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Background to the Study

1.1       Introduction

The improvement in the means of transportation created the most needed impetus that contributed substantially to the development of man. The knowledge of navigation, for instance, led to the discovery of many otherwise unknown lands. It led to navigation of the Atlantic Ocean which brought about the contact between Africa and Europe. West Africa became accessible to the outside world through the sea about 1450AD. In addition, the great expansion in world trade during the nineteenth century was made possible by the building of a large number of better designed ocean-going ships, capable of profitably transporting goods of high bulk and low unit value, such as timber, grains, coal and mineral ores.[1]

The modern railway came about as a result of a union between the iron rail and the steam-driven locomotive. The iron rail came into use about 1770 in Britain and the first steam-driven locomotive used on them was developed by Richard Trevithick in 1804.[2] In 1838, the first main line between London and Birmingham was opened by which time about 500 miles of railway were opened to the public. From the humble beginning, railway development throughout the modern world cities. By 1850, the mileage of British railway was 6,084 miles,[3] the number of passenger journeys made in 1850 alone was 50 million.

British administration introduced railway transportation in Nigeria. This is behind the backdrop that the principal motive of the British in Nigeria was economical. To harp on this various advantages of railway means of transportation, this project was vigorously pursued; railway led to an increase in passenger traffic, since they provided cheap, rapid and safe travel for all classes of society; secondly, railway became important transporters of freight, particularly bulky commodities such as raw materials. Thirdly, railway stimulated employment, both in their construction and in the permanent jobs which became available when they were completed.

The first railway line construction work began in 1896[4] from Lagos to Ibadan. The work of railway was done through direct labour using traditional rulers to provide unskilled labour and tax also use as a means of enforcement. By 1930, the western line had reached Nguru in Northern Nigeria. The eastern line started from Port-Harcourt in 1915 reaching KauraNamoda also in Northern Nigeria by 1920. Railway line reached Funtua Town of Katsina Province in 1927. It is important to note that railway was considered by the colonial government as one of the infrastructures vital for economic take off in Nigeria. This is one important factor for the study of railway introduction, growth and impacts of these on the development of Funtua Town. However, railway transportation witnessed decline in the 1980s and collapsed in 1992.[5] Reasons for the decline and its effect in Funtua economy forms the fulcrum of this study.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

The extension of railway line to Funtua in 1927 opened a new epoch in the history of the town. This affected socio-economic and even political development of the community. However, a number of issue has been raised on the development and decline of the means of transportation; what are the actual reasons for the introduction and extention of railway to Funtua by the colonial authority in particular, to the Northern Nigeria in general. What are the real benefits of railway extention to Funtua by the colonial authority and the natives of Funtua, years after the departure of the colonial powers

During the 1920s to the late 1970s, railway transportation witnessed expansion. What necessitated this expansivity? During this period, socio-economic development also witnessed massive expansion, growth and development. What are the factors that led to these expansions. And what are the impact of these on the native and inhabitant of Funtua town.

However, decline on railway transportation set-in in the 1990s. What are the reasons for the decline? What are the effect of this decline on the socio-economic and even political lives of the people during this period under review.

1.3       Aim and Objectives of the Study

The main crux of this work is to study the history of the introduction, growth and decline of railway in Funtua Town between 1927 and 1992. The specific objectives are to;

a.      discuss the reasons for the establishment and extention of railway transport system in Funtua;

b.     examine the benefits of railway transport system to the colonial authority and the inhabitant of Funtua Town during active period of the system.

c.      discuss the impact of the rail transport infrastructure on the economy and society of Funtua;

d.     explain the reasons for the decline of the railway transport system in Funtua Town; and

e.      make suggestions that will help to revive railway transportation in Funtua and Northern Nigeria in general.

1.4       Scope and Limitation of the Study

The study is centred on railway transport system in Funtua town between 1927 and 1992. The date 1927 signifies the period or the year railway transport system reached Funtua town, while the terminal period; 1992 the year railway transport system collapsed in most parts of Nigeria, particularly in Funtua. Put differently, 1992 marked the period of its peak decline.

The area scope is Funtua town. There are a number of towns and villages in the then Katsine Province and now Katsina state. The work covers Funtua emirate or town. The scope of the subject matter essentially covers railway transportation in Funtua.

The limitations of the study are now apparent. First, the study does not investigate the whole history of the railway system in Northern Nigeria, but is limited to the defined area; secondly, it is not the history of Funtua town or people, but restricted to introduction, development and decline of railways in the area of study.

