Getting to the Abuja Metro Station in the city’s Central Area could be difficult if you are not driving because many cabbies don’t know where it is located. But then, it’s understandably so, after all, the rail line was just commissioned on July 12 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The first thing a visitor is likely to be drawn to on arrival is the huge station building with ‘Abuja Metro Station’ boldly written on it. The entrance takes you up a flight of stairs that opens up to the large waiting area and then the ticketing office. Here, after being electronically screened at the security door, you face an intriguing view of men and women, dressed in smart corporate shirts, green waist-coats, and lemon green ties.
Your discussion between a passenger and ticketing official takes place despite a glass partition, over a very clear intercom. They (ticketing officials) seem to be used to people strolling in with bemused expressions, so the lady’s smile was polite and courteous as she responded, “Yes, the ticket is free now,” and explained that the train would arrive a little later than the scheduled 5:20pm. It was almost time.
Just about 5:25, the sound of the train rolling in filled the station. The voice behind a loudspeaker had earlier announced that passengers should prepare. Now, it advised everyone to make their way to the departure area. There weren’t many people around. So, not more than twenty people made their way down another long flight of stairs where a Chinese official stood quietly.
The train’s exterior, a mix of blue, brown and red colours, was beautiful to behold. The interior was equally so. Several TV screens were stuck to its walls and side-by-side, Nigerian and Chinese flags stretched across its length.
There was a moment’s pause as the train gained momentum, seemed to sway as it began to pick-up speed. It seemed, especially for those who were boarding for the first time, there was some kind of expectation.
First, the speed was slow, and second, there was not a single attendant in sight. At the extreme end of the coach there was no sign of a door leading anywhere. “There are no rest rooms,” a woman whose agile child kept playing across the length of the train said. Apparently, they had already made the journey from Idu to Central Area, and were returning. They were just out to have fun on Abuja’s new intra-city train.
By 5:45, passengers had disembarked from the air-conditioned train. Some still couldn’t believe the train was that slow.
The train shuffles mainly between Central Area (the Abuja Metro Station), Idu and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. Earlier, the Minister of FCT, Musa Bello, had said the Abuja rail was divided into six lots with a total length of 290km. These include, Lot One, from Nnamdi Azikwe Expressway through the Transportation Centre (Metro Station) via Gwagwa to Kubwa. Lot Two, from Gwagwa via Transportation Centre (Metro Station) to Nyanya/Karu. Lot Three, from Transportation Centre via Idu Industrial Zone to Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport.
Also, Lot Four, from Kuje Satellite town to Karshi Satellite town. Lot Five, from Kubwa via Bwari to Suleja, and Lot Six, from Airport via Kuje and Gwagwalada to Dobi.
President Muhammadu Buhari had said the project was in line with the Change Agenda of the government and hoped that a modern rail service would boost the economy and enhance social life. He added that the commissioning of the railway was evidence that the federal government was delivering on its promises.