As the Federal Government explores the opportunities in developing Inland Container Depots (ICDs), the need for transformation of the rail transport has become paramount.
The success of the ICDs would demand on the functionality of the nation’s rail system. However, the current state of the nation’s railway infrastructure cannot play the significant role required for the success of the ICDs. Shouldn’t the Federal Government be more concerned about developing the railway to ensure that the nation is connected from one end of the country to another before developing ICDs?
One of the lessons from the temporary closure of the Abuja airport, was the deficiency of the rail system as Abuja-bound local and international flights were routed to Kaduna, the Kaduna rail transport was overrun by passengers.
Few weeks ago, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Barr. Hassan Bello visited the Kaduna ICD with the Container Depot billed to kick-off soon, but the railway challenges remain.
To curb the challenges in developing a dry port, Inland Containers Nigeria Limited (ICNL), operators of the Kaduna Dry Port, recently called on the Federal Government to extend another rail track, and also purchase more locomotives and wagons to boost its operations.
According to the firm, this will accommodate more goods and enable the railway to meet up with the demand of users as the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) could only boast of few wagons and locomotives to move cargoes up north.
The Inland Container Depots otherwise known as Dry Port, was conceived as part of solution to the problem of inadequate access by hinterland shippers seaports and frequent congestion. The frequent congestion at seaports had led to the loss, carnage, and accidents of cargo in transit on land mode.
The Managing Director of ICNL, Ismail Yusuf, said that only 20 per cent of their request is met by the railway corporation; a situation that made him ask what will happen if the dry port finally begins operation that will require more volume of cargoes?.
Ismail’s fears as genuine as the Nigerian Railway Corporation to improve on areas such as: provision of locomotive engines and more wagons and we also want them to improve on the maintenance of their tracks so that their efficiency and effectiveness will increase so as to meet up with demand of the users of the rail.
The government should also see this as a pointer to the inevitability of a resurgent Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) that has become even more than necessary to fill the yawning gap in the transport matrix of the country. Subsequently, the passage of the Nigerian Railway Bill 2016 should be expedited as it would play a major role in driving this.
The bill is targeted at revitalizing the operational framework and removal of the impediments that hindered international best practices within the rail transport sector. It seeks to open up the railway business to private investors, and to distinguish the regulator, which is the government, from the operator.
The concept of ICD was is being promoted by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), as the development of the ports are part of the government efforts to decongest the seaports and bring shipping services closer to importers and exporters in the hinterland. The Federal Government has said that it expects two or three Inland Container Depots (ICDs) functioning by 2017, nevertheless, the crucial role of railway shouldn’t be downplayed. We shouldn’t put the cart before the horse as we did with the port concession before a regulator.