FG set to unbundle Nigerian Railway for concession

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By Seun Ibiyemi

There are indications that the Federal Government has concluded it plans to  unbundle the Nigerian Railway Corporation(NRC) for concessioning to investors.

Minister of Transportation, Engr.Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, disclosed this during a press briefing at the World  Maritime Day (WMD) event in Lagos.

“I want to see the Nigerian Railway Corporation that was abandoned revived. Before I came, plans were on to unbundle the agency. You can’t have an agency that its owner, regulator and operator are the same time. Sometimes you cant run it competitively.

“Government has invested a lot of money in fixing the rails, both standard and no-standard gauges. We can give out some of the lines to private operators to run and let the system be very competitive. This is my vision for the NRC. I pray that my team joins me in running this vision,” Sambo said.

He noted that a situation where an organization would act as owner, regulator as well as operator, cannot make for competitive progress, adding that plans were already on ground to unbundle the corporation before he even came on board as minister.

He debunked the rumour in some media circles claiming that the Federal Government loses N30billion monthly as a result of shutting down of Kaduna – Abuja rail corridor, stressing that it was not true.

Meanwhile, the Minister has raised fresh hopes of disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund ( CVFF), to enable Nigerian ship owners acquire new vessels that comply with International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules on gas emissions.

Sambo, expressed his desire to quickly  disburse the  CVFF to enable indigenous ship owners acquire new fleet.

He called on ship owners and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to provide recommendations on the kind of vessels to acquire with the CVFF.

He said the need for new technology to drive the Maritime sector has not only become necessary but imperative, stressing that no nation can afford to ignore a sector that employs millions of people globally, which is responsible for the transportation of at least 70% of globally-traded goods, and is a major contributor to the GDP.

He that it is therefore imperative that developing countries like Nigeria should take advantage of this declaration by the IMO to explore more partnerships, demand an inclusive and fair distribution of global resources and deployment of relevant technology to aid decarbonization, and control of marine plastic litter and biofueling.

He described this year’s WMD theme,“New Technologies for Greener Shipping” as apt and urged governments and stakeholders to meet the challenges that come with greener shipping.

“Let me reiterate that we  all need to recognize that our commitment to a greener future in the maritime industry comes with certain responsibilities on the part of government and private sector stakeholders in the sector. It comes with the responsibility to train and retrain our workforce in order to prepare them for the inevitable innovation and transformations of the future that will certainly impact jobs and skills, he said.

He said that, “As a country, we must not lose out in the future race which will require a workforce of new skills and competencies.

“On maritime institutions, particularly the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, and the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT) must therefore begin to re-calibrate the curricula to begin to address these requirements of the future. Furthermore, a green future equally implies the commitment by the private sector, to invest in more modern platforms and assets which will meet the emission levels of the future.”

In her opening remarks, the permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, noted that the WMD celebration was conceived in 1978, to provide opportunity for maritime member states, and the maritime community as a whole to focus attention on the importance of shipping, maritime safety and protection of marine environment.

“It was also intended to promote IMO’s activities, achievements and objectives in the short, medium and long term, as well as organise events focusing on themes chosen  by IMO every year’s,” he said.