ABUJA â€” AFTER many years of indecision on whether to sell the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) or not, the Federal Government yesterday decided to grant concession to the organised Private Sector (OPS) as well as allow those wishing to build their own railway system on designated routes to invest in the sector.
To this end, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday approved the immediate purchase of 25 units of C25 EMPD standard gauge diesel-powered locomotives for the moribund NRC at a cost of N114 billion (about $76.2 million), preparatory for the concession of the corporation to OPS billed for June next year.
The government has also agreed to fully liberalise the countryâ€™s Railway transport sub-sector by allowing private business concerns to build operate and own (BOO) their own railway system on designated routes, especially the Lagos-Benin-Calabar axis where railway transport does not exist.
Against this backdrop, a Bill for Act to amend the Nigeria Rail Act is being fine-tuned for presentation to the National Assembly to enable private sector participate in the operation of rail transportation in the country.
The weekly meeting presided over President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua with Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in attendance also approved over N30.7 billion for various contracts emanating from the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources to construct silos, dams and the supply of tractors aimed at enhancing mechanised agriculture.
Minister of Information and Communications, Prof Dora Akunyili and her Transport counterpart, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, who briefed State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, disclosed that the decision to acquire the locomotives was to strengthen the nationâ€™s rail system in readiness for the public-private participation.
Bio who expressed concern over the epileptic state of the rail transportation system in the country noted that government was desirous to create mobility in the system before inviting the private sector to participate in the exercise.
â€œAs you are all aware, Nigerian Railways had been comatose for over 20 years reasons being that there has been very low budgetary allocations. Secondly, being that the management for the railways system has not been very good and has not been profitable.
So it has been the idea of Mr. President in his seven point agenda to revive the Nigeria Railway Corporation so that it can give service to Nigerians.
Hitherto, he also wants to ensure that we improve the inland waterways corporation. In that light, the first phase is to buy locomotives which is one of the major key for reviving the railway system. Because of the duration of producing locomotives, he has given approval which has been ratified today it will take about eight months to 10 months.
In eight months, specifically, we will start receiving these locomotives, followed by rehabilitation which will soon commence, the tender processes are going on and we hope that when the locomotives are delivered to us, the tracks will also be readyâ€, he stressed.
He stated that no reasonable investor would be willing to invest in the NRC under its current condition where all its facilities are in very deplorable condition.
The minister who also announced the award of N2.74 billion for the construction of an inland port in Oguta, Imo State said the port would be serviced by inland waterways across south east and south south states.
Prof Akunyili said the dams and irrigation projects are to be constructed in Sabke, (N1.1billion) and Zobe (N6.8 billion), both in Katsina State; Ogbese, Ekiti State (N5.4 billion); New Nigerian Farmers project in Kwara State (N2.2 billion); and various irrigation projects in various States (N3.7 billion).