Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Tuesday, said reform of the nation’s railway system is critical to the much needed economic revival even as he reiterated the commitment of the 8th Senate towards the passage of the National Railways Commission Bill before the end of the first session.
A statement by his Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, and made available to journalists in Abuja, said Saraki spoke in his office after receiving a report of the Technical Committee on the National Railways Commission Bill from the Chairman of the Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa.
While saying he was delighted to receive the report, Saraki thanked the chairman and members of the technical committee for the timely completion of their assignment and said the report goes to show that the 8th Senate is committed to work with experts in the private sector to put in place necessary machineries that are necessary to put the nation’s economy back on track.
Saraki said: “I believe everybody will benefit from the content of this report because no economy can develop without an efficient mass transportation system. We all acknowledge that the government alone cannot provide the funding needed to upgrade the rail infrastructure, therefore, the Bill will make provision that would allow the private sector to participate and subsequently take the burden of funding off the government.
“There is no way we can address our mass transportation challenge without a direct engagement with the private sector. With a good and efficient transportation system in place people will talk less about the cost of fuel,” he said.
While saying that the Senate is eager to consider and pass the Bill before the end of the first session of the 8th Senate, the Senate President however expressed optimism that the House of Representatives would give the Bill speedy consideration and passage when sent to the Lower House for concurrence by the Senate.
His words; “This is one way we can address the bottlenecks in the land transportation sector. History is being made as we have opened another chapter in our legislative functions. What we are doing this afternoon is to identify technicalities in the sector before the report could be laid before the Senate.
“We must get the railways system on the right track. Public sector alone cannot address the issues. We need partnership from the private sector which was the essence of inaugurating this Technical Committee. With this report, the Senate can comfortably debate the Bill and come out with acceptable policies that will give life back to the sector. I am confident that the NRC Bill will scale through third reading and passed in the Senate before the end of this session,” Saraki said.
Earlier, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, said the Senate after the Public hearing on the NRC Bill gathered memoranda and reports which necessitated the commissioning of the technical committee to make input into the Railways repeal and reenactment Bill due to the sensitive and technical nature of the nation’s railway system.
He said the Bill when passed into law would directly make positive impact on majority of Nigerians as it would make mass movement of goods and services cheaper and the people less dependent on fuel for their transportation needs.
Chairman of the Technical Committee, Engr. Chris Okoye, thanked the Senate for the opportunity to make input into the bill especially “at this defining moment in the nation’s history.”
Okoye said: “As a nation, we have attacked the power sector even though there are still hiccups. The next most important sector is transportation and we believe that if given the required attention, it has the potential of catalyzing the nation’s economic growth. People will not worry about fuel if they know that they have an efficient mass transportation system that will move them from place to place,” he said.
He further noted that the setting up of the technical committee to make input into the National Railways Commission Bill is the first in the history of the National Assembly.