As plans to concession Nigerian Railway Corporation enter the negotiation stage between the Transaction Adviser and General Electric of the United States, President General, African Union of Railway Workers, Comrade Rapheal Okoro has called on the Federal Government to procure more locomotive engines as well as wagons/coaches instead of concessioning the Corporation.
He said that if government procures additional locomotive engines in batches of say 100 locomotive engines per year and may be 200 wagons and coaches per year, the Corporation will return back to its hay days of conveying goods including iron rods, cattle, containerized goods, yam, potatoes, vegetables, tomatoes and pepper, onion amongst others.
According to Okoro based on the statistics available, the last time Federal government purchased about 20 Locomotive Engines for the Corporation from Brazil was in 2010 at the cost of N500million each and another batch of four Locomotive Engines from China few years later.
He explained further that since then there has not been any deliberate effort by government to invest in railway operations thus leading to intermittent breakdown of the Locomotive Engines at regular intervals.
The President General stated that the lifespan of a new Locomotive Engine is 50 years as against the refurbished Engines with short lifespan imported into the country from China particularly during the Abacha government.
Comrade Okoro averred that Railway operations worldwide is Capital intensive and requires consistent government investment in order to sustain its operations.
He said that most of the freight currently conveyed by road should be hauled by rail and by extension save the roads from the present state of disrepair.
Apart from that Comrade Okoro stressed that if investment in the Nigerian Railway Corporation is sustained over a period of time by successive governments prices of food stuffs will be cheaper and readily available.
He also said that more jobs will be created and there will be less traffic as motorists will prefer to park their vehicles at home in preference of passenger trains.
Comrade Okoro therefore advised government to continue to invest in Railways and jettison the idea of Concessioning it to foreign elements whose basic interest is to make profit at the expense of Nigerians.