The Railway Revolution We Need – By Senator ‘Gbenga Ashafa

Dear Nigerians, Let me seize this opportunity to once again wish you a Happy New Year. Indeed 2016 was a very challenging year for all of us, but I believe that with the efforts of both the Government and the private Sector, we should experience a more prosperous 2017.

Towards the end of last year, Nigeria was and is still faced with a major transportation challenge to wit: the impending closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. This impending closure is attributed to the urgent need to rehabilitate the only runway servicing the airport.

From Thursday 12th January 2017 to Tuesday, 17th January, 2017, the Nigerian Senate engaged the stakeholders in the Sector with a view to considering other options available to the millions of Nigerians that would be affected by the Six Week Closure of the airport. The whole essence of this engagement was to find the least stressful alternative that would benefit the country.

I have given the forgoing preamble mainly to further underscore the need to quickly and speedily reinvigorate our Rail Transportation Sector, in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Railway Bill, 2016. To achieve this, our counterparts in the House of Representatives will have to hasten up to pass their version of the Bill so that the harmonised version can then be forwarded to Mr. President for his assent.

You will recall that the Nigerian Senate on July 21, 2016 passed the Nigerian Railway Corporation Bill, 2016. The new bill is poised to replace the antiquated Railway Corporation Act of 1955.

The new railway bill sponsored by Senator Andy Uba from Anambra state laid the ground work for the reengineering which the Senate Committee on Land Transport which I chair had to do to achieve the quality of the legislation that was eventually passed. I must once again commend my colleagues on the committee and the technical committee that worked with us leading to the passage of the Nigerian Railway Bill, 2016.

Basically, the passed bill is a departure from the old order, which shut private investors out of the railway business. The new bill, among other things, seeks to open up the railway business to private investors, and to distinguish the regulator – which is the government – from the operator.

I remain a strong believer in the primacy of the railway. It is my belief as well that the Railways remain a critical infrastructure that will extenuate Nigeria’s motley transportation problems. Hence, I am dedicated to leading the charge for the “revolutionalisation” of the system.

Last year, I expressed my thoughts on the same subject in an essay entitled, ‘Time has come to open up our railway to private participation’, which was published a few days before the passage of the bill in July 2016. Given the situation we have found ourselves in now, I deem it necessary to quote some of the thoughts expressed therein, hereunder.

“Government after government has invested even more in road expansion projects. The result as can be observed in the case of Lagos and Abuja has been a gradual occupation of the expanded roads with more cars. This is attributable to rural-urban migration as well as population explosion across the nation,”.

“Mass transit remains a very pivotal aspect of the development of any city. It plays a critical role in enhancing productivity of the state by ensuring the movement of the largest number of people from point A to Point B within the shortest possible time. It also reflects the quality of life and the value placed on the unit citizen by any responsible government.

“You will agree with me that the most effective means of transporting large quantities of humans, goods and services within any country is via rail. This is why whenever the topic of mass transit is discussed; rail transportation must be given its pride of place.”

Now, with the impending closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, a frontal focus on the railway is more than ever germane. The goal is not to have just functional railways, but to have trains that are as fast and effective as those we see outside Nigeria.

I believe that the private sector has a pivotal role to play in turning around the fortunes of the Nigerian Railway System. To achieve this, the Senate has taken the lead in giving the executive the requisite Legislative Support to attract Foreign and local investments into the sector. This was the prime goal, when the Senate committee on Land Transport, worked round the clock to ensure the passage of the Railway Bill in good time.

The imminent total closure of the second busiest airport in Nigeria has caused unrest for many Nigerians and foreigners going by their outcry. Imagine if we had an effective rail system whereby cities, states and communities are linked. A sturdy railway system or a faster train traversing the Abuja to Kaduna corridor, the consequences of the total closure of the Abuja Airport would be minimal and frequent travelers might not feel much pain or discomfort.

The time for linking every Nigerian artery by rail is now.

Senator Gbenga Ashafa represents the good and industrious people of Lagos East Senatorial District in the Senate. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport.

Remain Calm! Sen. Ashafa Tells Parents Of Kidnapped Lagos Students

Press Release

My attention has just been drawn to the news making the rounds about the kidnap of some students and staff of the State Model College, Igbonla in Epe, which falls within the Lagos East Senatorial District.

