Experts Seek Passage of Railway Reform Bills to Boost Devt

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James Emejo and Folalumi Alaran in Abuja
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and railway experts have called for an urgent passage of various railway bills before the National Assembly to open up the sector for private sector participation.

The stakeholders made the plea at the transport sector webinar series with the theme: “Assessing Railway Development in Nigeria,” which was organised by the chamber.
The participants said the existing legal framework for the railway constituted an impediment to the rapid development of the sector.

They also criticised the outdated laws regulating the railway sector and pushed for a new legal and regulatory structures.
The president of ACCI, Alhaji Abubakar Al-Mujtaba, who moderated the meeting, appealed for new legislative framework to allow private sector to construct and run railways.

He also sought constitutional amendment to move railway from exclusive to concurrent list in the constitution.
Al-Mujtaba, also called for the diversification of railway financing by the federal government, calling deliberate support for the development of Nigerian local railway industry and value chains.

In a statement issued by ACCI Media Officer, Latifat Opoola, he was quoted to have said: “We seek enhanced localisation in the implementation of the various railway projects. This will deepen local capacity development.”

However, the minister who sent in his address, further sought the passage of the new railway bills known as, “the Nigerian Railway Authority and National Transport Commission Bills” to provide legal framework that will facilitate the participation of private sectors and to sustain the rehabilitated and modernised railway networks in the country.

He said this would reduce the financial burden on the government towards railway development.
Amaechi, while listing progress already made in the revitalisation of the railway sector, said, “the administration is focusing at bringing about a functional and industrial transportation backbone that would aid economic growth, leading to the high capital investment and social economic impact associated with railways.”

He added: “It is my considered opinion that Nigerians should be aware of this development and how the outcome of government’s effort would positively impact on their livelihood.”

The minister, however, assured that the ministry has fully embraced Public-Private Partnership (PPP) as well as reform of legal, regulatory and institutional framework of the railway sector.