Over two years after the inauguration of the $1.5-billion Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has finally begun cargo haulage from the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa Port in Lagos State, to the dry inland container port in Moniya, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Former Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, inaugurated the 157-kilometre rail in June 2021 for passenger services and to ease cargo evacuation from Apapa Port, which has a total of five terminals and eight jetties.
The facility was installed to reduce the burden of containers on the roads, as well as congestion at the port and its access routes.
While it started passenger services five days after the inauguration, NRC missed several deadlines for the commencement of the cargo operations due to some setbacks.
The principal constraint was that, as of August 2022, the project contractor, China Civil Engineering Construction Company, had not linked the final track of the rail from Ebute Meta to the quayside of the Apapa Port, where containers can be lifted directly from ship to rail wagons.
Another problem encountered by the corporation was with the radioactive scanner building of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), which was impeding the three tracks at the APM Terminal Apapa.
Minister of Transportation, Saidu Alkali, finally flagged the freight movement recently on one of the completed tracks.
Alkali said at the event that efforts were still being made to remove the NCS building, which continued to impede the other two tracks.
According to the minister, three coaches of 30 wagons will be loaded daily from the Apapa Port to Ibadan, totalling 90 trips per month, which will increase to nine trips per day and 270 trips per month when they remove the building impediment.
Ajanonwu Vincent, the publicity secretary of the southwest zone of the Importers Association of Nigeria, lauded the Apapa-Ibadan cargo rail project, but said that “double handling charges have been a problem in the port industry – one of those ways the terminal operators exploit importers and agents”.
Vincent noted that government institutions, like the Nigerian Shippers Council, were responsible for correcting these anomalies and such issues should be reported to them with appropriate documents.