HOPELESSNESS OR MISMANAGEMENT: N1.2 Billion Tank Wagons Rot Away In Railway Yard
In the face of the hopelessness raised by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) with the resuscitation of its cargo freight operations, the much-expected haulage of petroleum products by rail is suffering a setback as N1.2 billion worth of tank wagons rot away in a railway yard, five years after they were acquired.
Petroleum marketers in the county had in 2015 expressed their intent to revisit the longstanding system of moving petroleum products by rail, which is known to be safer and cost effective. More so, it provides solution to the menace of volatile pipeline vandalisation in the country.
Before then, the NRC had taken delivery of 40 pressurized tank wagons. The first batch of 20 tank wagons was delivered in February 2012 at the cost of N600 million while another batch of 20 was supplied in 2013. Each of the tank wagons has the capacity to lift 45,000 liters of petroleum products, implying that a train trip from the Apapa port could lift as much as 1.8 million liters of petroleum products. This would translate to taking about 55 trailers off the road.
In spite of this huge economic and haulage benefits, the 40 tank wagons are rotting away at Ebute-Meta in Lagos. Reports indicate that the tank wagons have been taken over by weeds. The failure by the NRC to put the wagons into use is partly traceable to absence of rail tracks in Apapa. Only Mobil and Oando, it was reported, can be accessed by tracks; requiring the NRC to lay tracks to connect other tank farms in Apapa.
It is as a result of the lack of tracks that major petroleum products marketers have complained that the NRC is not ready for the project. The Executive Secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Femi Olawore, told Daily Trust reporters that the association was still committed to the project despite NRC’s seeming unpreparedness because “it is the easiest, the cheapest and the fastest means of moving products after pipelines”.
Olawore explained that anytime there was product shortage in any part of the country, rails could move the products within 24 hours to destinations that would take trucks between three to four days to deliver. The roads, too, will have longer lifespan. The risk in rail transportation, including accidents, is minimal as it also allows the haulage of larger volumes of products. While a truck takes 33,000 liters of petroleum product, single rail freight has the capacity of the quantity that 13 different trucks would convey.
HOPELESSNESS OR MISMANAGMENT: N1.2 Billion Tank Wagons Rot Away In Railway Yard
Reacting to media reports, the Director of Operations at the NRC, Mr. Niyi Ali, denied that the tank wagons had been overtaken by weeds. He argued also that tracks were not the issue, adding that rail haulage was not just about moving petroleum products from one tank farm to another. He said it was also about loading and offloading of products, which require marketers to provide necessary facilities at the various tank farms.
The denial by NRC that the tank wagons were abandoned to rot as well as the assertion by MOMAN’s Mr. Olawore that the issues between MOMAN and the NRC are not serious ones are two positions that raise concerns about the separate unhelpful roles of the NRC and MOMAN.
It all adds up to lack of proper planning. The wagons should not have been purchased before the tracks are laid. The Federal Ministry of Transport (FMT) must investigate the non- actualization of this project in order to expose persons or groups responsible for this failure.
As part of its oversight functions, we urge relevant national assembly committees to also probe this matter. They should ascertain whose duty it is to build tracks to tank farms. The FMT has the sole responsibility of ensuring that this all-important project becomes operational soonest.