The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, on Tuesday said the massive development of rail projects across the country would place Nigeria at an advantage position for trade, considering the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The minister stated this at the virtual National African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) Implementation Engagement Series for the Rail sub-sector of Transportation.
Represented by Mr. Ibrahim Mohammed, a Deputy Director at the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT), Amaechi said that “the rail sub-sector needs consistent opening for the country to further tap into the agreement that the AfCFTA creates.
“This is why government has embarked on many projects, developing the narrow gauges and establishing standards guages in the country, the Itakpe, Abuja/ Kaduna, Lagos, Kano and other rail lines.”
He noted that the objective of the projects was to connect Nigeria’s hinterland to African countries and help increase the country’s position as a major market in AfCFTA.
The Transportation Minister listed some of the challenges that had bedeviled the sector to include funding, poor regulation, lack of security and ticket racketeering, adding that government was doing much to address the shortfalls in the sector.
In his contribution, Mr. Rasheed Olawale, Director for Afrorail, called for the review of the Railway Act, the Nation Transport Policy, adding that the Act was obsolete and the country should not continue to use an Act established in the 1950s.
Olawale, while speaking on ‘Intermodal and Transnational Rail Connection – Positioning Nigeria under AfCFTA’, said that for better benefits of rail transport, there was need to bring the private sector on board for more investment.
He called for a railway alliance between the Minister of Transportation in Nigeria and that of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin Republic for efficient connectivity.
Mr. Adeolu Dina, a Lecturer at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun, while speaking on ”Potential Impact and Benefits of Rail Sub-sector,” noted that the sector was a potential enhancer for business through the movement of goods with speed and safety.
He listed some of benefits as: anticipated demand for movement of cargo which could be escalated when border issues and others are sorted, increase in traffic due to increase in trade, and improved technical capacity both local content and acquisition of technical expertise.
Other benefits include improved regional connection, supply chain cost and customs processing.
In his welcome address, Mr. Francis Anatogu, Senior Special Assistant to the President and Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, noted that the rail sub-sector of transportation was a great opportunity for Nigeria to start solving the issue of revenue and job opportunity.
Anatogu added that a lot had happened within the past four years in the rail sector, stating that with AfCFTA, it would help the country focus on export and build on post oil economy.
“In the past, the country have been focusing on the road but now there is need to tap into rail as it is cheap and will ensure Nigeria trades with other African countries.
“Essentially, if one produces, you need to get to customers and so we also need to improve on our competitiveness to actualise that,” he said.