Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE has started developing a roadmap to concession the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC.
This is sequel to a directive by the National Council on Privatisation, NCP to the BPE to commence collaboration with the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility, NIAF which has committed to fund the consultancy for the development of the roadmap and framework for the concession of the rail tracks of the Nigeria Railways Corporation, NRC.
A statement by the Head, Public Communications of the BPE, Alex E. Okoh said this was one of the decisions reached following the presentation by the Director General of the BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki at the Meeting of the Council in 2015 held on Thursday, April 16, 2015 in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999 scheduled the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC for privatisation and the National Council on Privatisation, NCP in 2002 approved that the enterprise be concessioned to private operators to provide freight and passenger railway services using the vertical integration model.
The statement added that the decision to reform the railways was borne out of the government desire to avoid the collapse and eventual shut down of the railways, generally regarded as a loss making but socially and economically imperative to the nation.
It noted that “in view of the funding challenges facing the future of rail in Nigeria it seems dependent on the efficiency and professionalism which the private sector can bring to improve railway operations.
“The railway reform, restructuring and privatisation programme is specifically aimed at achieving the following objectives: Provide the framework for private sector led growth through expanded domestic and foreign investment; Improve NRC’s ability to provide adequate, safe, reliable and efficient rail services; and Reduce NRC dependence on the FGN budget by introducing private sector investment in the sector.”
It would be recalled that a new Railway bill which is one of the eight reform bills recently approved by the NCP and Federal Executive Council, FEC is currently before the National Assembly for passage into law.
The new Bill seeks to among others, repeal the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, 1955; provide the appropriate market design and legal framework for the implementation of Government’s reform programme; separate the roles of policy making, regulation and operation; provide a platform for the introduction of private sector concessionaires and promote competition in the provision of railway services nationwide.
In 2005, the Bureau, through the World Bank funding, engaged the services of CPCS Transcom as Transaction Advisers to advise in the concession of the Rails.
The firm had completed about 80 percent of the assignment including the concession of the Central Railways (Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri line which terminates at Ovu) and the due diligence on the entire rail network before its contract was suspended because of the proposed modernization of the network which was to replace the existing network with wider gauge.
Lack of funding led to shelving of the modernisation project by the Federal government which directed that the existing network should be rehabilitated and concessioned to private operators.
The rehabilitation of the Railway system includes track spot renewal of Lagos to Kano and Maiduguri to Port Harcourt lines, supply of 25 new locomotives to boost existing locomotive power base of the corporation, upgrading of carriage and wagon workshops, re-equipping the workshops, supply of service support, strategic rebranding of the corporation, rehabilitation of stations and marshalling yards.
The statement further stated that recently, the BPE met with NIAF during which issues relating to the reform of the railways were discussed and BPE requested for assistance.
“NIAF has confirmed its willingness to support the Bureau in developing a Roadmap/ Framework for concessioning the Nigerian narrow gauge railway network.
“It also indicated that it would provide the proposed technical assistance at no cost to government. This collaboration has been approved by the NCP,” said the statement.