a new thing. Some time, they may tell you there is no change when you are required to collect change. I have had to forego about N200 during rush hour.”


Another passenger, who identified herself as Fatima and lives in Agbado but regularly board the train at Iddo said, “one of the tricks common is to tell you that ticket has finished. As you are desperate and wanting to go home, you’re given alternative of paying N800 instead of the normal N700 , and from nowhere the ticket surfaces.”

Investigation by Business Hallmark revealed that the fraud in the ticketing operation is actually getting worse. Some staff members of the corporation have built a high wall of racketeering around ticket sale. Efforts to speak to Ebutte Meta Manager proved abortive, and none of the staff was willing to speak on the matter.

According to a passenger, who called himself Soji, and recently travelled from Ibadan to Lagos, said, “when we got to Asipa, I saw different tickets flying around. Some of the tickets were numbered, while others did not have numbers.


“There is the issue of ticket hoarding. Officials of the railway corporation are hoarding these tickets. They will not sell the tickets until the highest bidders come.”

The ticketing fraud is so pervasive that curbing it will require more commitment on the part of the authorities. Some of those, who spoke with Business Hallmark called for a more advanced ticketing operation by introducing online ticketing platform like the airlines.

Soji suggested working towards a computerised system. According to him, “this has capacity to reduce the manipulation going on with the present ticketing system.”

Recall that in 2021, the then Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed that the country had started a N900 million e-ticketing project for the NRC. The project specifically targeted the Abuja-Kaduna railway line.

In 2021, the corporation made out that it would select operators for e-ticketing at the railway stations. This development was reported after the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) granted NRC licenses. Two years after this reported commitment, the e-ticketing platforms are yet to be introduced.


On June 16, 2023, the NRC had acknowledged that its lack of a payment platform led to money losses. The Managing Director of the NRC, Mr. Fidet Okhiria, was quoted as saying that the corporation was losing revenue to a lack of payment platforms. A Dataphyte report had also noted that although passengers increased by 18 percent, the revenue of the NRC dropped by N1.2 billion.

The Lagos-Ibadan railway line was constructed with a loan of $1.267 billion from the China Eximbank with a maturity period of 20 years and a seven-year grace period. According to the loan documents, the loan is expected to have been entirely repaid by 2037.

Recently, the spokesperson of Nigeria Railway Corporation, Mr. Mahmoud Yakubu, was quoted as saying that :
“Cash is indeed the only form of payment now and we are working on transiting to digital payment platforms soon.”

Analysts say the current ticket monitoring process is highly compromised. If the cashless system is put in place, the management team would only need to empower its monitors with portable machines that can scan and confirm the authenticity of the tickets and receipts issued. This will go a long way in verifying that the last debit is within the period the train is on transit from point A to B. The alternative is to hand over the administration of the corporation to a consortium for fixed rent.

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