Senate moves to unbundle Nigeria Railways Corporation

The Senate Wednesday began the process of unbundling the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC).

It is proposing to create through independent agencies that will comprise of public and private stakeholders to perform the functions of the NRC.

The upper chamber is planning a bill to reduce Federal Government’s powers as sole operators and regulators of the sector.

The bill talks about the creation of the National Railway Authority, the Independent Railway Regulatory Commission and the Railway Operators’ scheme.

Entitled, “Review of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Repeal and Re-Enactment Bill”, the proposed legislation restricts the Ministry of Transportation to policy making, while the National Railway Authority is to manage the infrastructure, pending the establishment of National Transport Commission

The Railway Regulator, the bill says, would be charged with the functions of economic and safety regulation of the sector while the Private sector Railway Operators would have the primary function of providing railway services through concessions.

To achieve the objectives, the Senate Committee on Land Transport, composed a technical committee made up engineers in the private sector to review the existing NRC Act and come up with modalities that would enhance efficiency in the sector.

The 14-member technical committee chaired by Chris Okoye, submitted its report to the Senate leadership on Wednesday.

Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who received the report from the Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, said the reform of the  country’s  railways system is important to the much needed economic revival of the country.

Saraki reiterated the commitment of the 8th Senate towards the passage of the National Railways Commission Bill before the end of the first session of the 8th Senate.

He commended the chairman and members of the technical committee for the timely completion of their assignment.

He noted that the report had shown that the 8th Senate was committed to work with experts in the private sector to put in place necessary machineries that are necessary to put the nation’s economy back on track.

He said, “I believe everybody will benefit from the content of this report because no economy can develop without an efficient mass transportation system. We all acknowledge that the government alone cannot provide the funding needed to upgrade the rail infrastructure; therefore, the Bill will make provision that would allow the private sector to participate and subsequently take the burden of funding off the government.

“There is no way we can address our mass transportation challenge without a direct engagement with the private sector. With a good and efficient transportation system in place people will talk less about the cost of fuel.”

Saraki said that the Senate is eager to consider and pass the Bill before the end of the first session of the 8th Senate.

He expressed optimism that the House of Representatives would give the Bill speedy consideration and passage when sent to the Lower House for concurrence by the Senate. He said, “This is one way we can address the bottlenecks in the land transportation sector. History is being made as we have opened another chapter in our legislative functions. What we are doing this afternoon is to identify technicalities in the sector before the report could be laid before the Senate.

“We must get the railways system on the right track. Public sector alone cannot address the issues. We need partnership from the private sector which was the essence of inaugurating this Technical Committee.

He noted that with the report, the Senate can comfortably debate the Bill and come out with acceptable policies that will give life back to the sector.

“I am confident that the NRC Bill will scale through third reading and passed in the Senate before the end of this session,” Saraki said.

Ashafa, explained that the Senate after the Public hearing on the NRC Bill gathered memoranda and reports which necessitated the commissioning of the technical committee to make input into the Railways repeal and reenactment Bill due to the sensitive and technical nature of the nation’s railway system.

The Lagos State lawmaker noted that the Bill when passed into law would directly make positive impact on majority of Nigerians as it would make mass movement of goods and services cheaper and the people less dependent on fuel for their transportation needs.

Okoye, commended the Senate for the opportunity to make input into the bill especially “at this defining moment in the nation’s history.”

He said, “As a nation, we have attacked the power sector even though there are still hiccups. The next most important sector is transportation and we believe that if given the required attention, it has the potential of catalyzing the nation’s economic growth.

He said, “People will not worry about fuel if they know that they have an efficient mass transportation system that will move them from place to place.”

He further noted that the setting up of the technical committee to make input into the National Railways Commission Bill is the first in the history of the National Assembly.

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