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Okhiria: The Champion’s Feather in His Cap

Okhiria: The Champion’s Feather in His Cap

It was a night packed full with glitz and glamour. The sky was bright. The littoral ambience of Eko Hotels and Suites sprinkled some droplets of water that only made the evening cooler.  Inside one of the halls in the hotel complex, was a galaxy of dignitaries who were all colourfully dressed to compliment the atmosphere of radiance. It was the award night of Champion Newspaper.  The brand had bubbled up again, penultimate Friday, with sparks of promise and excellence.

The list of the awardees was long. It was a parade of men and women, young and not-so-young leaders who had impacted society and carved a niche for themselves. One of them was Engineer Fidet Okhiria, the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation.

Okhiria was accompanied by Francisca, his wife, and a host of friends and colleagues who had thronged the venue to add glamour to the award night.

With the presence of sitting and former state governors like the dancing governor of Osun State, Ademola Adeleke, the Lagos State governor and Chief Host of the event, Babajide Sanwo-olu (never mind that he came late), plus former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke and representatives of Ogun State governor, Nasarawa and Benue State governors, it was a night that promised lots of fun and content. The presence of the likes of the prized nonagenarian, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, the anti-hard drug czar and Chairman of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig Gen Buba Marwa, the Director General of National Council of Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, amongst others, further helped to thicken the mix of dignitaries at the event. 

One after the other, the awardees were invited on stage as their abridged profiles were read out, as a justification of their qualification for their awards that night.

The loud and prolonged applause that trailed the profile of Engineer Okhiria further helped to confirm the “Impactful Leadership Award” of the newspaper house being conferred on the NRC Managing Director that night.

It is not certain if there is yet any certification in the Engineering sector which the Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), has not received. He is a fellow to and chartered member of more than six Engineering bodies. The Champion Newspaper award is thus seen as yet another colourful feather in the cap of the Managing Director of the NRC, whose tenure was recently renewed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Described as “a workaholic“ and one with strong commitment to excellence, Okhiria is celebrated for being behind the resuscitation of the hitherto moribund Nigerian railway service. Under his watch and supervision, powered by the determination and commitment of the former Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the comatose Railway service in the country was revived and got buzzing again.

Under Okhiria’s watch and guide, the rail lines abandoned for decades began to function again. To his credit, the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, the Warri-Itakpe rail line as well as the Lagos-Ibadan rail line have been running, raking in huge revenue to the coffers of the federal government. Perhaps even more promising is the ongoing extension of the rail services to connect the Port Harcourt–Maiduguri rail corridor as well as the Kano-Maradi rail line. The construction of the last two rail corridors are yet ongoing.

Okhiria who dedicated the award to God and his colleagues noted that his determination to serve the nation is beyond doubt and noted that with the rail services running and connecting most parts of the country, not only will the dream of  national mass transit be achieved, it would save the Nigerian roads from the daily pounding of heavy-duty trucks as the rail operations also offer haulage and freighting services, especially now that the rail lines have been extended to the Nigerian ports, especially in Lagos. The durability of the roads will be saved, less heavy-duty trucks will be on the roads, just as delivery time of goods will be far shorter than road journeys. 

It is a tribute to the leadership of the taciturn Okhiria that despite the challenges of insecurity and soaring running cost of the rail services, the Nigerian rail lines are still buzzing as the trains keep commuting between various terminals around the country.

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