Nigeria needs rail for cargo movement, says ICNL boss

The Managing Director of Inland Containers Nigeria Limited (ICNL), Ismail Yusuf, has decried the lack of direct transportation from the seaport to the hinterland, making the cost of moving containers very expensive.

He said this is impacting the profitability and is also not helping the government which depends on roads for cargo movement and not rail.

Yusuf, who spoke with journalists, said the cost of moving containers from Lagos port to Kaduna by road has increased to N2.7 million.

“In 2023, when we moved about 15,000 containers, we were supposed to move them by rail but unfortunately, the rail didn’t work at all. We moved those containers by road and we eventually paid both Kaduna and Kano cost of transportation to our transporters, which was about N72 billion.

“Our breakdown shows that about N48 billion was spent to move containers to Kano and N24 billion to Kaduna,” he said.

He said the N72 billion is the revenue that the federal government was supposed to benefit from by putting the rail in place.

Yusuf said moving containers by rail saves cost, reduces pressure on the roads, saves time and enhances cargo safety, but Nigeria has not done much to maximize this mode of transportation for business development.

He said what the railway makes from passenger fares is not enough to cover its costs of procurement and maintenance, except it is deployed for business purposes like moving containers in commercial volumes.

Yusuf called everyone working in the maritime sector, especially at the hinterland, on the need for rail to work as it will help to improve the throughput, which is the volume of cargo the company moves to Kaduna, Kano and other interland areas.

He also called on the Ministry of Transportation on the need to revisit the standard gauge and narrow gauge, noting that presently, the standard gauge is not up to Kano.

Yusuf said the old narrow gauge is still there, adding that what needs to be done is to resuscitate and repair whatever damage they have and let it start moving.

He said if the ministry does not have wagons or locomotives, it can partner with the company as private investors who are willing to invest in rail activities so that Nigerians can benefit from this.

Yusuf also urged the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy to ensure accessibility to the port because, in the maritime sector, time is money.

“Their cargoes are tied down in the port, they cannot have access to them and they are still paying demurrage to Shipping Companies and terminal operators. Government is not looking in that direction which is very bad.

All those costs are still going to be passed to Nigerians because we are still the people that will go to the market to buy these items,” he said.

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