The Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Engineer Fidet Okhiria has said that multiple handling charges by seaport operators was the main reason why customers abandoned rail and moved their cargo by road.
He also revealed that paucity of funds has also put the commencement of work on the Calabar-Port Harcourt-Lagos Coastal rail and the Ibadan-Abuja rail projects on hold while serious meetings are going on the rail project.
Okhiria, while addressing newsmen during the Corporation’s 2023 end of year media briefing, said that that double handling charges have been an issue for customers, adding that most of the customers who patronised the rail system complained about double or multiple handling charges.
“Our charge to move a container to and from Lagos to Ibadan is N208, 000. If we want to take a container to Ibadan and also return the empty, we charge N208.000; that is N104, 000 going and N104, 000 coming. I am sure there is no truck that will take a container to Ibadan for N104, 000, not to talk of taking it back for same amount,” he explained.
According to him, claims that the cost of moving cargo by rail is high is not true, adding that rail remains the most cost-effective means of transporting cargo from the ports into the hinterland because it is faster and more cost-effective.
He said it was the desire of the Federal Government to ensure that all state capitals, inland dry ports, and seaports are connected by rail.
“We are having issues at the ports with terminal charges because it amounts to double handling when a cargo owner pays some charges inside the port and still pays the same charges after the container gets to Moniya in Ibadan during transloading to another truck for onward movement to final destination.
“Lagos-Ibadan cargo rail for now stops at Ibadan, but for many of the containers, Ibadan is not their final destination. So, we once complained to the seaport operators to stop collecting terminal charges on cargoes inside the port before they are loaded on the trains, and the charges were removed; However, I have been reliably told that the charges are back again.
“The terminal charges range between N40,000 to N60,000 and is a major reason why many cargo owners are opting to move their containers from the port by road because it won’t apply once the evacuation is done via road haulage. It only applies when the evacuation is done via rail haulage,” he added.
However, he said it is double handling because when the cargoes get to Moniya in Ibadan by rail, it will still have to be moved onto a truck for onward movement to the final destination, and the trucker in Ibadan will still demand for handling charges, which is the problem NRC is currently facing at the port.
“The least we can do for a Lagos-Ibadan return trip is N208,000 because we have to factor in the cost of diesel. We believe that by the time the standard gauge gets to Kano, the issue of double handling charges will become history because importers will have no choice other than to move by rail from Lagos to Kano.
“Why we are still having double handling charges is because the containers, when they get to Ibadan, will still be loaded on another truck for onward movement up North; but when Lagos-Kano comes on stream, that will be eradicated. As I speak to you, more people are coming to ask that we move their cargoes by rail both for import and export,” he said.