The Federal Government has restated its commitment to ensuring that all the nation’s seaports are connected to rail network in line with its new transport policy framework.
Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who disclosed this at the third edition of the yearly Corporate Dinner and Merit Awards, organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in Lagos, said government is aware that transportation is key in any economic development plan.
He said: “The government is implementing a transport policy, which entails linking all seaports in the country by rail, in line with global best practices. All over the world, the most efficient way to transport heavy cargo is by water and rail.
“We have a 25-year rail modernisation programme, involving the development of a comprehensive intermodal system. We are taking the rail from where the past governments stopped to the seaports. The Lagos-Kano rail line, which began from Ebute Metta, is being taken from Ebute Metta to Apapa seaport.
“We will take it from TinCan and Apapa ports to connect the new Lekki port. The rail line from Lagos to Calabar links Port Harcourt, Onne, and Warri seaports. Our goal is to have a system where importers would bring in their goods and load them on the rail that takes them to the hinterland, thus, easing the pressure on the roads and increasing their longevity.”
On the economic significance of transportation, Amaechi said, “Adequate investment in transport infrastructure will enhance the efficiency, reliability, and capacity of the transportation system, which will, in turn, lead to lower transport costs, shorter transit times, increased business efficiency, and business expansion, as money previously spent on transport is ploughed back into business.”
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, disclosed that Nigeria had moved from 170 to 131 in the global ease of doing business table since the establishment of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in July 2016.
He said the Council was set up to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria, and make the country an increasingly easier place to start and grow a business.
Mustapha said the PEBEC initiative, coupled with significant developments in ports and maritime, had engendered great improvements in ease of doing business in the country.
“In our bid to improve efficiency and productivity in the maritime industry and the country at large, the PEBEC was created to ensure an enabling environment for port efficiency. Government will continue to support the maritime sector because on it rests opportunities for wealth creation and economic growth,” he stated.
Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, highlighted some of the achievements of the Agency in the last three years, to include the Final Billing regime, which has significantly reduced turnaround time for all vessel billing transactions from between five and 10 years to two weeks of the ship’s departure.
There is also increased tonnage, with Nigeria currently placed second in Africa, after Liberia; and reduction of turnaround time for issuance of Sailing Clearance from about one year to 14 days, among others.