I can only imagine how distraught the parents of this students and all the loved ones of the staff who have gone to learn and teach must be at the moment. However, I urge the parents, teachers and residents of Igbonla in Epe to remain calm and be rest assured that the Government of Lagos State ably led by his Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will stop at nothing to ensure the safe return of all the victims of this heinous crime. The perpetrators will also be apprehended and brought to book.

I use this medium to call on all and sundry to remain conscious of their environment and ready to offer our security agencies all relevant information that can assist in locating our kidnapped students. Everybody in the vicinity must cooperate with all security agencies by reporting all suspicious persons and movements to the security outfits now on ground.

On my part in the Upper Chamber, only yesterday 5th October, 2016 I supported the Bill for an Act to provide for Punishment of the Offences of Abduction, Wrongful Restraints and Wrongful Confinement for Ransom and other related offences. This Bill prescribes stiffer punishments for Kidnappers and imprisonment for up to 30 Years for recipients of any proceeds therefrom.

While my representatives from our Constituency office will pay an on the spot assessment to the school immediately to enable us further ascertain how we can be of help, I urge all my constituents in the Epe division to remain security conscious and to note that our communal security is our collective responsibility.

Sen. Gbenga Ashafa Commends Organisers Workshop On The National Automotive Policy

Senator Olugbenga Ashafa, the Senate Committee Chairman on Land Transport on Tuesday 4thOctober, 2016 at the 2 day National Workshop for Chief Executives of Mass Transit Organisations on the Nigeria Automotive Policy, urged the organisers to break away from the culture of hoarding communiqués generated from such forums.

While delivering his good will message, the Senator commended the Nigerian Institute for Transport Technology and the National Automotive and Design Development Council for putting together the all too important National Workshop.

Speaking further, the Senator Representing Lagos East stated that “the functionality of our National Automotive policy side by side our Mass Transit System is very important to our economy hence; this workshop is timely as it directly affects the pressing challenge that we face as a country today, which is the challenge of our economy.”

Ashafa identified the important issues that the Workshop needed to interrogate to include “how to ensure that the National Automotive Policy remains a viable document on one hand and how to ensure that the local manufacturing sector remains attractive to the investor (both local and foreign).”

The Senator concluded by calling on the organisers of the workshop to ensure that any recommendations requiring the action of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, should be forwarded to the committee without hesitation. In his own words, “I have observed a critical missing link in how we make use of our body of knowledge after the brilliant ventilation of ideas at such a forum as this. We have the habit of keeping the resolutions to ourselves without forwarding same to relevant arms of government for execution. Even when we do, we do not follow through to ensure that each arm takes responsibility of his part of the job. I therefore urge that if at the end of this workshop, you come up with any recommendations which you believe the Senate Committee on Land Transport should push in form of a legislation or a legislative agenda, kindly forward same to us.”

Senate Ready For 2017 Budget – Sen. Ashafa

The senator representing Lagos East at the 8th Session of the National Assembly, Senator Olugbenga Ashafa, on Thursday 29th September, 2016 highlighted some of the efforts of the National Assembly to assist the economy and also encourage more local content in the Nigerian economy. He also seized the opportunity to join his voice to the call by the Senate President on the executive to transmit the 2017 budget estimates to the National Assembly in good time.

He made this call at the fourth day of the Made in Nigeria Summit which took place at the Eko Atlantic City with the theme “Pathways to building the main economy: Legislative agenda for the main economy.”

While analyzing the contribution of the Senate towards encouraging local participation in the economy, the senator stated ”The fundamental role of the National Assembly in the area of the economy remains providing the requisite legislative support for both the executive and indeed the Nigerian populace to thrive in their areas of business.”

He stated further “The 8th Session of the National Assembly is very well aware of the task ahead of it in this period of economic challenge and we are alive to this responsibility. I will give you some instances: one is the amendment of The Public Procurement Act which has effectively reduced the time it takes government to process the award of contracts. Also, that law is to make it compulsory for government to patronize locally produced goods.

