A humming of a sort is audible from the country's railway sector. Coming from the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) and other authorised channels,the buzz word today is that the railway is back. However, the reality for most Nigerians is that the railway as they knew it in its glorious era is not anywhere in sight.
That the railway system remains largely colonial in all ramifications ought to be a huge cause for concern, even shame, for us all. Suffice it to say that the situation calls for sober reflection and emergency action beyond the official photo-calls those in charge have made of it.
Since billions of dollars have been spent on the rail system over the last seven years without commensurate improvement, it would not be far-fetched to surmise that the promised railways revitalisation scheme has become a veritable corruption trough through which the country is being bled dry. What happened to the $2 billion earmarked for the construction of high-speed rail system from Lagos to Abuja, light rail lines to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport from Lagos city and to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport from the Abuja city centre? What has been the status of these projects since the federal government under President Olusegun Obasanjo signed a memorandum of understanding with the Guangdong Xinguang International Group on March 16, 2006, to build them? How many trips have the NRC made on the purportedly revitalised Lagos-Kano intercity train services since it claimed the service started running on December 12, 2012? The same question could be posed on the Lagos-Ilorin and Minna-Kano train services.
Very little transformation is possible in a country lacking an efficient transport system built on a robust multi-modal approach. Nigeria cannot continue to play the ostrich and hide its head in the sand. A modern, efficient railway system will take pressure off the country's groaning road network, create direct and ancillary jobs, foster unity and stimulate economic growth, moving people, goods and services nationwide. Currently, the country's railways infrastructure constrains the masses in several needless ways, stifling their entrepreneurial potential. An environment conducive for legitimate enterprise is a duty of every responsible government to its citizens. Consequently, we demand a functional and modern rail system for Nigerians. Since the government-driven rail sector has apparently failed the nation, we demand a private sector-controlled railway system for the country. To usher in this new age in the sector, we urge the National Assembly to abrogate all extant legislations closing up the sector to other participants and liberalise it. Under this fresh beginning, governments may only provide the tracks and related infrastructure while specified coaches as well as day-to-day running of the services and maintenance should be concessioned to the private sector with a commission regulating the sector.
For far too long, the rail sector has become a bottomless pit into which national resources are fraudulently, frivolously and endlessly emptied. This should stop forthwith.