By Olaseni Durojaiye
The Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) resumed transportation of cattle and rams from the Northern part of the country to south saturday, 30 years after it discontinued haulage of livestock across the two regions.
The last time cattle was moved from the North to the South was in 1986. saturday, a 15-wagon train carrying cows and rams arrived the Iju Train Station, Lagos at exactly 3 30 pm.
The train, which left Gusau, Zamfara State at about 4.00am Friday arrived Lagos at exactly 3.30pm Saturday, after stops in Minna, Niger State; Ibadan, Oyo State and Ifo, Ogun State. The journey lasted approximately 36 hours as against the usual three days that it takes to transport the cattle by road.
The initiative, which is planned as a weekly shuttle was as a result of the partnership between NRC, Connect Rail Service, Zamfara State Association of Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association. It was funded by the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), an arm of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
NIRSAL had two days ago in Gusau, Zamfara flagged off the commencement of its National Farm to Market Scheme which aims to provide low cost transport link between agricultural producers and consumers across the country with an initial focus on livestock movement from north to south by rail.
The departure was witnessed by the Deputy Governor of Zamfara, officials of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Central Bank as well as representatives of international development partners and international finance institutions. The arrival of the train in Lagos was witnessed by representatives of partners involved in the initiative including Managing Director of Connect Rail Service Edeme Kelikume, representatives of banks, other private sector players, livestock traders, officials of NRC led by its Director of Operations, Niyi Alli, representatives of NIRSAL and the leadership of the Oko Oba Cattle Traders Association.
Reacting to the development, the Managing Director, NIRSAL, Aliyu Abdulhameed, described it as a pleasant surprise and a good omen for the innovative project of moving cattle from the north to the south by rail.
“We are indeed happy to hear that the wagons have arrived ahead of schedule. We are very delighted that the historic train has arrived earlier than projected.”
Also speaking, Alli noted that the initiative was a welcome development, adding that the NRC has put in place every necessary logistics to facilitate a smooth, reliable and safe transportation of cattle, rams and other agriculture produce from the north to the south in record time. Alli, who noted that transporting cattle to the south through the rail service was cheaper compared to road, added that it also ensures that the cattle arrived the destination in good shape as against when they are transported by road and lose at least 20 per cent of their biomass.
“This is a welcome development and the Nigeria Railways Corporation is pleased to be a part of it.” Also speaking, Kelekume thanked all the stakeholders for believing in the initiative, adding that without the confidence reposed in the initiative the success that was recorded would not have been possible.
Under the scheme, NIRSAL, in line with its mandate to de-risk and incentivize investment into verified impactful projects across the agricultural value chain, will provide bank guarantees for the financing of critical requirements involved in the movement of the cattle including logistics and equipment. Connect Rail Services Ltd, a bulk freight and logistics service provider is the first technical partner on this aspect of the Farm to Market scheme.