Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi said on Monday that the ministry was pressured to resume rail transportation due to the upcoming Sallah (Eid el-Kabir) festivities.
He, however, warned that that passengers without face masks and 79 per cent alcohol-based hand sanitizers will not be allowed to board trains.
He also said for the purpose of physical distancing, the number of passengers coaches that usually convey 88 passengers will now convey just 50 passengers.
"I have seen people die of COVID-19, so I am dead scared," Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said on Monday, as he outlined health guidelines for the reopening of railways in the country.#CTVLiveTweets #COVID19Nigeria #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/s6IQIu6agl
— Channels Television (@channelstv) July 27, 2020
Amaechi, who spoke at Monday’s COVID-19 Presidential Task Force briefing said: ‘If you look, you’ll see that I brought two items, – hand sanitizer and face mask. I carry this everywhere I go, the reason is, I have seen people die of COVID-19, so I’m dead scared.
‘If you ask the last speaker (PTF Coordinator), I refused to agree that we should open the railways.
‘It is the pressure of those who want to participate in the forthcoming spiritual activities that made me accept that we will open the railways from Abuja to Kaduna.
‘What are our requirements? We don’t want to see how handsome you are or how beautiful you are; please, wear a face mask, not a mouth mask. Nigerians, wear mouth masks. If you do that, the train will stop and you will come down.
‘There is no Christian, there is no Muslim in death, I hope you know. When you die you’ll go and face your God. And some of us are not ready to face our creators, so don’t take us down there.
‘So, the moment you bring down your mask, we have increased number of policemen in each coach, the police will ask you to wear back your mask out of respect. If you refuse, he would ask the driver to stop. Pray, we don’t stop at Regena, how many of you know Regena? You know that’s where they carry people (kidnap), you know.
‘If it is at Regena, you will come down there, if they carry you (kidnap you), you’ll come back after the spiritual activity.
‘We will allow surgical mask, we will allow the cloth mask made by Nigerians, but that’s the masks that people put in their mouth.
‘So, when you’re getting the locally made masks, it must be such that covers both nose and mouth.
‘Don’t come with face shield, if you want to come with your face shield, don’t forget to come with your face mask.
‘You will not enter the station if you don’t have a face mask, you will not enter the station if you don’t have the hand sanitizer.
‘We must see a hand sanitizer, we must make sure it is not below 79 per cent alcohol. This one is 100 per cent alcohol [displays hand sanitizer], this is not shown, this is methylated spirit and alcohol.
‘But for those who can’t, this is locally made, for those of you who can’t bring alcohol and methylated spirit, come with your sanitizer that is not below at least 79 per cent alcohol.
‘We will check it, I’m not joking. I’ll be there on Wednesday morning and I’ll be there till mid-afternoon.
“We have reduced, for the purpose of physical distancing, the number of passengers coaches that convey 88 passengers will now not convey more than 50 passengers. So you have your space. That’s why we increase the transport fare from N1,500 to N3,000 for the economy; for business class N5,000, and for first-class N6,000.
‘First class, you don’t need physical distancing, it is just 23 seats in a coach of 88, so you have enough space but for the economy and business class you need physical distancing or social distancing and that’s why we have created those spaces.
‘I said mask, I didn’t say wrapper. We don’t mind you covering your face with wrapper but you must show us your mask before you cover fully and before you step in.
‘Inside the waiting room, we don’t have enough seats. So, if you don’t have a seat, please wait outside.
‘It will be one bench of three seats to one passenger, no longer three persons, that is what it will be.
‘You may not be allowed to move freely inside the coaches except you want to use the toilet.
‘We’re bringing in as many policemen as possible not only for security but for enforcement.
‘Give us between two and three months, we will start electronic ticketing, that way nobody will come to the station to buy tickets, and there will be no need for social/physical distancing.’