NRC’s N351M loss not due to terrorist attack alone- Olokun

By Abimbola Mohammed

Olu Olokun, Area Manager, London Transport, United Kingdom, has stated that with or without the terror attack, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) would have still incurred losses because the operating system was not geared towards success and sustainability.

Olokun who was reacting to the estimated loss of N351Million said that while explaining the loss, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, Managing Director, NRC, only referenced between March and August 2022. “The question should be was it making profit or breaking even before the Attack”, he asked rhetorically.

According to the Urban /mass transportation planning and policy specialist, the cost of operations in rail transportation was never forward-planned or controlled because the cost of diesel was going up and the cost of tickets was not increased.” We did not forward-buy the diesel and were therefore at the mercy of price increase and inflation. The running of NRC as a civil service will never work as decision making was slow and regimented”.

He noted that the Access Framework of the railway in Nigeria doesn’t allow third-party operation of their wagons and coaches on existing railway infrastructure.

“The laws and rules of Operations of NRC were Monopolistic just like, NITEL, Nigerian Airways, NNPC, and NEPA, they are not set up to be self-sustaining and profitable.  The Access Framework (law) that ought to allow private operators to use the rails to move freight was never changed since the 1950s. Therefore, if the like of Dangote, Lafarge, Nigerian Breweries, Coca-Cola, and such bulk-moving industries wanted to use the rails, it is not possible as per our law presently.”

He added to make the system work; the role of NRC should be reconsidered in the running of the rail system as the business should be free of government intervention and be flexible enough to make quick and reasonable decisions.

“The Role of NRC should be reconsidered. Is it a regulator or an operator? FOR INSTANCE, in the UK, British Rail owns the rails, maintains them, and also acts as a regulator while different operators like Southern Train, Virgin trains, Thameslink, Southwest train, Stagecoach, etc all run services on the line and help provide competition and improve the profitability of the system.”

Olokun strongly believes that if NRC accommodates other private sectors in the running of its operations, things will turn out better in that sector. “We need to free the system like we freed our Telephone NITEL and allow operators in as we did MTN, GLO, etc in order to help it improve.”

Speaking on NRC ensuring the safety of life and properties of the passengers on the train, the UK-based public utility manager noted that there should be enhanced security and personnel should scrutinise passengers and activities around the tracks.

His words: “We also need to resume services on the lines immediately by using security in all its forms rather than this sorry idea of not running because of the setback. After 9/11 and the world trade centre bombing, America did not stop all Airlines from flying forever; likewise after the London Bombing. When you fall off a bike, you dust yourself off and resume. We need to enhance security and resume. After 9/11, we started traveling with enhanced checks, No liquid onto the plane, and no perfume above 100ml. On American planes, they have Marshalls that are armed to tackle and deal with issues. We can also look at such to move on. Freight movement can also be the initial way forward. We can review our risk analysis, look at towns along the routes, engage them and comb them of undesirables. If we can employ guards to secure pipelines, why can’t we can employ communities to secure the routes? Drones and satellites can also come to play. It all depends on the will of the government to be serious.”

He also cited online booking and buying of tickets, supplying their ID such as NIN or Passport number or driving license number, non-transferable tickets, sitting according to seat allocation, and on-board security detectives as some security measures that could be emplaced to prevent security breaches.

Olokun advised all passengers, communities, and staff of the train to be more vigilant and observant while on board. “The greatest security is us all in being vigilant and observant. CCTVs that are operational and recording from entering the station, on the train, and exiting.


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