By JONAH NWOKPOKU
Stakeholders in the rail transportation sector are gearing up towards a more efficient freight system in the country. The stakeholders, which include Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA and Inland Container Nigeria Limited, ICNL have all expressed their readiness to partner with the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, to explore better ways to make the rail freight system more efficient.
The stakeholders, who spoke at an event to flag off container transportation from Apapa to Kaduna and Kano recently, said the move by the NRC to resume container transportation after seventeen years was a welcome development as it would result to port decongestion and make for easier distribution of goods within the country.
According to the Public Relations Officer, NPA, Capt. Ebube Iheanacho, the railway would among other things exploit its track monopoly to drive the freight system.
He said, “The road transport is encumbered by city’s poor road networks but rail is a very jealous mode of transport, having its own tracks. This monopoly is what we are going to enjoy now if we have this rail traversing to Lagos city without hindrance because we need this to complete the logistics which forms part of the global supply chain which the port represents. And that is why we are happy that this inter-modal connectivity is now coming to be.” He explained that the entire system besides aiding port decongestion would result to efficiency in business activities within the port if all challenges are taken into proper consideration and taken care of.
“It will lead to port decongestion if other encumbrances are out of the way. I had always said that the port is wearing tow caps. One is the logistics side that has to do with the supply chain; the other is that it is an international border post where customs and other agencies check that whatever you are importing does not go foul of the law of the land. If that one is out of the way, of course, it will enhance efficiency,” he said.
On his part, Chairman, Inland Container Nigeria Limited, Tope Borishade said the return of container transportation by the rail will bring huge relief for them since the halting of container transportation had significantly impacted on their output.
In his words, “After the last container train left Apapa port in 1996, ICNL’s container output reduced drastically. This made our customers in the northern parts of the country experience challenges in receiving imported containers from Lagos. Undoubtedly, this marks a turnaround for the better. This determination by the transport stakeholders in the country has now ensured that containers would start leaving Apapa once again after seventeen years,” he said.
He however noted that there are still twin challenges facing smooth operations and would likely affect efficiency of the recommenced container freight operations if not addressed.