Stakeholders advocate regional, inter-state rail connectivity

Stakeholders in the transportation sector have advocated for regional connectivity of rail networks in the country to boost intercity trade and facilitate development.

The stakeholders, who gathered at the second yearly National Transport Technology Conference and Exhibition webinar organized by the Forum for Transport Commissioners, agreed that states could leverage the existing national rail line to connect cities and towns.

The webinar was part of the pre-event conversation series ahead of the National Transport Technology Conference and Exhibition 2023 slated for October.

Tagged, ‘From the Exclusive list to the Concurrent list: Strategies for Rail Transport Development and Investments for Sub-Nationals’, participants proposed regional rail development companies such as South-East- South-South (SESS) rail to link the industrial and tourist states of south-east and south-south and connect them with the cargo airports to create a strong regional market.

Speaking at the webinar, the guest speaker, Dr. Alban Igwe, said rail in the concurrent list represents an excellent opportunity to rethink development within the box, out of the box, or without the box.

He said railways are the backbone of sustainable regional connectivity and green recovery. As an environmentally friendly high-capacity transport mode, the rail system can reduce land take and pollution thereby improving resource efficiency, air quality, and biodiversity.

Igwe who is also a Member of, the Board of Directors, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Nigeria, said railways are a climate-smart and efficient way to move people and freight. Railways promote economic growth while cutting greenhouse gas emissions. They are a clean and compact way to move millions of passengers and millions of tons of goods across countries and continents.

Hence, he said states should focus on operational and energy efficiency, service attractiveness, and maintainability, while also placing focus on connecting the industrial Centres to stimulate development and improve the quality of life.

Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Transportation, Tobi Ogunleye, said the theme of the meeting is apt as states need to harness giving to them from such moves by the Federal Government.

Ogunleye said it is not for states to fold their hands but create legal frameworks to allow for rail development. He said the southwest has agreed to integrate railways within the region to facilitate development and make movement easy for passengers.

President of, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Mrs. Mfon Usoro, said states should ensure they create policies within the rail system to encourage investors’ participation.

Usoro said states also need to learn from the Federal Government’s mistakes in rail and improve on their ways of channeling a proper rail network.
Permanent Secretary, of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, said the transportation sector in Nigeria is facing many challenges and the rail subsector is no exception. Nevertheless, the subsector has experienced some changes over the years, particularly the legislative framework governing its administration and management.

Ajani said the key to the changes is the movement of the subsector from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List which has diverse positive implications for the development of rail infrastructure at the subnational level.

She said previously, the 1999 Constitution placed the rail subsector in the Exclusive List which gave the right of development and ownership of the rail system to solely the Federal Government. However, the demand for decentralized powers resulted in the amendment of the Constitution in 2010 to include it in the Concurrent List allowing the Federal and State Governments to legislate the Subsector.

According to her the Lagos State government and the Federal Capital Territory Administration have capitalized on this development and have commenced the development of their rail systems. In addition, it has created opportunities for discussions on strategies to enhance rail subsector development at the subnational level.

Ajani said the goal of the Ministry is to bring to bear a collaborative environment where ideas and strategies are geared towards aligning with the overall national vision.

Managing Director, of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, said the corporation is open to working with states in achieving a rail network within the country. He said lack of proper information has barred so many states from the opportunities embedded in rail transportation.

Okhiria said the corporation is willing to cooperate with states where national rail lines pass through their states to facilitate the movement of people from one end to another. He said states are mandated to start with standard gauge lines, stating that the viability of rail is not measured by naira and kobo but by the impact it makes on the community and the general public at large.

Executive Director of the Centre of Sustainable Mobility and Access Development (CenMAD), Dr Kayode Opeifa, said states and regions must not just rush into rail without proper planning to avoid abandoned projects, but with collaboration, a lot could be achieved.

Opeifa who doubles as transportation expert and former Commissioner for Transportation in Lagos State said states should take advantage of existing National corridors spanning over 5000 kilometres as a co-use or for spurs to co-connection, a first option with for easy entry FCT and Lagos are good examples.

He said the field had always been opened one way or the other but for cost and competing needs, stating that neither rail infrastructure nor the rolling stocks nor the supporting technology is cheap.
He suggested that critical knowledge based on planning and detailed strategic studies of needs and forms should be carried out by states.

Executive Secretary, of Nigeria Transportation Commissioners’ Forum, Mrs Chinwe Uwaegbute, said the webinar was intentional because of the urgent need for Sub-Nationals to key into the breath of fresh air in the Rail Transport sector.

Uwaegbute said with the movement of ‘Railways’ from the Exclusive list to the concurrent by the immediate past administration and with the forum driving the process of engaging with stakeholders and partners on strategies to winning ways to conceptualize, revive, harmonize policies and provide a conducive framework and environment to attract investments and investors to sub-nationals.

Source: The Guardian

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