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Group urges farmers, miners to embrace railways

By on May 12, 2016

Rail Connect Service has advised firms and individuals doing agribusiness, including farmers and nomads, to move their raw materials and products by rail, especially for long distance journeys, to reduce transportation cost and ensure maximum safety of their goods in transit.

The Chief Executive Officer, CRS, Mr. EdemeKelikume, said this at an interactive session with journalists in Lagos.

He said since the CRS had been using the rail for freight movement from Lagos to the North about six years ago, it had recorded more success in this area than what it achieved previously.

This, he said, informed the decision by the company to spearhead a plan to hold a solid mineral agric rail conference in Abuja on June 21 to sensitise members of the business community and other relevant stakeholders to the need to embrace the railway as a dependable means of transportation.

Already, Kelikume said he had received the support of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group led by a former President, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Emmanuel Ijewere; and many relevant government’s ministries and agencies for the conference.

He stressed that gradual development was taking place at the nation’s railway and was optimistic that the situation would get better as more people and firms switched over to the transport mode.

He said, “When we got into this business of using the rail in 2010, not a single freight train was running. We spent about two years or three years; we did not move any single train from Lagos to Kano; the line was practically down. It was until 2012-2013 that we started moving goods by train from Lagos to Ilorin.

“By 2014, we started moving train from Lagos to Kano; by 2015, we had our first major contract to start the haulage of cement from the South to the North. In 2014, we did less than 5,000 tonnes; but in 2015, we were able to do about 40,000 tonnes. Our target in 2016 is clearly fixed on doing nothing less than a 100, 000 tonnes of moving one commodity. If we could do all this, I believe we can even do more with the level of awareness and the experience we have gathered in the sector.”

Kelikume said the response of stakeholders to the planned conference had been overwhelming and expected the outcome of the event to be part of what would help accelerate the development of the nation’s economy.

He said, “Everybody has been asking the question, ‘Why haven’t we done this ever since?’ The focus is to see how we can reduce the wastage in the agricultural value chain. Different research reports suggest that around 50 per cent of goods that are produced in Nigeria get wasted and we want to use the combination of our rail logistics and modern storage facilities to reduce that wastage to somewhere around 10 per cent.

“At the same time, solid mineral is the next major frontier that Nigeria is going to explore. It has been well documented that without a vibrant rail system, you cannot do solid minerals. If you check the history of Nigeria, the moment the rail system died, our solid mineral industry died. So, the core objective of this conference is to reactivate these two very critical sectors of our economy.”