The Senator also spoke about the passage of the Nigerian Railway bILL 2016 which was spearheaded by the Senate Committee on Land Transport of which he is the chairman and expressed his optimism on how the new law will help open up the Rail sector to private sector participation.”

In concluding, the Senator stated that the National Assembly is ready to receive the 2017 budget, calling on the Executive to send the budget estimates for the year 2017 to the National Assembly in good time to afford the National Assembly the opportunity of carrying out a thorough examination and timely passage of the document. “I agree that the National Assembly can do more to encourage local content in the economy, however I think it is important to state that since it takes the National Assembly averagely about Four months to scrutinize the budget, we in the National Assembly are ready to start work on the 2017 budget. If we receive the budget estimates early, it gives us the opportunity of carrying out a thorough examination and timely passage of the document.”

The Time Has Come To Open Up Our Railway To Private Sector Participation By Senator Gbenga B. Ashafa.

Senator Gbenga B. Ashafa representing Lagos East Senatorial District at the 8th Senate, is the Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport. Through this feature, he renders his opinion on how to transform the Nigerian Railway Sector and a report on the efforts of the Senate Committee on Land Transport towards ensuring a transformed railway Sector beneficial to all Nigerians.

“The Nigerian Railway Corporation traces its history to the year 1898, when the first railroad in Nigeria was constructed by the British colonial government. On October 3, 1912 the Lagos Government Railway and the Baro-Kano Railway were amalgamated, starting nationwide rail service under the name Government Department of Railways. With the passing of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act of 1955, the company gained its current name as well as the exclusive legal right to construct and operate rail service in Nigeria. The rail network reached its maximum extent shortly after Nigerian independence, in 1964. Shortly after that, the NRC entered a long period of decline, inept management, and eventually a complete lack of maintenance of rail and locomotive assets. In 1988, NRC declared bankruptcy, and all rail traffic stopped for six months. After that, trains resumed, where the tracks were usable. By 2002, passenger service was again discontinued altogether. Starting in 2006, plans were made to restore the rail lines and add new locomotives with foreign assistance. In December 2012 regular, scheduled passenger service was restored on the Lagos to Kano line.”– Wikepedia

I have chosen to start this article with the foregoing quote from Wikepedia to give you all a background of the history of the Nigerian Railway Corporation and by extension the Nigerian Rail Sector. This quote will also put in proper perspective the urgent need to open up our railway sector to Public/Private Sector Participation.

In the recent past, Nigeria particularly has learnt that private participation drives effectiveness and Accountability in most service/utility sectors. We have learnt that the Government cannot carry the burden of delivering every service or utility. Successive governments in Nigeria have over the years burdened itself with the task of providing power, water, a National Carrier, Telecommunications, Railways etc.

What we have experienced till recently has been a steady decline in the functionality of Government-run social utility services. This has led to the change in disposition of Government towards extending a hand of partnership to the private sector to come and invest in some of these sectors. Sectors that have benefitted from the Private Sector Participation in Government Business include the Telecommunications Sector and the Power Sector.

Since the introduction of private sector participation in the Telecommunications Sector, the service has become more affordable, effective and accessible to every single Nigerian. The Telecommunications value chain also employs Millions of Nigerians with investment in the Sector set at about $32 Billion as at the first quarter of 2016.

Till the Telecoms sector was opened up in 2001, it was an untapped gold mine with unfathomable potential. It is this same quantum of potential that we seek to replicate by introducing the requisite CHANGE into the Nigerian Railway Sector.

Now, to achieve this change in disposition of any critical sector, there has to be a critical change in the Legislation that drives the Sector. Legislation forms the fulcrum of human, government and business interrelationship in every society. Hence what we need to and seek to do is to drastically change the legislation that guides the Nigerian Rail Sector to ensure that we maximize the full yet untapped potential inherent therein. For the sake of emphasis, the legislation that guides the Nigerian Railway Corporation was promulgated in 1955 (61 years ago).

Till now, you will agree with me that the country has focused primarily on road transportation in ferrying persons, goods and services from one point to the other. What this has led to over the years has been an influx of cars, congested roads, over-burdened road infrastructure, loss of lives to accidents and reduction in the productivity of manpower due to unending hours spent in traffic jams.

