The Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, has faulted the N4.5bn earmarked for the Nigerian railway in the 2016 budget, describing it as grossly inadequate to meet the immediate needs of the industry.
He said this on Tuesday during an inspection tour of the railway facilities in Lagos by the joint Senate and House Committees on Land Transport.
Ashafa said, “What that amount can do in one year for a corporation with an overhead of N399m, I don’t know; this is because the bulk of that sum is tailored towards the personnel cost. For the record, the Nigerian Railway Corporation has a total of 9,700 employees.
“While we are inching closer to where we ought to be as a nation in the area of land transport, we are clearly not anywhere close to the mark. The task of moving from a dispensation of single track railway to the standard gauge and then towards exploring the possibilities of electronic railway depends on all of us present here.”
He added that the inspection tour was in line with the lawmakers’ responsibilities in carrying out the oversight functions of the ministries and departments under their supervision.
Ashafa said it had become imperative for members of the committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives to carry out on-the-spot assessment of all the paper work submitted and defended before them.
The Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport, Aminu Isa, expressed his delight at the NRC’s achievements and assured the corporation of the House’s assistance.
He said, “This corporation, if given the chance, will do better. We as honourable members intend to intervene and see how we can greatly assist the NRC in this 2016 budget. I hope the corporation will be able to take us to the level where South Africa and Ethiopia are with their railway systems.”
The Managing Director of the NRC, Mr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, in his address, said the railway which had been comatose for decades was now back on track.
He said, “Following substantial progress on the ongoing rehabilitation projects, the NRC now operates mass transit trains, intercity passenger trains, cargo trains, excursion and specialised charter trains all over the country.
“We are equally optimistic about commencing the movement of petroleum products from Lagos up the North soonest to further strengthen railway relevance to Nigeria’s economic growth.”
Sijuwade added that the NRC was also involved in the movement of cement from Ewekoro to Minna, Kaduna and Kano for the Lafarge Cement; the movement of wheat and flour products from Lagos to
Kano for Flour Mills Limited; and the movement of containers from the Apapa Port to Kaduna and Kano for APMT and ICNL.
The Director of Operations of the NRC, Mr. Niyi Ali, lamented that the lack of funding towards the completion of the Safe Train Control system had slowed down its implementation.
A modern railway signal system, the STC, allows the NRC to monitor real-time movements of trains on the tracks, with the aid of the On Board Computers installed on its locomotives, according to him.
The NRC began a trial implementation of the project last year, he added.
“The problem we have is funding. The contractor has not been paid for over a year. This is one of the projects being funded by SURE P and since its demise, the project has slowed down. A lot of equipment has already been shipped in,” Ali said.