A paltry 5,948 containers load of cargoes were moved out of the Lagos seaports in the last five years according to investigation by LEADERSHIP.
The Lagos Port Complex, Apapa is the only port in the Western Zone connected by rail.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Usman while on a tour of the ports recently, emphasised the need to move cargoes in and out of the ports by rail in order to lessen pressure on the roads.
She said that because of the exigency of the times, the NPA will work with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to facilitate this by ensuring that the tracks are in place and provision made for rolling stock. But, statistics have shown that cargoes are not being moved out of the port through rail as expected.
According to data exclusively made available to LEADERSHIP, 5,948 containers out of 2,847,000 were received in the years under review. The data showed that in 2013, 625,000 containers were discharged at Lagos Port while, 613,000 were discharged in 2014. In 2015, 604,000 were discharged while 505,000 and 500,000 were discharged in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
But, 650 containers were moved out of the port by rail in 2014, and 412 were moved in 2015. In 2016, the number dropped to 273 and moved up to 2,760 in 2017. However, 1,853 containers have been moved so far from January to April 2018 from the Lagos port. Inability to move containers by rail out of the seaport has put much pressure on the roads and bridges in Lagos leading to dilapidated state of the port access roads.
Accordimg to a transporter and the vice chairman, dry cargo section of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Lagos state, Alhaji Inuwa Abdullahi, the initiative for moving goods out of the ports via railway lines would ease traffic on the roads.
He said: “The NPA’s involvement to ease the cost of doing business at the seaport through cargo movement via rail network needs to be properly streamlined with the NRC for it to succeed. It was also gathered that inefficiencies on the part of the NRC has also contributed to the poor numbers of cargoes moved out from the port.’’
For instance, in 2013, when the then Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar, flagged-off a regime of movement of containers by rail from Apapa port to the north, during one of the initial trips in the deal brokered between the NPA and the NRC, a haulage train transporting 20 units of containers from Lagos port to ICNL depots in Kano and Kaduna states broke down at Mopa, a town in Kogi state.
In 2017 as well, a cargo train which took off from Lagos to Kano reportedly got to Oshogbo, about three of its last coaches detached from the rest. Eyewitnesses alleged that the three coaches started moving backwards until they got to the interchange at the terminus in Oshogbo where the wheels got off the track and the coaches fell on their side.
Industry stakeholders had insisted that only a vibrant and viable railway corporation with functional fleet of engines and coaches can play pivotal role to increase the capacity and efficiency of evacuation of cargoes from the ports to many towns along the rail network.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, the National Publicity Secretary-elect of the Association of Nigerian Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), Joe Sanni said rail remains the only alternative for movement of cargoes out of the seaports. He however, charged government to invest heavily on railway infrastructure saying that would help decongest the nation’s roads.
“There is no doubt about the fact that the only way out of decongesting the ports fast and ease movement of goods out of the ports is to move cargoes through rail which can carry as much as possible and can go the distance and is the safest in view of our bad roads for now,” he said.
Sanni, a foremost clearing agent, said movement of goods by rail would also help reduce freight cost and by extension reduce price of goods.
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