(Magnus Eze, ABUJA)
Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday said the Federal Government was committed to revamping the railway sector to drive the economic diversification process of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
This is as the Department for International Development (DFID) hinted that Nigeria needs about N650b to develop its rail system in the next 25 years.
Speaking at the 1st Agri-Produce and Solid Minerals Rail Conference in Abuja, the minister said government would complete the narrow gauge network, but he expressed sadness that the insurgency in the north east has greatly affected the project from Gombe.
Represented by the Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr Freeborn Okhiria, the minister disclosed that the nation’s 3500km rail line would be concessioned and made efficient to become a big backbone for the agricultural and solid minerals sectors.
Also speaking, the Director, Rail in the ministry, Mr Mohammed Babakobi identified lack of political will and legal framework as reasons why the concessioining of the sector failed in 2005.
Babakobi explained that the unbundling of the railway through the Railway Bill before the National Assembly this time around will end public monopoly and give room for efficiency.
The Director further said that part of the new standard gauge line being developed will engender agro-industrial clusters, adding that railway property management company would be set up to manage the enterprise.
Transport and Urban Planning Adviser of the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF), a DFID project, Mr Vidhi Mohan who said that there is huge prospect in the railway in Nigeria noted that the government cannot do it alone.
The theme of the conference was “Rail Transport as catalyst for Agriculture and Solid Minerals Expansion in Nigeria to boost job creation, food security and diversified non-oil earnings”.