By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
Only a total rehabilitation of the rail system and expansion of the network to link all the ports and terminals in Lagos will effectively improve the evacuation of cargoes from the ports, transporters have said.
Although they expressed delight with the palliative work on access roads to Apapa Port being undertaken by A.G. Dangote Construction, they said its impact would be perfunctory as only an effective rail system can facilitate the mass evacuation of goods from the ports.
Vice Chairman, dry cargo section of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Lagos State, Alhaji Inuwa Abdullahi, stated this weekend while disclosing that the initiative for moving goods out of the ports via railway lines would ease traffic on the roads.
“NPA’s involvement to ease the cost of doing business at the sea ports through cargo movement via rail network needs to be properly streamlined with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) for it to succeed.” He regrets that inefficiency on the part of the NRC is still contributing to the fluctuating statistics of cargoes moved out from the ports through the rail lines.
On his part, Joe Sanni, National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), said the railways remain the only alternative for moving cargoes in and out of the seaports. He explained that government must invest heavily in railway infrastructure as a way to decongest the nation’s roads.
“There is no doubt about the fact that the only way to decongest the ports fast and ease movement of goods is to move cargoes through rail which can carry as much as possible and can go a long distance. In view of our bad roads, it is the safest mode for now”, Sanni said. Movement of goods by rail will also help reduce freight costs and, by extension, price of goods, he added.
Business & Maritime West Africa gathered that in 2014, a total of 650 containers were moved out of Apapa port by rail. In 2015, the figure went down to 412. In 2016, the number dropped to 273. There was a dramatic rise between January to the first two weeks in April 2018, when 1,853 containers have so far been moved from the Lagos port by rail.
Senator Idris Umar, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transportation Minister, had in 2013 flagged off a regime of movement of containers by rail from Apapa port to the northern part of the country and promised that it would permanently remove whatever encumbrances against seamless evacuation of containers from the premier port to the hinterland.
During one of the initial trips in the deal arranged between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), a train hauling 20 units of containers from Lagos port to the Inland Containers Depot (ICNL) in Kano and Kaduna broke down at Mopa in Kogi State and exposed the goods to untold danger and delay. Many people in goods haulage and logistics system blamed the NRC for failing to adequately test the integrity of the lines before the exercise began.