The Nigeria Union of Railway workers (NUR) has raised attention by advocating for the participation of private sector in rail transport, to engender competitiveness.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Act of 1955 gives monopoly of rail transportation business to the corporation.
The union expressed optimism that the government will repeal the Act in order to make room for private sector stakes.
It called for a law that would ensure a level playing field for public and private investors.
NUR President, Saidu Garba, said the union would not stop the government from selling its assets, but the sale should be used to fix the infrastructure deficit in the sector.
He expressed the hope that the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), which was headed by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo would address breaches of due diligence in NRC’s planned privatisation.
“We have not been fortunate enough to get privatisation or concession really right in this country probably because of our policy inconsistency, corruption and lack of political will. With the hasty way railway concession is being pursued, we feel that caution should be taken.
“We wonder why all the inventories on the entire assets of Nigerian Railways should be handed over to a preferred concessionaire whose document of expression of interest predates the newspaper advert for the bidding,” Garba said.
The union alleged that the Ministry of Transportation (MoT) dubiously concessioned the corporation’s 3,505-kilometre narrow gauge system to the American consortium, General Electric (GE).
Its Secretary-General, Segun Esan, in a statement, praised the government for NCP’s reconstitution, stating that the council would curtail MoT’s excesses in concession of NRC to GE.
It alleged that the ministry unilaterally concessioned the NRC to GE for 30 years.
The process, said the union, was not transparent and workers were not carried along in the exercise.The NUR called on Prof Osinbajo to probe the process.
“GE’s expression of interest was dated September 2016 and advert for expression of interest for the bidding was in January 2017. Apart from this, GE requested for a zero per cent transfer of workers, while the Ministry of Transportation is saying that 20 per cent of the workforce would be absorbed by GE and the remaining 80 per cent of the workforce will be sent to a University of Railway Technology that will be established by the concessionaire,” said the workers’ union.
It argued that this was bizarre and indicated dishonesty. “An honest and public-spirited concession would squarely address all labour engagement and disengagement issues. It would be transparent enough to accommodate the workers’ union representatives to determine what happens to them before and after concession,” NUR said.