Port efficiency: Remove rail from exclusive list, maritime workers beg FG
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria MWUN inadvertently added its voice to calls for the restructuring of the country, saying that the Federal Government should remove rail from the exclusive legislative list and place it on the concurrent list in order to attract private investments to the sector, which will enhance efficiency of the nation’s seaports.
Assistant Secretary General of the union, Comrade Abudu Eroje, who spoke at a stakeholders engagement with the Senate Committee on Marine Transport tagged: “Lunch with the Senate” organised by the committee in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transport, regretted that the whole issues around the gridlock in Apapa is because the ports are not connected to the functional rail lines.
According to apart from the Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa, which has a rail system, which is even not working, none of the seaports in the country is connected to a rail system, a development that has made movement of cargo in and out of the seaports a herculean task since it must be by the roads with the attendant gridlocks and associated additional cost.
He also observed that the Federal Government does not have the financial muscle to connect all the seaports to the rail systems, a development that supports the urgent need for the government to remove the rail from the exclusive legislative and place it on the concurrent list as part of efforts to attract private investments to the sector.
He also told the committee that whatever gridlock being experienced in Apapa and environs would be a child’s play compared to what will be experienced in Badagry and Lekki when the two mega deep seaports, which are almost completed come on stream.
“Nobody can talk of an efficient seaport operation without an efficient rail system to move goods in and out of the ports. Even if you repair all the roads in Apapa, there will still be gridlocks because will keep increasing until you connect the seaports to the rail systems so that cargo will go out and come in any time of the day because the seaports operate 24 hours.
“The best the Federal Government can do now is to remove the rail system from the exclusive legislative list and place same on the concurrent list so that state governments, even private investors, some of who are developing mega deep seaports can invest in the rail sector, without which the nation’s seaports may never be efficient”, he further warned.
On the problems associated with the management of empty containers, he urged the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA to convert the Lily Pond Container Terminal, Ijora, which he said has the capacity to take over 12, 000 containers to empty container depot to avoid containers littering everywhere on Lagos roads and streets.
He also argued that the transfer of some consignments to eastern ports, especially the Port Harcourt Port, as being canvassed by some people might not address the challenge, saying that it will cost the importer over N2million to return one empty container to Lagos, insisting that the only permanent solution to the problem is the dredging the eastern channels to take vessels as well as decentralising rail systems by allowing individuals to invest in the sector.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Ahmed Sani had told the stakeholders that the purpose of the engagement was to review the activities of the committee in the past years, project for the future and also feel the pulse of the stakeholders, which will provide the needed guide to the legislators on the areas of urgent need.
On the Apapa gridlock, he urged the stakeholders to be patient with the government, as everything is being done to fix all the port access roads, many of which are in terrible state of disrepair, assuring that the gridlocks would soon be a thing of the past.