Despite huge annual budgetary allocations to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), the railway system has remained inefficient, apparently unable to serve as an alternative means of transporting passengers and freight from cities to the hinterlands.
In Lagos alone, the system has immense opportunities such as daily business of moving over 8,000 passengers within inter and intra city transportation. This includes movement of over 4,000 passengers from Lagos-Agbado- Iddo to Apapa and another 4,000 passengers between Lagos and Ilorin line.
The ineffectiveness of the rail system with huge potential has been linked by close watchers to high level corruption within the system.
It would be recalled that the former head of state, Sani Abacha, awarded about $500 million rail rehabilitation contract to resuscitate Lagos-Kano rail line, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo also awarded contract for the same Lagos- Kano rail line at $8.5 billion.
Currently, the Federal Government annually earmarks huge sums of money for the rehabilitation of key rail tracks in order to revive rail transport, yet Nigerian railway is lying economically dormant.
A peep into 2012 budget reveals that a total of N20.3 billion was approved for the NRC, out of which N16.3 billion was for capital expenditure that includes construction and rehabilitation of Jebba-Kano, Port Harcourt-Makurdi-Kaduna, Kuru- Maidugiri and Zaria- Kuru-Namoda rail tracks, plus the procurement and rehabilitation of rail wagons, coaches and tank wagons.
This is aside the N29.6 billion that was budgeted in 2011 for the construction and rehabilitation of most of the afore-mentioned rail tracks, excluding the N5.5 billion that was approved for the construction of Ajaokuta-Warri rail line.
Available statistics show that a total of N31 billion ($207 million) was approved on a special request in the supplementary appropriation bill of 2010 for the construction of Lagos-Ibadan rail lines while out of the N23.3 billion budgeted in 2009 for the NRC, N20.7 billion was reserved for capital projects that was expected to include rehabilitation of 120 coaches and wagons, including rehabilitation of the Ajaokuta-Warri rail line, which was also catered for in 2011 budget.
Reacting to this, Tony Anakebe, Managing Director, Gold-Link Investment Limited, a clearing and forwarding company, told our correspondent that the problem with the Nigerian railway is corruption within the system and, this, according to him, is reason for the failure of the rail system.
Eugene Nweke, national president, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), who affirmed that the railway system is an important component of the Nigerian economy, believes that Nigeria cannot attain any meaningful economic reformation without a well connecting and functional rail system.
According to him, the N2.5 billion Chinese government was supposed to have invested in the Nigerian rail sector coupled with government’s annual allocation of billions of naira to it do not have anything to show for it such that cargoes from the seaports cannot be moved directly to the approved Inland Container Depots (ICDs) across the country using the rail line.