Government after government has invested even more in road expansion projects. The result as can be observed in the case of Lagos and Abuja has been a gradual occupation of the expanded roads with more cars. This is attributable to rural-urban migration as well as population explosion across the nation.

Mass transit remains a very pivotal aspect of the development of any city. It plays a critical role in enhancing productivity of the state by ensuring the movement of the largest number of people from point A to Point B within the shortest possible time. It also reflects the quality of life and the value placed on the unit citizen by any responsible government.

You will agree with me that the most effective means of transporting large quantities of humans, goods and services within any country is via rail. This is why whenever the topic of mass transit is discussed; rail transportation must be given its pride of place.

In the light of the foregoing, When I was appointed the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, my humble self and committee members held interactive sessions with the Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Railway Corporation to listen to the challenges facing the rail sector. We also at other different fora interfaced with stakeholders in the Rail Sector to feel their pulse on what needs to change to enable the Sector thrive. Our intention was to ascertaining how we as legislators could be of assistance to the Federal Government and fellow Nigerians through creating an enabling environment to revamp the rail sector through the instrumentality of legislation.

Upon our interaction with the Stakeholders, we discovered that there is an urgent need to open up the Sector to active private participation, predicated upon both State and Private Sector Participation on a level playing field. To achieve this, we zeroed-in an urgent need to amend or repeal the existing Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, 1955, which does not contemplate private participation in the rail sector. I am therefore convinced that the time has come for us to open up our railway sector to private sector participation.

Just in good time, the Senate at Plenary forwarded the Nigerian Railway Corporation Repeal and Reenactment Bill 2015, sponsored by Distinguished Senator Andy Uba to the Senate Committee on Land Transport. Shortly after that, the National Transport commission Bill 2016 was equally forwarded to the Committee on Land Transport.

With regard to the Nigerian Railway Corporation Repeal and Reenactment bill, the Senate Committee on Land Transport successfully held a public hearing, which had in attendance all the important stakeholders in the sector. This culminated in the setting up of a technical committee made up of stakeholders with the legal and technical expertise to further advise the Senate committee on the desirable disposition of the proposed legislation. On Wednesday, 24th May, 2015, the report of the technical committee was submitted to us and I had the privilege of presenting the said report to His Excellency, the President of the 8th Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on the same date.

Based on the recommendation of both the Senate Committee on Land Transport and the Technical Committee on the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act Repeal and Reenactment Bill 2015, it was agreed that due to the extensive recommended changes, the tittle of the Bill should be changed to the Nigerian Railway bill, 2016.

Consideration of the report of the Senate committee on Land Transport with regard to the said Bill has equally commenced before the Senate at plenary. The Third and Final Reading of the Bill, which will include the line-by-line consideration of the committee recommendations with regard to the Bill will be completed upon the resumption of the Senate from its recess. With regard to the National Transport Commission Bill, preparations are currently in full gear to hold a public hearing as well.

It is very important to note that up until 1993, the British also ran a state model of ownership and operation of the Railways and they faced similar challenges in funding and efficiency of the service. In a speech titled Rail growth through competition: the success of the UK model delivered by The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP on 12 November 2013 at the European Rail Congress, McLoughling pointed out as follows: “In fact the Railways Act came into effect on November 5 1993, breaking up the state-run British Rail, and transforming the face of our railway for ever. Nobody back then could have predicted the extraordinary changes that have taken place over the subsequent 2 decades.”

McLoughling stated further that “Rail travel had dwindled to such an extent that most people thought the private train operators would manage a decline in both passenger and freight traffic. How wrong they were. Privatisation sparked a railway renaissance. Since 1993, passenger journeys have doubled in the UK to a level not seen since the 1920s. On a network roughly the same size as 15 years ago, today our railway is running 4,000 more services a day. And rail freight has grown by 60%. Revenue is up more than £3 billion since privatisation, almost all of it due to higher passenger numbers rather than fare rises Safety levels are at an all time high. Punctuality is at near record levels. And passenger satisfaction is up by 10% over the past decade. None of this would have happened without privatization, without competition, without franchises investing in better services. Without an industry structure promoting accountability and incentivising growth.”

What we seek to achieve by these legislations is to replicate in Nigeria what started in the United Kingdom a bit over 20 years ago and as succinctly captured by the quotes from McLoughlin MP, just above.

