A Transportation expert has urged the Federal Government to urgently set up a strong Technical Committee to review the implementation and updating of ‘Nigeria 25 Years Rail Modernisation Master Plan’ and the ‘Nigerian Rail Transportation System’ so as reinvigorate both the document and vision driving government’s dream and make it achievable.
The expert, who is the Executive Director, Center for Sustainable Mobility and Access Development (CenSMAD), Dr. Kayode Opeifa stated this last week, at the 4th National Transport Summit of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration in Nigeria, while delivering a paper on ‘Safety and Security of Rail Transportation in Nigeria’.
Speaking at the Shehu Musa Yar Adua Centre, Abuja on the theme: Transportation Safety, Opeifa noted that the Nigeria Railway Corporation is currently about 124 years old (1898 to 2022); and stressed the need for very strong leadership, who would not only recognise the vision of Government, but also be dedicated enough to boldly pursue and midwife it as conceived.
He specifically pointed out that a bird’s eye view shows that the implementation of the milestone documents are seemingly lagging, especially, considering recent realities and opportunities facing the county; as well as considering the fact that even in 2022 we are still in phase!
“Let me at this point call attention of the Honorable Minister of Transport to an urgent need to set up a strong Technical Committee to review the implementation of this fantastic and excellent document with a view to updating it as it seems the implementation of the milestones are lagging; and considering recent realities and opportunities facing the county, as well as considering the fact that in 2022 we are still in phase”, Opeifa stressed, emphasizing that the vision proposed in the document will materialize, only with “strong leadership, commitment, broad national support and participation.
Buttressing his view by the nation’s enviable antecedents, he called the attention of the Minister of Transportation, Muazu Jaji Sambo to the fact that Nigeria is a strong integral part of the world community, hence, adaptation and flexibility must be the watchword for the years ahead.
“As of date, we have about 4,174+km consisting of about 3,505km of Narrow gauge; and about 800km of standard gauge”, the former Lagos State Commissioner of Transportation stated, mentioning the NRC Network, Abuja Light rail System,
Calabar Monorail system, Rivers Monorail system in Port Harcourt and the Upcoming Lagos rail Mass Transit system; in addition to 156.5 Km Double Standard Guage Lagos to Ibadan Rail line with extension by 6.5km, to Apapa Sea Port (2020).
“The Nigeria Rail Transportation System pioneered the rapid opening of the geographical area called Nigeria”, he stated, adding that the railway act of 1955 (as amended 2004) mandates the Corporation to develop National Rail Infrastructure and Operate Rail service on both the Narrow- and Standard-gauge rail lines.
“Nigerians will want the best value for their money and will therefore demand a rail system that will move them quickly, safely, and comfortably in a way that is environmentally friendly” he indicated, itemizing other reasons, below:
*Nigeria is grossly underdeveloped with respect to rail service, as a study of the comparative mobility indexes for African States and other countries establishes this fact.
*Technological change will influence developments in the Transportation Sector.
*Operational and demographic changes will encourage integrated and intermodal transportation.
*Potential investors will invest under conditions that enable them make fair returns on their investment.
“In all, what makes the Railway transportation system is not just the Rail tracks and the Rolling stock but much more, including the governance structure, safety and security systems; Passenger and freight services administration; statutes and legal framework/environment; ticketing systems, Data and information management systems; signaling Systems, among others; and the associated policies guiding them.
He thereafter distinctly identified the difference between Rail Safety and environmental security.
He maintained that rail Safety basically entails all activities involved and affected by internal day-to-day operations, administration, deployment, maintenance and passenger/freight movement under the direct and full control of the Rail Authority management/Board.
While Security on the other hand will relate to issues such as:
Railway environment community relations; Stealing/ Pilfering/ Burglary/Theft Personal attacks/ Harassment within coaches and around corridor/ coaches
Smuggling, Riots/Public disturbance/War situations/
Immigration and other related issues.
“From the above, the Nigerian Railway system or should we say the Nigerian Rail Transportation system has not been as challenged in recent times by securities-related issues except, for as a result of recent twin train terrorist attacks with kidnappings, killings and ransom demands.
“The security aspect is managed by the Specialist security agencies, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) handled by a special Police Command headed by a Commissioner of Police rank Railway Police Command and the Nigeria Securities and Civil Defense Corporation (NSCDC).
He cautioned the media, not to unduly create unnecessary panic or fear in the minds of the public via poor media reportage.
“I am aware this is an open event and as such our media personnel needs to exercise some restrain in view of the current effort at repositioning our Rail system under the present administration at National and some sub-national with huge local and foreign investment in Rail infrastructure.
“Rail Transportation still remains the safest mode among Land Transport Modes.
“Let me at this point say that the situation in Nigeria is not that bad as it is similar to the situation in many African and developing countries.
“Since 2002 and especially 2010 and 2016, we have improved and things changed for the better. Also because of our current level of operations, we face fewer risks as rail safety indices are often measured in Km travelled, Passenger moved, hours worked or in operations among others. In all, we ought to be better than where we are.
“Safety culture is critical and should be Top Management driven. Rail transportation safety and security is also about the quality and commitment of Top management as Rail safety measures are often very expensive with a Low Benefit-Cost ratio as a result of strong Institution, Legal and Political pressures.
“Safety is a central issue that challenges decision-making during the planning and implementation of the modern-day railway systems, especially with the advent of High Speed Rail (HSR) and as such appropriate systems should be in place to ensure safe performance during operations.
“According to Hale in 2000, integrated safety approach to all modes of Transport, not just rail is necessary to gain the trust of the public and government.
“If it is perceived unsafe as with the Abuja-Kaduna line in recent time due to the twin attack society will choose not to use it, hence a waste of the infrastructure assets”, he also explained.
Taking a harder look at Rail Security, Opeifa stated:
“Experience of March 2022 has provided some opportunities. Let it be established that Terrorist attacks on transportation assets are not new nor limited to Nigeria as the sector and rail inclusive meet all the requirements of terrorist soft targets. Examples abound worldwide.
“In addition to the ongoing efforts by the National government, FMOT and the Nigerian Railway Corporation as efforts are in top gear to not just resume the Abuja- Kaduna Rail line services but provide sustainable, secured and safer rail transportation services along all Rail corridors.
“We need to establish a National minimum security checklist for Rail operations in Nigeria.
“We need to be Proactive to provide Security systems based on modern technology taking advantage of innovations and Artificial intelligence.
“We need to declare not just a Rail Transportation security system but a Transportation wide system as we move towards achieving an intermodal transportation system”, he observed, positing that since an attack on one, implies injuries to others; there must therefore be a regular safety review committee of top-level stakeholders with the office of the National security adviser.
“Beyond regular safety audits, we need to carry out regular Security audits of all Rail Infrastructure assets and systems to assure the passenger/freight, government, investors and relevant stakeholders.
“We need to encourage sharing of information among modes and between security operatives.
“We need to deepen on lesson learnt from the last twin terrorist attacks on the AKTS rail line as findings is key to preventing the next one.
“While deploying technology, we need serious engagement with host communities along rail infrastructure installation as part of our intelligence gathering system for a more secured corridor.
“We need to support the ongoing efforts of the National government, the FMOT, and NRC at resuming the AKTS Rail services, after the deployment of the appropriate security systems.
“In conclusion, we must adopt a Holistic General System, where safety and security are approached as the minimum standard of operation of the Rail Transportation sector just as we have done with the Air transportation sector.
“We need National coordination with safety compliance information available freely and willingly by all operators and stakeholders on a monthly basis not just on request”, Dr. Opeifa also advised further.