Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, Sunday inspected the abandoned Nigerian Railway Corporation Maintenance Yard in Apapa reiterating his call for the revival of rail transportation as the most viable means of transporting heavy cargo, especially petroleum products, across the country.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation Maintenance Yard was established by the British colonialists with a network of rail lines leading from the Apapa Industrial Estate and on which heavy cargo is brought into and taken out of the Ports for delivery across the country. The Yard and its surroundings are overgrown with weed while the entire area, including abandoned and decaying coaches, have been turned into living hovels by people.
Fielding questions from newsmen after the inspection, Governor Fashola said he was at the site to evaluate the entire project for the purpose of resuscitating and bringing it back to life adding that the State Government plans to make a comprehensive report to the Federal Government on what needs to be done in order to achieve this.
The Governor, who was conducted round the facility by Chairman, Lagos State Taskforce on the Environment and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, CSP Adebayo Sulaiman, maintained that road transportation was not the best way to move cargo across the country, expressing regrets that the Federal Government has deliberately turned its back on rail transportation preferring to continue to move petroleum products by road with the attendant hazards.
He told newsmen, “This is a project that we departed from as a people. This is the Nigerian Railway Corporation Maintenance Yard which also leads out of the Apapa Industrial Area. This is from where goods from Apapa were evacuated when I was a child. This is what the Federal Government has walked away from”.
“We are trying to see how we can get it working again. We want to get the Federal Government to come back here and revamp it. We must do everything in our power to deemphasize road haulage as means of transporting heavy cargo, especially petroleum products, across the country”, he said.
The Governor said revamping the railway at Apapa would not only reduce the enormous pressure on Lagos and Nigerian roads as a result of road haulage of cargo but would also create jobs for the scores of people currently idling away around the facility and living under very unhygienic conditions.
On the environmental situation in the area, Governor Fashola, who attributed it to what he called “our country’s economic choices”, said if the Federal Government had made the right choice of putting the Yard into good use, the environmental situation in the area would not have been created in the first place.
The Governor, however, advised the inhabitants to be conscious of the Ebola Virus Disease incident in the State and try to imbibe as much of the hygienic principles as the situation would permit them such as washing their hands constantly and avoiding open urination and defecation.
At the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) Yard, Oshodi, Governor Fashola, who was conducted round the facility by the General Manager of LASTMA, Engineer Babatunde Edu, expressed satisfaction at the progress being made at repairing broken down towing trucks and other utility vehicles meant for use by LASTMA.
He recalled that a few years ago the Agency had about 25 towing trucks including eight bigger trucks adding, however, that under the Concession Management Agreement that the Government had, the vehicles were not properly utilized and maintained adding that the vehicles had to be recalled, a situation which, he said severely hampered the capacity of the Agency to move broken down vehicles from the streets of Lagos.
Saying that Government resisted the choice of going to buy new vehicles to replace the broken down ones, Governor Fashola declared, “I have always said if we buy things we must also maintain them. We challenged our people and it was local mechanics who were provided with operational facilities from our garage that repaired these. As you can see 12 out of the 25 have been repaired and ready to go”, adding that except for two lost to fire, at least 23 would be put back to operational use in a few weeks time.
Noting that his administration has a few months to go, the Governor said as it has been with the towing trucks, some broken down motorcycles have also been put back to operational use by the local mechanics adding, “I have always argued that we should spend taxpayers’ money the way we would spend our personal money”.
“The fact that we can just buy and replace is not enough to do so. When we buy things and when we use things, they must give us their full utility of life. When they break down, we must also seek to repair and to restore them. In that way a lot of things happen; people get the benefit of using their hands”, he said.
Governor Fashola said there was need to use local capacity for the repair of the vehicles adding, “We can’t be creating graduates from technical colleges and we are not repairing things, we are not maintaining things. Then, they would not get work and this is how the economy links up and provides work. I am happy that all of this is locally done by our people. So it is work in progress; a movement from where we were the last time. But it just shows that everything we do in this Government we always look back to see how it is working, how it has turned out and how we can make it better”.
The Governor also visited the new Apapa Shopping Mall (Shoprite) on Park Lane where he expressed satisfaction at the way the Mall has developed over the years recalling that his administration had granted the developer who is the Chairman, Top Services Limited, Mr. Tokunbo Omisore, a special dispensation to develop the place.
The Governor, who was conducted round the facility by Mr. Omisore, said, “It has turned out well and what you see here is what we should have in our economy, this is what we should be doing; investing in the economy, young people getting jobs and the economy moving forward. What we see here is what obtains everywhere in the world. I am just happy it has turned out well. You saw all those young people in uniforms doing their jobs. Without this development they would not have had the jobs and the opportunity to say every morning, “I am going to work”, he said.