NRC: Nigeria Needs $66bn to Effectively Deliver Rail Transport Infrastructure Nationwide

•Urges FG to see investment in sector as social good

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) yesterday disclosed that Nigeria will require at least $66 billion to effectively deliver the much-needed rail infrastructure nationwide.

The Managing Director of the NRC, Fidet Okhiria, who spoke on Channels Television, advised the government to see the construction of rail lines as a social investment, rather than seeking immediate gains.

Okhiria argued that building the rail system would not only enhance the economy of Nigeria, but ease the general transportation problem in the entire country.

However, in 2017, about seven years ago, the amount the Nigerian government said it needed to construct and modernise major rail infrastructure was about $16 billion.

“The money is not just there, it is a total of about $16 billion and you don’t just pluck $16 billion from the sky,” the then Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said.

Earlier this year, the  Minister of Transportation, Senator Sa’idu Alkali  revealed that about $35 billion was needed to meet the realisation of an adequate and functioning railway transportation system in Nigeria.

But Okhiria argued that although people in government see railway infrastructure as a source of business which should yield profit, it should rather be viewed as something done to make life better for the people.

“So you are not developing this means of transportation because you want to make profits in terms of Naira because the profit will come indirectly. If you are able to move goods and make sure that we link Abuja to Lagos, Kano to Lagos where you have the port, the indirect Naira may not be earned by the government, but it will flow into the economy and it will develop it and commerce will grow.

“But when you now say I want to buy locomotive, when are you going to recover it directly? When are you thinking you will get that money back? It doesn’t work like that.

“So what should be important is making life comfortable for the people. Anybody who tells you, even in the US that is the capital of capitalism, that rail is handled by businessmen, government has a vote for those businessmen. Why do you talk about bailout?

“ You have your company and it is not going well, government comes and makes sure that your private business does not fail because it is providing a sort of relief indirectly to government because those companies are providing job opportunity for their citizens.

“So if you say because you want to make profits, you calculate how much you are going to make when you want to link my village, my people should be able to move from using rail to Lagos. It is not going to work like that,” he argued.

He argued that there was the need to connect the southern to the northern parts of Nigeria by rail, expressing the hope that the government will take the Itakpe route to Kaduna soon.

Given the right funding, he stated that Nigerian engineers working with the NRC have the capacity to build locomotives, stressing that in GE for instance,  the vote for research and development was almost like the annual Nigerian budget.

“How much is the railway budget that you see? The issue is not whether we can… Even the Chinese that are here, when they have issues, they come back to our engineers,” he argued.

“It’s about $66 billion to link (Nigeria) as planned in the development plan,” he said , when asked how much it will take to build rail infrastructure in the country.

He bemoaned the incessant breach of the rail tracks by criminals, stressing that recent derailments were caused by the activities of the hoodlums. “But we have people still tampering with our track,” he lamented.

He disclosed that additional security had been provided after the last attack on the trains, noting that CCTV cameras had also been provided for the locomotives.

“We have to provide additional security to ensure that even when they breach it, by what is placed there abnormally, we have to secure it. And that’s what we are doing all over…But we have provided some little technologies like we have cameras inside the train.

“We have to have cameras outside the train, that is panoramic camera truck that can cover about one kilometre, because for a train driver to stop, it requires about 800 metres,” he stated.

Related Articles