Railway Sector: Stakeholders Review Nigeria’s Preparedness for AfCFTA
- We are Ready -Hon Amaechi
- Nigeria needs 4-nation Rail Alliance-Rasheed
*Our Enabling Law is a major Impediment- Rail Corporation
In continuation of its sectoral plan for African Continental Free Trade Area, the Nigerian government committee on AfCFTA’s preparedness today hosted railway stakeholders to assess the place of railway in the free trade regime.
Minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Amaechi in his keynote address listed several steps already taken by the Nigerian government to revive the railway sector to fulfil its roles, describing the status quo as “a revival age for Nigerian Railways.
According to the Minister, the current administration has fast tracked the implementation of the 25 years rail modernisation plan , positing that ” with completed and ongoing projects , the rail sector will contribute enormously to facilitating Nigerian trade with other African nations”
He explained that the administration priotised rail infrastructure revival as it is a proven key to national economic revival.
Nigeria needs 4-nation Rail Alliance-Olawale Rasheed
Speaking on intermodal and trans-national railway connection, the CEO of African Railway Consult , Mr Olawale Rasheed situated AfCFTA within AU Agenda 2063 which he said priotised Inter-connecting of African Capitals using an African Railway master plan developed through bottom up Integrated corridor development approach.
Reviewing the Nigerian railway scenario, the Afrorail boss listed many ills of the sector to include out of date Transport Policy, Colonial railway Act, low Rail density and connectivity , lack of Intermodal linkage and Heavy reliance on Chinese Financing.
He however noted recent positive developments which among others include completion of new rail lines, completion of old rail projects, commencement of new rail lines, new attempts at rail to ports and new transnational lines.
While canvassing internal intermodal imperative, he cited historical transnational links between Nigeria and her neighbours to justify transnational railway projects, citing historical ties between Northern region and Niger/Chad; Adamawa versus Adamawa region of Cameroon; Cross River to troubled southern Cameroon; South West Nigeria versus Benin Republic and Old Borno to Old Sudan
“Those historical places are leveraging points for trade/connectivity. Biggest economy in Africa must dominate its immediate region and transnational rail is a strong tool for that purpose”, he said , asserting that “Nigeria must expand her sphere of influence through rail diplomacy.
” While I commend some notable achievements within the sector, I recommend the urgency of railway reforms for full private sector participation, liberalisation of railway like aviation, telecom, oil and gas, power; unbundling of Nigerian Railway Corporation by amendment of 1958 railway Act, passage of National Transport Policy into law, creation and adoption of National Intermodal policy; revival of ECOWAS master plan like those of EAC, SADC and creation of a four nation transnational railway alliance involving Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Benin.
Our Enabling Law is a major Impediment- Rail Corporation
Speaking on the state of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, its Managing Director, Engr. Fidet Edentalen Okhiria who was represented by deputy director, Operations, described the operating environment of the corporation as difficult and constraining ,citing statistics that during its peak performance in the past, the corporation boasted of over 15 million passengers.
Describing the current passenger carriage as around a million, the NRC boss admitted that the fortunes of NRC had nosedived over the years until recent revival under the current administration.
He listed several ongoing projects , policies and programmes designed to revived the corporation but admitted that the agency is burdened among others by low funding, outdated constraining law, capacity challenges, low rolling stock, low network coverage and security Challenges.
The NRC chief shared the aspirations of stakeholders for private sector participation but lamented that the enabling act frustrates and handicap any attempt to open up the sector to the private sector.
According to him, efforts to innovate and dance round the law also failed ,noting that the surest way out is for the National Assembly to pass the rail amendment act into law.
Contrary to perception , Okhiria said the agency wants the old act amended so that modern practices in the management of the sector can be deployed