Stakeholders seek localisation of rail development, continental collaboration
• Lauds Buhari over the partnership with Russia’s ahead railway roundtable
The current efforts being made by the Federal Government to overhaul the nation’s railway sector may not be sustainable unless the government plans and implement localisation strategies aimed at involving local contractors as well as skill transfers, some experts in railway development have said.
Lauding President Muhammadu Buhari over efforts in completing some rail projects and the new deal, which would involve Russian Government in constructing 1,400 kilometres track from Lagos to the South-South city of Calabar, the stakeholders noted that there was the need for government to build the capacity of indigenous firms to ensure the sustainability of railway in the country.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had disclosed the agreements reached between Buhari and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin to include the construction of the new rail line.
But the stakeholders, who spoke in Abuja ahead of African Railway Roundtable (ART), an event aimed at bringing the continent together to push for railway development noted that it was critical for the government to consider diversifying resources and contracts for the rail lines.
Managing Director of a Nigerian – United Kingdom-based, J. Salmon and Partners Ltd, James Akpoviroro, noted that being the biggest economy on the continent, Nigeria should be the railway hub of Africa, adding that the country could also build and transfer the knowledge across the continent.
Akpoviroro, who admitted that the current investors are crucial to the revival of the rail sector in Nigeria, said that excluding locals from the execution of the projects and failure to build their capacity as well as initiate a robust maintenance plan may thwart expectations of taxpayers on the long run.
“There is no solid government’s say on the railway. There appears to be no indigenous expert advising the government on what path to take, all they are doing now is to just see that the railway is running. We must realise that China is only loaning the money to us, we will pay back. It is very important for the government to seek the involvement of locals at this point. Foreigners would leave someday, and if that happens, the system may collapse,” he said.
The event which is going to attract heads of government, Ministers of Transportation and heads of railway agencies across Africa noting that the postponed 2019 version was meant to attract top-flight government leaders from Africa who are in Sochi-Russia for the Russia-Africa Business Forum.
Speaking on railway roundtable scheduled to hold next year, ARRL Policy Director, who is also the Coordinator of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Policy Advocacy Centre (PAC), Olawale Rasheed, described the interest of the UK Company in the railway exhibition as a landmark development.
According to him, the current efforts in developing the rail sector needed to showcase to the rest of the world to attract investment that would indirectly boost the nation’s economy, skill development, and other critical challenges.
“The reality is that we don’t have all the money. That is why we need investment. Russia has just indicated interest. The investment coming to the sector is massive,” Rasheed said.
He said the borrowing to finance railway is not out of place, stressing that the country would benefit more if the rail lines become functional.
“I don’t see a problem with borrowing. It is still less than 20 per cent of our GDP. Borrowing to finance critical projects like railway is a move in the right direction. But our borrowing should be tied to localization,” Rasheed said.
On the scheduled conference, Rasheed said: “We welcome J.Salmon and Partners Ltd and the partnership arrangement with us. Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) as well as the majority of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) players have already indicated interest to key into in
“We have the facilities, especially an ultra-modern international event centre that is capable of taking hundreds of stands in the serene environment.
“From what we are putting together, Nigeria will be properly positioned as a railway hub for sub-Saharan Africa. And we are doing all these with the full partnership of a refocused transportation system in Nigeria”, Rasheed said.