This radical departure from the norm will make the sector more attractive to investors, by separating the roles of the operators and the regulator. A whole lot of investors have over time complained about the role of the Nigerian Railway Corporation as both the operator and the regulator in the sector. With the upcoming legislation, we expect to see a completely re-positioned Rail Transport Sector, open to private sector participation.

Once the rail sector is opened up to Private Sector Participation, we would have achieved two principal things, which are; Creation of Millions of jobs on one hand and also we would have successfully solved the challenge of inter/intra city mass transit.

Further more, in respect to Public Private Partnerships in the Rail Sector, the World Bank Group’s Public-Private-Partnership in Infrastructure Resource Center has also recommended the shared infrastructure model, which the upcoming legislation proposes when it stated that, “PPPs in railways can bring opportunities for investment, operating efficiency and modern and clean technology. PPP railway projects providing for shared use of rail tracks may lead to efficiency gains
and an increased revenue basis for states”

Having said these, I must thoroughly commend the effort of the Muhammadu Buhari led APC Government through the Ministry of Transportation headed by H.E Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi in consolidating the infrastructure relevant to drive our renewed rail sector, the Senate President who ab-initio showed interest in this vital sector by convening the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable for the first time. I also commend the various states that have begun laudable intra-city rail lines, of particular note is the Government of Lagos State ably led by H.E Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The Nigerian Railway Bill 2016 will essentially become the Bill that will bring all these brilliant initiatives by the Federal government and soon- to- be investors together to ease the Mass Transportation challenges across the Nation and as such help to increase the collective productivity of our work force.

In the same vein, I would like to seize this opportunity to commend all those who have worked tirelessly and pro-bono with the Senate Committee on Land transport, particularly the members of the Technical Committee on the Railway bill, ably chaired by Engineer C.C Okoye, the Chairman Body of Fellows, Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Nigerian Infrastructure Advisory Fund, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Ministry of Transport, Office of the Senate President, the Nigerian Railway Corporation and all those who time and space would not allow me to mention here. We are indeed grateful.

It is our earnest hope, that these laws garner support across board and that upon the passage of these new legislations by this 8th National Assembly, we would have contributed in no small measure in opening up the rail sector, thereby attracting both Local and Foreign investments, creating millions of jobs and also establish a beneficial platform for the transportation of humans, goods and services alike.

We Approved Lagos-Calabar Rail In Our Committee Recommendations – Sen Gbenga Ashafa

Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa has officially reacted to the ongoing budget controversy where the presidency is reported to have alleged that the National Assembly altered provisions for major national projects and programmes in the 2016 budget.

We recall that a presidency source had disclosed that in protest, President Muhammadu Buhari may this week return the revised document sent to the executive by the legislature.

But reacting, Sen. Ashafa said that the focal point of the controversy was the Lagos to Calabar rail, stating that even though the project was not in the original document that was presented to the National Assembly by the Executive, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi later submitted a supplementary copy which contained it.

He said that the Minister submitted the sum of 120 Billion Naira, being 60 Billion Naira per project and that the committee later approved N52 Billion Naira as against the sum of 60 billion which the Hon. Minister requested as counterpart funding, while no allocation, whatsoever, was made for the Lagos to Calabar rail line.

He said, ” I have carefully followed the news items making the rounds in relation to the budget presented to the National Assembly and what was defended by the Ministry of Transport before the Senate Committee on Land Transport which I have the privilege of chairing.

”The focal points of controversy seem to be the Lagos to Calabar railway modernisation projects and the completion of the Idu – Kaduna rail line.

”I confirm that the Lagos to Calabar rail line was not in the original document that was presented to the National Assembly by the Executive. However subsequently at the budget defense session before the Senate Committee on Land Transport, the Hon. Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, did inform the committee of the omission of the Lagos to Calabar rail modernisation project and indeed sent a supplementary copy of the ministry’s budget to the committee which contained the said project.

”The minister noted that the amount needed for the counterpart funding for both the Lagos to Kano and Lagos to Calabar rail modernisation projects was in the sum of 120 Billion Naira, being 60 Billion Naira per project.

