A community leader at Sampou, Bayelsa, Chief Ashane Usukoromo, on Monday, applauded the massive rehabilitation of the railways by the Federal Government and called for nationwide coverage.
He said that an integrated transportation system where different modes of transport complemented each other, as currently being implemented, was essential for economic development.
Usukoromo told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Yenagoa, that rehabilitating and expanding the country’s railway network would drive down transportation costs, as well as price of goods and services.
He recalled that in the 1980s, when the Port Harcourt-Kano rail line was functional, imports from Europe, Asia and America were channeled through Lagos and Port Harcourt, but lamented that the comatose state of Port Harcourt port had resulted in congestion at the Lagos port.
He called on the Ministry of Transportation to accord priority to the Port Harcourt-Kano rail line, so as to free the Lagos Port, ease the burden on the road network with a view to facilitate an efficient transportation system across the country.
“It has been observed that the minister of transport has focused his attention only on the Lagos-Ibadan-Oshogbo-Kano railway lines, but forgotten the rail line from Port Harcourt to Kano.
“In 1980s, I usually travelled to Kano through the railways from Port Harcourt, but now there is only skeletal rail services from Port Harcourt to Aba. Formerly, goods were transported to Port Harcourt port directly from Britain, France China, Russia, American Germany etc.
“But now all goods are directed to Lagos port alone, consequently goods are not offloaded on time, leading to congestion at the Lagos sea port,” Usukoromo said.
He lamented the high cost of cement, which Nigerians need to build decent and affordable shelter, observing that policies aimed at protecting indigenous cement manufacturers was yet to lead to lower prices and wondered why the policy could not be reviewed.
Usukoromo advised the Federal Government to liberalise the cement market, to allow for imports of the commodity to boost housing delivery and address the nation’s housing deficit.