Experts Calls for Nigerian Railway Corporation to be Privatised

Experts have advised privatising the Nigerian Railway Corporation to increase productivity and improve the country's transportation system.

In view of this discussion, the PUNCH conducted separate interviews with the stakeholders, who offered their counsel.

Olumide Ohunayo, the Aviation Round Table's Assistant General Secretary, supported the NRC privatisation, highlighting the importance of technological advancement and an effective online payment and booking system.

Ohunayo expressed regret over corruption within the rail organisation and its management, emphasising that restructuring is necessary to improve the industry's competitiveness.

"I am totally in support of the privatisation of the rail lines. The technology and online payment and booking system would take a turn. The rail institution and management are highly corrupt, and there is no way the company can move forward with the current structure of the rail system.

 "We need it to complement air transport and road transport services. This can only come when it is efficiently managed. That management cannot and will not be gotten under the current Nigerian railway system and management," he added.

Bethlehem Rail CEO Rowland Ataguba suggested a different approach and offered a restructuring model to separate operations from regulation. 

He mentioned that a recent constitutional amendment allowed subnational governments to operate in the railway industry.

Ataguba claims that to reflect this change, the Railway Act must be amended to create an independent regulatory body apart from the NRC.

He proposed that the government continue to manage certain parts of the railway system, such as regulations.

"Aside from the independent regulator, we must separate the operations and assets management components.

 "Asset management is usually reserved for government because they have deeper pockets; they have instruments that place them in pivotal positions for asset management. There are roles for everybody. One person trying to do everything doesn't work and hasn't worked for us," he noted.

Ataguba suggested splitting the NRC into four parts: a national carrier for operations, an infrastructure company, an independent regulator, and a non-core assets company for sale.

 "What you need is to separate regulation from operations, policy formulation from implementation, and isolate operations so that it is attractive for investment," he stated.

John Ojikutu, the CEO of Centurion Security Limited, emphasised the government's role in fostering an environment that encourages private sector investment.

According to Ojikutu's concept, private investors could run trains and handle maintenance while the government would provide regulatory oversight and ease access to rail lines.

 "The government can only encourage people and develop the environment for it but cannot put money into it.  The government should make the rail lines available and let people put their trains on the track. If they make that happen, there will be more accessibility to trains nationwide.

 "The government should handle the regulation of the movement of the trains and handle the routes each train should operate," he advised.

Ojikutu claims that while the government is in charge of maintaining the security of the rail lines and receiving money from them, the individual owners of these trains would be in charge of maintaining their trains.

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