16 April 2016, Lagos — The Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC will from June begin to move coal freight through its eastern line running from Igumale in Benue State to the sea port in Port Harcourt. The Acting Managing Director, NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria disclosed this during a parley with newsmen in Lagos.
He said: “We intend to start massive coal movement on the eastern line. We are working very hard to ensure that latest by June, the coal movement operations would have commenced.”
The new railway boss maintained that the corporation has to significantly improve its railway services in order to boost its internally generated revenue. He said: “Presently we move cement freight for Lafarge from Ewekoro up North and we also move container freights but we intend to improve on the present freight movement so that we can enhance our revenue. My management will ensure that we go out to meet our customers and bring them back so that we can fully boost our revenue internally.”
He also confirmed that trial run of the newly completed Abuja to Kaduna standard gauge will still hold by May as the Federal Government has taken delivery of the rolling stock to be used for the trial run operations.
According to him, “The current focus of the FG is to drive the standard gauge, that is, the track modernisation by standard gauge. We are leaving the narrow gauge of 1067mm to 1435mm. And we are happy to announce the arrival of five coaches that will commence the running of the Abuja – Kaduna standard gauge. We will commence the trial run by May and then commence the full commercial operations by June.” Speaking further, Okhiria said:
“It is no longer news that the FG will be pursuing the course of realising the standard gauge rail from Lagos to Kano and another one from Lagos to Calabar and ensuring that the full completion of the Kaduna – Abuja and Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Port Harcourt standard gauge projects. The dream of this management is to fully support the government in achieving the dream by providing necessary professional support and advice.” He added:
“We will continue to run on our narrow gauge. Presently we are running the Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt to Kano; Lagos to Offa to Kano and the Lagos Mass Transit. We also have the Port Harcourt to Aba.”
Earlier during an interaction with railway workers at a town hall meeting, the Managing Director pledged commitment to improving the workers’ welfare, saying that the Corporation remains committed to improving the welfare of the workers to ensure efficiency in driving the vision and development of the Corporation.
The workers had earlier during the meeting decried poor welfare including delayed salaries, poor and inadequate accommodation and inability of retirees to access full benefits and a host of other concerns. But the MD assured the workers that their welfare will be paramount to the management of the Corporation.
He said no former employee of the Corporation will be evicted from his house before receiving his full benefits and that available accommodation will be allocated according to priorities. He decried delays in salary payment and blamed it on the federal government’s inability to pay on time as well as by inability of the corporation to generate enough revenue internally to support the government to fully meet its overhead expenditures.
*Jonah Nwokpoku – Vanguard