Tuesday 31 October 2006

Ditch the plane and catch the Nigerian Choo-Choo train

The minister and the aftermath

It would appear the Nigerian Minister of Aviation who by now should have been pensioned off for incompetence at best and culpable homicide at worst has found a scapegoat for the air crash that occurred on Sunday – the pilot.

Apparently, the pilot took off against the advice of other professionals like the air traffic controllers or weather analysts.

This allows me to advance the theory that the pilot probably took off against other professional advice because of the influential passengers he was carrying who might have coerced him to move or be reported – anyway, one can only still speculate till the flight recorder black boxes reveal the conversation between cockpit and controllers as well as conditions that lead to the crash.

The carrier has lost its license to operate, even though the last time there was a crash bearing the flag of this carrier was 10 years ago.

This just would not do, we need radical action that would put the aviation industry back to a safety driven footing that instils confidence to fly in any prospective customer. It goes without saying that Professor Borisade, the Aviation Minister is incapable of pushing the necessary reform to avoid tragedies of this sort, how many more crashes caused by incompetent pilots can we afford before that reality dawns.

However, as we mourn the loss of the departed and attempt to give succour to the survivors, there seems to be some good news on today.

Choo-choo coming home

Nigeria has signed an $8 million contract with the Chinese to design, construct and maintain a 1,315km/822 mile railway line from Lagos to Kano – God knows that having this kind of infrastructure would do wonders for the Nigerian economy.

A second phase would be a line from Port Harcourt to Jos, this would appear like a second line without a link to the first.

I remember that the existing railway system was like an inverted Y, with people going to the East of Nigeria having to travel up North to Kaduna and then down to the South-East.

From the map below, I have suggested a better plan.

Map of Nigeria - Courtesy UNODC - unfortunately.

I think we need a triangular system which has Lagos, Kano and Calabar as the termini, then an inverted triangle which has Port Harcourt, Sokoto and Maiduguru as the other termini. Minna and Jalingo could then be at the intersections, if not a direct line between those two cities that would go through Abuja and Jos.

This is a simple serviette paper design of a system that could become the engine of development, if the politics is kept out of the need for the rail to pass through the hamlet of some influential man whilst it would be better for it to pass through a town of less influential people.

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