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Labour petitions Yar’ Adua over railways’ rehabilitation

By Victor Ahiuma-Young
The senior staff  union in the communications, Transport and Corporations  in the country, under  the aegis of the Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporations (SSACTAC), has petitioned President Musa Yar’ Adua, suggesting ways to modernise the nation’s rail system and make it commercially viable.

President Yau Adua
President Yau Adua

SSACTAC in a petition which detailed the history, boom and challenges confronting the railway networks in the country, suggested among others, the establishment of a special railway commission.

In the petition, signed by the President-General and General Secretary of SSACTAC, Comrades Adetunji Adesunkanmi and Chile Ekeke, respectively, said “The Commission, special railway commission, to be headed by an appointee of the President under the Presidency, should have members drawn from the Federal Ministries of Transport, Finance, Culture and Tourism and Works and Housing as well as the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Office of the Accountant General of Nigeria and organised labour, the Nigerian Union of Railwaymen, (NUR) and the Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporation(SSACTAC).

“Its main job should be  listing and itemising all that is needed to make Nigeria a modern railway nation, double and standard gauge tracks, signalling and other related equipment installations; workshops, stations with shopping malls; extension of existing rail lines to towns; connection of  the Federal Capital Territory, State Capitals, big – motor parks; air and seaports, the building of new lines, East-West Line; Central/Middle Belt Line; Upper Arewa Line and the Niger Delta/South-South Line;  develop an appropriate plan and schedule for completion of the projects istating that the previous 25 Year Development Plan for the Railway needed to be reviewed.

The union further sugguested “Monitoring the payment schedule and infrastructural development; relating with and monitoring the activities of all participants “of the Public/Private Concessionaring arrangement  in Railway development as approved by the Bureau of Public Enterprises; development of housing units, hotels, shopping malls on Railway properties;  feedback to the authorities and liaising with other stakeholders as necessary. It said that the Nigerian Railway Corporation must initiate the  clearing  of the  entire Railway  environment of all forms of debris including unserviceable locomotives and wagons etc.

According to the union “Items of history should either be confined to a Railway Transport Museum to be set up within its premises at Ebute Metta or transferred to the National Museum in Onikan, Lagos  Material and personnel  audits aimed at meeting each crucial process  in the development  Plan;

Recruitment  with emphasis on Manpower development and training at all levels.  The reopening of the technical and staff training schools to meet with junior and middle manpower needs

and liaison with traditional partners in Swiss, German, British, American and Canadian Railways for senior manpower development,).
Strengthen relationships with Governments like Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna and Rivers who are supporting services on the NRC system to run trains, then open intra district, inter district and the cross country services on schedule as the system allows.)
That services for goods and passengers are provided at commercial rates).

“Railways must extend its services by allowing its viable land most of which contain unsuitable properties to give way to modern estates and hotels. It must project its tourism potential to a holiday conscious world and introduce comfortable shuttle bus services. Railway must seek other means of powering locomotives beyond the outdated coal and still in use diesel.

“The Federal Government has at most times not demonstrated the political will to establish a modern Railway system. Our Association therefore welcomes this recent development. The Federal Government needs to do the following: – Repeal the Railway Act of 1955 to allow for the much spoken of public-private participation. This will no doubt reopen discussions on proposals by the O’dua Group and another international concern to operate train services between Ibadan and Lagos and Abuja – Lagos respectively. No doubt the approval of these proposals will surely  attract other parties. Make available necessary funds for projects duly assessed by experts and well meaning citizens.”

The union in the petition added: “The Government must specify the policy direction for the Nigerian Railway Corporation in future such as: the running of its operations at commercial rates stipulating through ordinance the type of goods that must go by Railway to stem unhealthy competition and survive the Railway for the good of the larger majority. the necessary security arrangement to guarantee safety in Railway operations nationwide.

“The Government Agency, BPE must  discuss with stakeholders including organised  labour, the directive for its planned activities in the Nigerian Railway Corporation: the future of Railway workers in a concessioned work environment;

what model will the concessionaries operate (Build Operate Own or Build Operate Transfer); will the NRC operate the landlord  model  or be only a transport company? will the vast landed assets of the NRC  be sold to a privileged few or put into useful purposes for the  greater majority like the Railway Hospital.

“These and  likely issues must be discussed with the BPE and other relevant authorities  before any concessioning agreement SSACTAC is eagerly hoping that other stakeholders especially the Government and its agencies will invite it for discussions. We are ready at all times to be part of the purposeful engagement. May the Railways be an asset to our company from now on.”


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