1.5       Significance of the Study

This study has the following significance; Funtua has received attention in the studies on colonialism and the colonial economy of Northern Nigeria in general, it has also had few attention on the introduction of railway system, but the area’s railway transport system has not been given adequate attention, especially on the growth and decline of this sector. Some studies in the area dwelt much on colonial administration, agricultural production (particularly cotton production) and political institutions, while neglecting the transport economy.

Transportation in general, and particularly internal railway of modern historical growth and development of communities, particularly in a globalized world. In addition, railway transport is an important complement to the dominant road transport system. It therefore, important to study this sector in the bid to ascertain reasons for its rise, growth and the eventual decline. A study of this sector would further add to already existing works about the need to revamp and possibly expand the railway transport in our modern society to supplement or reduce pressure on our roads.

Though scholars have generated interest and had attempted the study of railway in Northern Nigeria and in extentionFuntuta. However, studies of such in Funtua remain inadequate and thus the subject needs to be given further attention.

1.6       Conceptual Framework

One of the areas that attracted the attention of the British administration during the active period of colonialism was communications. The British needed to get the raw materials from the interior to the coast and to get European manufactured goods from the coast to the market of the interior. To achieve this, communications depended on improved communications. To this end, the first essential aspect of communications in the export-import trade, after the establishment of harbor was the construction of railway system. Right from the beginning of colonial rule, much emphasis was placed on the construction of railways, which started in 1896 at Lagos.

Modern railway came about as a result of union between the iron rail and the steam-driven locomotive. The iron rail came into use about 1770 and the first steam-driven locomotive used on them was developed by Richard Trevithick in 1804. George Stephenson (1781-1848),[6] an engine-wright to the Killingworth colliery in Northumberland, who was responsible for the development of the locomotive in its present form. Railway system is mostly used for transportation of freight, particularly bulky commodities and human movement.

Transportation in the business of carrying people or goods, that is, man and materials from one place to another. Railway transport system during the period under study played this important role. It was built in Nigeria to facilitate external rather than internal trade. This explains why the railways like those in almost all other parts of Africa ran from the coast to the interior linking both in the process; from the North to the south. However, at independence, Nigerians took control of the sector. The question is why the decline and final collapse of this sector.

1.7       Research Methodology

Historical methodology deals with two main things; sources and how to get to them and the mode of interpretation or writing. A number of written and unwritten, publish and unpublished, source materials were used. The written materials include textbooks, theses archival materials and official correspondences. These materials were obtained from the National Library in Kaduna and National Archives in Kaduna. Private archives and public libraries spread across Kaduna.

As for the unwritten sources, interviews were conducted with businessmen, and women, railway workers (both retired and in service), and communities and railways stations and terminals. Interviews were conducted in English and Hausa using a tape recorder and where convenient, notes were taken. Materials collected were synthesized and examined using analytical methods. Besides such a systematic approach, the study employed an interdisciplinary approach to make the work more reliable and valid.

1.8       Literature Review

A lot of research has been carried out on the economy of northern Nigeria from the colonial period to the present. However, for the purpose of this study, the literature reviewed has to do with transportation history, generally, and of the railway in particular.

Smales B.J. in his book titled economy history observes that there are a number of prerequisites for the sustenance of economic growth. He argues that favourable background condition, availability of capital, the agrarian revolution, availability of essential raw materials and the growth of markets[7] are very essential for the emergence of industrial society.  He explains however that, of all the aforementioned factors, improvement in transport system promotes both economic growth and economic development. In addition, the term or concept Industrial Revolution hinges its strength basically on population growth and transportation. He was of the view that for any government to mean serious business on economic growth and transportation, transport system; land, sea and air must present high concentration on the government priority list.

Following his line of argument, this paper examines the importance of transport system, particularly railway on the economic development of Funtua town during the colonial period, when it was introduced and the subsequent growth and eventual collapse. However, Smales remained silent on the effect of decline in railway system presents on any economy, particularly on emerging economy like that Funtua town.

Sherrington C.E.R’s book titled, A Hundred Years of Inland Transport 1830-1933, argues that transport brought a lot of achievements in the social organizations of nations.[8] For example, in Great Britain, it changed habits and ways; it permits the country to reap the benefits from its environment and the change surroundings. He claims that no industry is needed as much as transport whether that be highways, railways or the docks because they are all necessary to get products from the producers to the consumers; with the dock work precision of this delicately balanced machine, human wants cannot be assuaged, more so, that:

One is apt to regard transport with its corporation’s unwieldy size, employing hundreds of thousands, as an inanimate and lifeless things, yet in reality transport is dynamic and one small piece of gift on its many log-wheels would throw the lifes of thousands out of their normal course and cause untold distress.[

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