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FG may concession railways after completion —Amaechi

MINISTER of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, on Tuesday, in Abuja, said that the Federal Government would complete work on the ongoing rail projects across the country and possibly concession them as a way of making the system efficient and drive the much-needed development of the country.

He said that government was committed to revamping the sector to fully harness the abundant potentials of the agricultural and solid minerals sectors.

The minister spoke at an Agri-Produce and Solid Minerals Rail Conference, held in Abuja, where he stated that unbundling of the railway through the Railway Bill, currently before the National Assembly, remains a vehicle to end public monopoly of the sector.

The event, which has as its theme, “Rail Transport as Catalyst for Agriculture and Solid Minerals Expansion in Nigeria to boost job creation, food security and diversified non-oil earnings”, was used by the ministry to defend the choice of China in the development of the rail sector, as against countries like United Kingdom and Japan.

Represented by the Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr Freeborn Okhiria, Amaechi disclosed that the ministry was working on ways to maximise the rail system in boosting agricultural produce and expressed his support for private sector participation in the sector.

Also speaking, the Director in charge of rail in the ministry, Mr Mohammed Babakobi, said that China was chosen for development of Nigeria’s rail sector as it has sound capacity and track records to execute the projects.

He disclosed that China develops 1,000 tracks every year which meets Nigeria’s demands.

“They are in consonance with what we want; they are competitive in terms of cost,” he said.

According to him, China also has funds for such development which Nigeria does not get from other countries.

In his words, “China offers us immediate functional option that meets our demands.”

Speaking also, the Chief Executive Officer of Connect Rail Services, Edeme Kelikume, noted that now that more rail projects are due for commissioning, it is expected that stakeholders begin to develop roadmap on how to key into it to reduce or eliminate current post harvest agricultural losses.

He said although the country’s rail system is not yet developed up to what it should, the current status was significant enough to assist in reducing food losses.

Kelikume lamented the amount of money lost by farmers who have limited incentives while struggling to move their farm produce to the various markets scattered across the country.

The chief executive officer described rail system as the most effective land transport system available.