By Fidelis Ugbomeh
Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR) has commended the federal government on the reconstitution of the National Council on Privatization (NCP) which the Union believes will fulfill the role of an institutional framework and address all the breaches of due diligence in the process of railway concession as being driven by the federal ministry of transportation.
The Union expressed concern that the statutory Act of Parliament of 1955, which confers monopoly of railway business on Nigerian Railway is yet to be unbundled and replaced with another legal framework that would provide both public and private investors with a level playing ground on investments into rail transport sub-sector.
The National Council on Privatisation is chaired by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
President General, Comrade Saidu Garba noted that Nigerian Railway that statutorily should be the procurer of its concessionaire as Nigeria’s only institution with railway expertise is shrouded up in the overbearing shadow of the Ministry.
While the federal government has the right to do whatever it likes with its enterprises, he said that the Union has decided not to dissipate energy unnecessarily on stopping the government from selling its assets.
“Where the government wants concession, then we should be more concerned about how such sale either through privatization or concession, as it is the case with Nigerian Railway, is done lawfully and known to due diligence, utmost transparency and global best practice. It should be done in a way that it truly will address the subsisting infrastructure deficit in the rail transport sub-sector if we are really sincere about securing our growth as a nation and as an economy,” he declared
According to a statement signed by Secretary General of the Union, Comrade Segun Esan, the workers expressed their approval of the reconstitution of the National Council on Privatization by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo,
He said that the inauguration of the Council would serve as checks to the ‘ambitious, shady and dizzying speed’ at which the federal ministry of Transportation was going about the concession of Nigerian Railway’s 3’505km narrow gauge track system to its preferred American consortium, General Electric (GE).
In the submission of the Secretary General of the NUR, Comrade Segun Esan, he advised the federal government to review the whole process of the planned concession of the nation’s rail transport industry with a view to saving the nation from another attempt that may end in ‘huge failure’.
It will be recalled that the railway workers, in a maiden meeting with workers of the Corporation early this year the Union vehemently protested against the planned concession without taking it through due diligence and getting all the workers paid their deserving severance benefits before concession commences.
The Minister Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi had told the workers that non of the workers will be retrenched as a result of the Concession and that staff that are not qualified will be trained at a University of Railway that will be established by General Electric of United States.