Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East) has called for more focus on the rail sector as the quickest and most sustainable solution to the transportation deficit in Nigeria.
Ashafa who disclosed this in a statement signed by him said that the recent plan to close the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport for six weeks has shown the great lapse in the nation’s transport sector.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, the Senator said that, the committee underwent a week long consultation to seek alternative routes while the Abuja Airport was shut.
He said that the deficit which was discovered by the committee further goes to buttress the importance of rail transport as the safest means of transportation.
“We need to quickly and speedily reinvigorate our Rail Transportation Sector, in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Railway Bill, 2016.
“Basically, the passed bill is a departure from the old order, which shut private investors out of the railway business.
“The new bill, among other things, seeks to open up the railway business to private investors, and to distinguish the regulator – which is the government – from the operator.
“I remain a strong believer in the primacy of the railway. It is my belief as well that the Railways remain a critical infrastructure that will extenuate Nigeria’s motley transportation problems.
“Hence, I am dedicated to leading the charge for the “revolutionalisation” of the system,” he said.
Recall that in 2016, Sen. Ashafa in an essay entitled ‘Time has come to open up our railway to private participation’, he emphasised the need to open up the sector.
The senator however further re-emphasised the importance of investment in rail as the billions spend on road transport was not yielding much desired results.
“Government after government has invested even more in road expansion projects.
“The result as can be observed in the case of Lagos and Abuja has been a gradual occupation of the expanded roads with more cars.
“This is attributable to rural-urban migration as well as population explosion across the nation,”.
“Mass transit remains a very pivotal aspect of the development of any city.
“It plays a critical role in enhancing productivity of the state by ensuring the movement of the largest number of people from point A to Point B within the shortest possible time.
“It also reflects the quality of life and the value placed on the unit citizen by any responsible government.
“You will agree with me that the most effective means of transporting large quantities of humans, goods and services within any country is via rail.
“This is why whenever the topic of mass transit is discussed; rail transportation must be given its pride of place.” he said.
Sen. Further added that the closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport had beamed a moved focus to rail transportation.
He said that the goal was not to have functional railways but to have trains that are as fast and effective as those we see outside Nigeria so that closure of an airport would not be so impactful.
“The imminent total closure of the second busiest airport in Nigeria has caused unrest for many Nigerians and foreigners going by their outcry. Imagine if we had an effective rail system whereby cities, states and communities are linked.
“A sturdy railway system or a faster train traversing the Abuja to Kaduna corridor, the consequences of the total closure of the Abuja Airport would be minimal and frequent travelers might not feel much pain or discomfort.
“The time for linking every Nigerian artery by rail is now.