The Nigerian Senate on Monday assured Nigerians that they will soon begin to enjoy cheaper means of transporting goods and raw materials once the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act is repealed and re-enacted.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transportation, Senator Gbenga Ashafa gave the assurance during a one day public hearing on the repeal and re-enactment of the Act establishing the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
Senator Ashafa said that achieving an effective railway system in Nigeria would be almost impossible if the Act governing Railway Corporation was not amended. He said that it was now pertinent for the Act to be amended in order to remove all impediments that had hindered the actualization of an effective rail system over the years.
“The repeal and re-enactment of the bill is targeted at revitilising the operational framework and removal of the impediments that hindered the international best practices within the rail transport sector. Rail transport is the strong base of social and industrial activities in both developed and developing countries. However, it appears that the dream of having efficient rail transport here in Nigeria is elusive to Nigerians: this country has a lot of benefits to derive from the revival of the railway transport system.
If the obsolete Act is carefully repealed and overhauled, there is no doubt that the populace will enjoy cheaper means of transporting goods and raw materials: also incessant damage to our roads would be reduced. It is sad to note that until the inception of civilian administration in 1999, little investments were made in the Nigerian rail sector from the mid 1980s when the Railway Corporation was declared bankrupt,” he said.
Senator Ashafa said that it was time to enact an Act that would stand the test of time and open the sector to private investment and concessioning. He therefore called on all stakeholders to contribute meaningfully to the new Act.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki who declared the public hearing open, pledged the commitment of the 8th Assembly to pass the bill when it comes for third reading. He said that the 8th National Assembly was committed to providing the necessary legislative support to aid infrastructure development for a better economy to thrive.
“The Nigerian Railway Corporation Act Amendment bill 2015 is one of the high priority bills of the National Assembly and we are determined to ensure its passage. The rail system is one of the most important arterial systems of our economy, however, not so much have been achieved in the past to move this critical vehicle of the economy.
The existing law in the rail subsector was drafted and enacted to support an outmoded model that restricts management and investments in railway to the public sector. Aside the fact that this law has become too old and outmoded, many experts including the business community agree that there is need to separate the regulator from the operator. This, it is said, is to ensure a much more rapid deployment of the rail system across the nation and bring in competition, innovation and drive in this all-important sector,” he said.
He expressed optimism that the proposed Railway Act would lead to a new era of growth and enable the private sector participate more robustly.
He charged all stakeholders to consider the positive change the new Act would bring about in the area of agriculture, mining, oil and gas, labour, transportation among others.
“We have no choice but to speedily and comprehensively review and pass this bill. It is no exaggeration to say that the passage of this bill and the implementation of its provisions will have the impact of a new economic revolution. It is therefore with delight that I call on all of you to support this effort at changing the outlook of our rail system and our economy as a whole by contributing positively to this public hearing. It is my hope that your contributions would further enrich the discourse at the Senate plenary and that the final draft would have captured the missing links,” he said.