The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Wednesday announced plans by the Federal Government to build international rail lines that would connect Nigeria with neighbouring countries.
Amaechi, who spoke at a seminar in Abuja, also said the poor state of Nigeria’s transport sector was mainly due to the absence of a national transportation policy since the country got independence in 1960.
Speaking on the strategy being adopted by the ministry in the rail sector, Amaechi, whose speech was read by the ministry’s Director of Media, Mrs. Yetunde Sonaike, said the Federal Government was working assiduously to implement the 25-year railway master plan.
He stated that in the plan, the Federal Government “would complete the total rehabilitation of all the narrow gauge rail lines and put them to use. The Federal Government is currently discussing with General Electric on the concession agreement.”
He added, “The government will construct and complete some standard gauge lines in selected corridors across the country, like the Itakpe-AJaokuta-Warri rail line, and undertake various visibility studies with a view to connecting all state capitals, agricultural and industrial clusters by rail.
“Government will also make provision for some international linkages by rail to our neighbouring nations, thus leveraging the ECOWAS arrangement and other continental protocols.”
The minister, however, did not mention the neighbouring countries being considered by the Federal Government to be connected with Nigeria by rail.
Amaechi stated that the ministry’s mandate was mainly tailored towards problem identification/analysis, policy formulation, implementation and evaluation, but regretted the abysmal performance of the sector.
He said, “It may interest you to note that the transportation sector, since independence, does not have an approved National Transport Policy to coordinate and drive the growth of the industry.
“We just concluded the 2017 edition of the National Council on Transportation in Sokoto State where two inter-ministerial committees involving relevant stakeholders were set up to handle two pressing issues in the sector.”
He stated that the committee on the finalisation of the National Transport Policy document, which is before the Federal Executive Council and National Economic Council, had been tasked to ensure that the policy was approved, as the outcome of its work would take the sector many steps ahead.
Amaechi further stated that many legal and regulatory framework instruments of the agencies in the transportation sector were obsolete, adding that it was in the interest of the country to give out the airports to private operators as concession.
“Under our watch, the four transport sector reform bills have undergone various public hearing stages in both chambers of the National Assembly,” the minister stated.
He listed the transport reform bills to include the National Inland Waterways Authority Bill, 2015, which seeks to repeal the National Inland Waterways Authority Act Cap 47 LFN 2004; and the Nigerian Ports and Harbour Bill 2015, which seeks to repeal the Nigerian Ports Authority Act CAP 126 LFN 2004.
Others are the Nigerian Railways Authority Bill, 2015, which seeks to repeal the Nigerian Railways Authority Act CAP 129 LFN 2004; and the National Transport Commission Bill, which is an act to provide for the establishment of the National Transport Commission as an independent multimodal economic regulator and other related matters.