A cargo logistics expert has said that the rail transport system in Nigeria accounts for only one per cent of the movement of cargo both imported and locally made products, a development he said was quite poor and substantially responsible for the imperfections in the nation’s transport system.
It has been reported that Nigeria loses over 30 per cent of her Gross Domestic Product GDP to the imperfections in her transport systems, which retard the growth and development of the economy.
A recent report by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council NEPC, also indicates that 35 per cent of the value of Nigeria’s non-oil export products goes into the transportation of the affected products, which, among several other factors contribute in making them expensive and uncompetitive in the global market.
The expert, who pleaded anonymity, blamed this rather ugly development to the non linkage of most of the nation’s seaports to functional rail lines, which makes cargo movement a herculean task.
For instance, he said that out of Nigeria’s eight seaports, only two, the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa and the old Port Harcourt Ports are currently linked to the tracks, which he said is grossly inadequate.
According to him, in the absence of functional rail tracks linked with the seaports, huge emphasis has been placed on the movement of cargo by road with the attendant huge cost of maintaining the roads due to extreme pressure on them from heavily laden trucks and tanker vehicles used for the distribution of refined petroleum products across the country.
He also partly blamed this ugly development on the current focus of the Nigerian Railway Corporation NRC, which seems to be favourably disposed to passenger trains as against that of cargo, which is more financially rewarding.
The expert, who expressed worries over the poor quality of rail cargo haulage in the country, called for the decentralisation of the management structure of the NRC.
To butress his point, he shared an unpleasant experience of such poor and shabby quality of service he received when he moved some consignments from the Lagos Ports Complex, LPC, Apapa to Zaria in Kaduna State.
While recounting the ugly experience, he disclosed that despite the long notice given to the corporation, it was able to provide only 20 out of a total of 83 wagons needed to move the consignment.
It was gathered that this lack of sufficient number of wagons led to delay in the lifting of the consignments for additional three weeks, thus incurring demurrage of over N3million, which would have been avoided if it had sufficient wagons.
He said: “Elsewhere, the rail transport system should be the safest, cheapest and most efficient and convenient method of moving such large consignments from the seaports to far destinations but this appears not to be the case in Nigeria”, he further lamented.
According to him, to make the matter worse, the train locomotive ran out of Automotive Gas Oil AGO, also called diesel, regretting that it could not refuel until after three days since the headquarters in Laos needed to raise a memo before approval could be given to purchase diesel.
Investigations show that the goods were left on the wagons for those three days wile memos were being raised with the attendant risk of the cargo being vandalised or even getting bad.
The expert however noted that the best way to forestall a repeat of such was the decentralisation or devolution of the powers of the management so that issues such as buying of diesel can be handled at the regional levels as against the current practice where everything is concentrated at the headquarters.
He therefore called on the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi to begin to beam his searchlight of the NRC in order to re-organise and re-focus it with a view to making it more efficient and improve service delivery.
The expert also decried the non-extension of rail tracks to most of the seaports in the country.