Two years after the 157-km long Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Train, the much-anticipated freight movement on the line kicked off yesterday with three cargo trains operated to Moniya, Ibadan.
It coincided with the first official tour of the Lagos-Ibadan Railway by the Minister of Transportation, Senator Saidu Alkali.
Alkali flagged off the freight train loaded with 30 wagons (containers) to Ibadan from the Apapa Port Complex.
With the flag-off, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) said three trains of 30 wagons would be lifted daily out of the ports thereby decongesting the port environment.
The 157-km long railway line with an extension to the Apapa Ports in Lagos has been largely under-utilised due to some impediments, which have stalled the complete linkage of the track to the Apapa Port quay.
A radioactive scanner belonging to the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) was billed to be removed to pave the way for the completion of the track but this has dragged on for over two years.
The NRC had to divert the track temporarily pending when the building would be removed.
However, the jinx was broken yesterday when the minister flagged off the container movement facilitated by Buen Logistics at the APMT in Apapa.
The train loaded with 30 Wagons took off to Moniya in Ibadan, which is the terminal point of the Lagos-Ibadan Train; the Lot Two of the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge.
The minister said the freight train would operate on a single track temporarily pending when the customs scanner would be removed, disclosing that the ministry is interfacing with the Customs to remove the scanner.
He said, "We have three trips for now, which amount to 90 containers, by the time we complete the three tracks, we will be having to decongest Apapa Port of 270 containers being moved per day, which is huge."
Speaking further, the minister vowed that the existing railway contracts would not stall in order to ease transportation of goods and passengers, especially after the removal of fuel subsidy.
"We are going to ensure that the existing contracts are being executed and as I told you earlier, the vision of this administration is to ensure that the transport sector is enhanced, especially with the removal of the fuel subsidy so as to make the cost of transportation much easier for Nigerians."
The NRC Managing Director, Engr. Fidet Okhiria said there would be three trains per day translating into 90 containers being lifted out of Apapa on a daily basis.
He said, "The visit of the minister has blessed us. We are loading a 30-wagon train to Ibadan. We have been on this for the past three weeks. 30 wagons have been loaded on the train from APM Terminal to either Papalanto or Moniya, Ibadan.
"We have facilities to move four but we are starting with three for now. We are using a temporary track but we are making a headway to ensure that the building gives way to make sure to have three lines that are expected at this terminal. In order not to wait eternally, we have done something to ensure something was done so that the tracks do not lay idle and we don't give room for vandalisation."
Executive Director, Buen Logistics, Mazi Jetson Nwankwo said, "What we want to achieve under your regime is to decongest Apapa Ports and all the flyovers that have container trucks littering all over. By the time we move three trains a day, Lagos would be free for a good ride. We are happy this is happening under your tenure."