”While the committee did not completely agree with all the changes made in the subsequent document, being fully aware of the critical importance of the rail sector to the development of our dear country, distinguished members of the Senate Committee on Land transport keyed into the laudable (Lagos to Calabar, rail modernisation) project and found ways of appropriating funds for the project without exceeding the envelope provided for the ministry.

”In so doing, the committee observed that the Lagos to Kano rail rehabilitation project had been allocated the sum of N52 Billion Naira as against the sum of 60 billion which the Hon. Minister requested as counterpart funding while no allocation whatsoever was made for the Lagos to Calabar rail line.

”Hence, the sum of 54 billion Naira that was discovered by the Senate Committee on Land Transport to be floating in the budget of the Ministry of Transportation as presented by the Executive was injected into augmenting the funds needed for counterpart funding of both projects (Lagos to Kano and Lagos to Calabar Rail modernisation), as at the time the committee defended its report before the senate committee on Appropriation. The Lagos to Calabar rail modernisation project was therefore included in the Senate Committee on Land Transports recommendation to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

”With regard to the Idu to Kaduna rail completion, the Senate Committee on Land Transport did not interfere with what was provided for in the budget as sent by the executive, being approximately 18 Billion Naira hence I am equally surprised to read on the pages of the newspapers that the amount allocated to the said project was reduced by 8 Billion Naira.

”While I would have preferred to wait till Tuesday 12th April, 2016 when the National Assembly reconvenes in order to have the benefit of viewing the details of the budget that was conveyed to the executive as passed, I am compelled to place the facts in proper perspective as it relates to the activities of the Senate Committee on Land Transport.

”Without prejudice to the considerations and powers of the Senate Committee on Appropriations with regard to the appropriations process, the foregoing is the true reflection of what transpired at the committee level with respect to the Land Transport sector of the Ministry of Transport, ” the statement said.

Use Social Media For Progressive Ideas – Senator Ashafa

The Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, has asked all users of new media to share progressive ideas with each other and strive for the cultural and social integration of Nigeria on those platforms.

He said social media should be seen as an enjoyable and uniting factor, and not for causing disaffection. He added that his constant use of Facebook and Twitter has increased his level of engagement with his constituents and helps him get news faster.

The senator said this in a press release announcing the verification of his Facebook page, which was concluded on Wednesday, 24thFebruary, 2016. The page, https://www.facebook.com/gbengaashafa/, is now the only authentic profile belonging to the Senator on Facebook, the world’s largest social media site with 1.44 billion monthly users.

“Our youth owe it to each other to use social media responsibly,” Senator Ashafa said. “Great ideas, which can save our economy and create jobs, can be shared, analysed and executed through social media. It is borderless, fast and effective. Let us use it to unite our country at all times.

“I have found it as a very useful tool for engagement. I believe it should be self-regulating, meaning those who see someone doing something wrong or illegal with it should either caution the offender or report to the appropriate authorities. That way, we will keep the space clean and government would not have an excuse to invade that space.”

The Senator promised to announce the second leg of his job creation initiative via social media. The first one was held in 2012, when he sponsored 15 engineering graduates from his constituency for training in at the Siemens Power Academy in collaboration with the Lagos State Electricity Board.

Senator Ashafa Restates Commitment To Completion Of Lagos-Kano Rail

The Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa has stressed that the actualisation of the rehabilitation of the Lagos to Kano and rail line from single gauge to standard gauge is very imperative.

Senator Ashafa spoke while leading other members of the Senate and House Committee’s on Land Transport  on an oversight visit to the Headquarters of Nigerian Railway Corporation in Lagos.

He said the task of moving from a dispensation of single track rail lines to the standard gauge for a start and then towards exploring the possibilities of electronic rail system depends on all of us here present.

The Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial district also tasked the Railway Corporation on providing more rolling stock available on the successfully rehabilitated and functional rail lines.

Ashafa said the Senators are totally committed to the actualisation of President Buhari’s change agenda.

Gbenga Ashafa, others visit railway
L-R Hon. Aminu Sani Isa (Chairman House of Reps Committee on Land Transport), Hon. Ezekiel Adaji, Hon. Agbonayinma E. J, Engr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, Senator Lanre Tejuosho, Senator ‘Gbenga Ashafa (Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport) and Mr. Wouter Van Der Waal during the Senate and House of Representative committees on Land Transport oversight visit to Nigerian Railway Corporation (Picture taken at the Operational Control Center)

He said the  change must be felt in the area of Land Transport, with particular focus on our rail transport sector.

