By; Jacob Onjewu Dickson
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi has revealed that Nigeria suffered infrastructure deficit to the tune of over $3.05 US Dollars for the period of over thirty years even as he said government is in negotiation with some companies for the privatisation of the Lagos-Kano light gauge.
The Minister was speaking at a public hearing on two bills: “A bill for an act to amend the companies and Allied Matters Act, 2004 and other related matters (HB.9)” as well as “A bill for an act to provide for the Establishment of the Chartered Institute of Export and Commodity Brokers of Nigeria and for other Matters connected therewith (HB.85)” sponsored by Hons. Leo Ogor, Nkiruka Onyejioch and three others which aim at creating an economic regulation in land transport as well as the establishment of relevant regulatory agencies in land and rail transportation.
The former Rivers state Government also confirmed that government will review port taxes so that goods that are Nigeria bound will not end up in the neighbouring countries.
Speaking further he said that government all over the world have realized that it is not best suited for the ownership of businesses, and as such considers it imperative to shift government businesses for public private partnership in order to guarantee efficiency and sustainability.
“Beside privatization, government also highlights huge infrastructure deficit which as at 2015 stood at over USD 3.05 trillion for 30 years or US$156 billion for 5 years” he said.
The Minister further explained that there are some agencies that cannot be privatised because of the sensitive nature of its operation and the volume of funds committed to its infrastructural development.
“It is extremely difficult to privatize the railways, you can only commercialize the railways, if you privatise the railway, they will not make any profit because you will build the cost of the infrastructure into the privatization and it won’t work out.
“The only thing to do if you want to privatise the railway is to remove the cost of infrastructure and that is huge.
“I have said that the cost for the Lagos-Kano is 8 billion dollars, the cost for the Lagos-Calabar is 11.97 billion dollars. So if you approximate the two, it is about 20 billion dollars.
“Part of the bill that was submitted was that you have to privatize the railways, therefore that can’t go for privatization, it can only be commercialized where you get concessionaires to come and participate.
“We are currently in the process of concessioning Lagos-Kano narrow gauge not standard gauge.
“When we talk about land transportation, you will also see that that is one place we share with the states.
“The area where there is huge privatization is in the maritime sector. Government is playing a supervisory role in the maritime sector to ensure that things are done according to the law. So what the law does is that it aggregates the land transportation and the marine transportation into one and ensures that there is an economic regulator for the activities of this aspect of transportation.
“The bill will be purely an economic regulator. You can disaggregate the commission. I want to see when the bill comes out finally, how they will be able to manage the railways, and marine transport. It is a bit challenging.
“Well we already have a regulator from the maritime sector that is the shippers council, but there is none in the railway and marine transportation, so what we decided to do is to merge them together, it is still a bit tricky to do that, that is why before the bill finally becomes law, we would like to work with the legislatures to see how to thinker and put it together” Amaechi said.
The Minister admitted that the cost of transportation is currently high due to increase in fuel prize and all that, adding that government is also thinking about reducing maritime taxes so that goods coming into the country will not end up in the neighboring ports.
“But in terms of marine transportation, you also have to be careful because the economy is not as strong as it should be. The more you tax people the more you reduce the number of people who want to use your ports. For instance now our bill is going to Lome and Cotonou. Lome is first and Cotonou is second and Nigeria is third.
“We want to review these laws to know whatever is responsible for this challenge” Amaechi said.