“We are equally fully aware that for this change to be actualised, there would be a need to properly scrutinise and apportion the budgetary provision for the Ministry of Transportation towards maximising the accruable benefits that can be derived from the total sum of N215, 797, 393, 980 enveloped for the Ministry of Transport. Every Kobo spent must achieve its maximum value,” Senator Ashafa said.
Senator Ashafa wondered what the amount earmarked by the ministry for capital expenditure of the corporation can do with its N5.2bn debt profile.

“Whereas a total sum of N4.75 Billion was earmarked for the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the agencies under it, out of this sum, the sum of N4,253,528,989 is to take care of the corporation’s personnel. There is also an overhead cost of about N99,629,503, hence what is left for capital for the Corporation is about N399 Million.”

He noted that  the visit is an on the spot assessment of all the paperwork submitted and defended during the budget defense before the committee on the 3rd and 4th of February, 2016 as regards the level of work done/ the budgetary performance of the 2015 appropriation Act.

Senator Ashafa urges the Ministry to reorganise its priorities, so that adequate funds would be made available to the corporation to enable it conclude some of its outstanding projects that will translate to the dividends of sustaining a functional rail transport regime.

The other National Assembly members on the oversight visit include Senator Phillip Aduda- Vice Chairman, Senator Ali Wakili (Mni), Senator Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Hon. Aminu Isa (Chairman House Committee), Hon. Adekoya Adeosun, Hon. Abayomi Ayeola, Hon. Adaji Ezekiel, Hon. Yusuf Bala, Hon. Aliyu Danladi, Hon. Abdulraham Shuaibu and Hon. Isiaka Ibrahim.

2016 Budget: Sen. Ashafa Makes Case For Conditional Cash Transfers & Employment

Senator Gbenga Ashafa representing the Lagos East Senatorial District, has made a case for conditional cash transfer and massive employment proposed by the executive in the 2016 appropriation bill.

While calling on his distinguished colleagues to unite and corporate to ensure a successful deliberation on the 2016 National Budget, the senator highlighted tthe wo areas in the Appropriation Bill which were of keen interest to himself and all Nigerians to be the N5000 conditional cash transfer to poor Nigerian families and the plan by the Federal Government to recruit 500, 000 teachers.

On the issue of the Special Intervention, the Senator commended the plan, but questioned how the Federal Government intended to implement the program. He asked that more light be shed on how the Federal Government intends to pay the conditional cash transfer of N5, 000 to millions of Nigerians when the amount allocated in the budget was about Five Hundred Billion Naira. By his calculation, the project alone would cost the Government at least Seven Hundred Billion Naira.

Going further on the issue of the teachers to be employed, the senator also said that the Federal Government needs to carry the National Assembly along on how the project is going to be funded. In his words, “How are we going to get these funds? Are we expecting the states who are already overburdened by the wages they have to pay to take on more?”

Senator Ashafa noted that the commonwealth of this country had been looted by past administrations, but that however the APC is ready to tighten its belt and that the PDP Senators need to partner with the APC in resuscitating a country on the precipice of collapse as the Senate fine-tunes the estimates.

Reaching across party lines in canvassing support for the Appropriation Bill, Senator Ashafa stated, “None of us was sworn in as Senators of our political parties. We were sworn in as Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, consequently we need to put our party affiliations aside to ensure that the spirit and intents of the budget is achieved.”

He stated further that “On this side of the aisle, we have agreed to help the president to ensure that the spirit and the intent of this budget of change comes to life. To achieve this, we invite our fellow senators on the other side (the PDP) to partner with us to ensure the speedy passage of this budget.”

The Senator continued by saying that certain critical sectors require more funding that what is contained in the Appropriation Bill particularly the rail sector, which he said was greatly underfunded despite its importance to the Nigerian economy.

He concluded further garnering support for the speedy passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill, in order to quickly commence the special intervention schemes be given to the most indigent & other laudable capital projects contained therein.

Vanguard