As NRC be­gins move­ment of petroleum prod­ucts

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS -

Amidst the traf­fic grid­locks in ma­jor towns and ci­ties of Nige­ria are long lines of trucks loaded with the highly in­flammable premium mo­tor spirit, oth­er­wise known as petroleum. The trucks nav­i­gate and me­an­der dan­ger­ously on the high­ways, com­pet­ing for the right of way with small cars and ve­hi­cles and thus con­sti­tut­ing dan­ger to mo­torists and other road users.

The in­tractable traf­fic snarl in the com­mer­cial area of Apapa, Lagos, where oil tankers queue to load fuel at the ma­jor tank (petrol) farms near the Tin Can Is­land port, has been de­scribed as hellish and un­bear­able. Many mo­torists dread pass­ing through the area. Those with­out an al­ter­na­tive go through hell on daily ba­sis ply­ing the road.

Tanker driv­ers have be­come a source of worry to many peo­ple in the light of con­stant fa­tal ac­ci­dents that they cause. There are nu­mer­ous cases of cargo trucks either crush­ing ve­hi­cles by fall­ing and caus­ing deaths or burst­ing into flames raz­ing many homes.

Many peo­ple have died and prop­er­ties worth bil­lions of naira lost to many tanker crashes on the high­ways with no end in sight.

This year alone, many in­ci­dents in­volv­ing tanker driv­ers have claimed many lives. There was the in­ci­dent in the Iko­rodu area of Lagos in March and an­other at Iyana Ipaja in May. The worst in the year hap­pened in Onit­sha on May 30 when more than 70 per­sons were burnt to death when a tanker loaded with petrol driv­ing from the Army bar­racks side of the Onit­sha Enugu ex­press­way lost con­trol and rammed into the As­aba Mo­tor Park at Up­per Iweka, Onit­sha. More than 11 ve­hi­cles, mostly com­muter buses, and about three mo­tor­cy­cles in­side the park were re­port­edly burnt be­yond re­pairs af­ter the tanker ex­ploded.

The Corps Mar­shal of the Fed­eral Road Safety Corps, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi re­cently dis­closed that tanker driv­ers killed many peo­ple in 2014 alone. Oyeyemi painted the pic­ture ap­par­ently to enun­ci­ate the cat­a­clysmic di­men­sion which tanker ac­ci­dents have as­sumed. The Com­mis­sion has, there­fore, evolved a speed limit de­vice to re­duce the car­nage caused by tanker driv­ers.

The FRSC ini­tia­tive has been widely ac­claimed as nec­es­sary. But what has been more widely ac­claimed is the de­ci­sion by the Nige­ria Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion (NRC) to be­gin move­ment of petroleum prod­ucts, ce­ment and other prod­ucts which are presently be­ing con­veyed by ar­tic­u­lated trucks and lor­ries. The NRC an­nounce­ment has been widely wel­comed as a The move by the Nige­rian Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion (NRC) to com­mence move­ment of petroleum prod­ucts and other prod­ucts con­veyed by heavy duty trucks and lor­ries is widely wel­comed and en­dorsed by Nige­ri­ans as a bold ini­tia­tive to stem fre­quent tragic in­ci­dents of tanker crashes on the high­ways. re­ports bolder move to stop fre­quent car­nage on the high­ways.

The NRC had, last year, dis­closed that rail­way links to the tank farms for petroleum prod­ucts evac­u­a­tion by oil mar­keters would be com­pleted this year. Ac­tu­ally, some oil mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies have be­gun mov­ing Au­to­mo­tive Gas Oil (AGO) known as diesel. Di­rec­tor of Op­er­a­tions of the NRC, Mr. Niyi Ali had said petrol trans­porta­tion by rail would com­mence once at­ten­dant safety is­sues have been ad­dressed.

Ali had said “The NRC had moved its first com­mer­cial quan­tity of diesel out of Apapa. We moved 12 wag­ons of AGO from Lagos to Kano. Mov­ing AGO is a bit eas­ier be­cause you don’t need that much amount of safety con­sid­er­a­tions. So, we can trans-load from tankers to rail tankers and that is what we will con­tinue to do. As time goes on, we will see some im­prove­ment in not just the vol­ume of AGO, but also in other prod­ucts. In the AGO move­ment, we used a third party called Con­nect Rail, which bro­kered the deal be­tween the Nige­ria Rail­ways and a prod­uct mar­keter, Eterna Oil Plc.”

Ali fur­ther said that the NRC has ac­quired 40 brand new pres­surised tank wag­ons meant for evac­u­at­ing petroleum prod­ucts jet­ties. “Pres­surised” th­ese from

means wag­ons don’t leak and can be guar­an­teed of their quan­tity.

Ali ex­pa­ti­ated, “But there is a bit more to petroleum prod­ucts move­ment than just hav­ing tank wag­ons. The im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is that un­like other traf­fics, the point of load­ing and of­fload­ing is where there are al­ways safety con­cerns. The first thing we do in our dis­cus­sions with some of the oil mar­keters is how to cre­ate ac­cess to the tank farms and as we speak, we have con­tracts to re­ha­bil­i­tate all the lines to the tank farms of the ma­jor oil mar­keters.

“The lines are cur­rently be­ing built and re­ha­bil­i­tated to their ter­mi­nals. We also have on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with most of them about the fa­cil­i­ties that are re­quired to trans-load the prod­ucts from their tank farms into the tank wag­ons. We also con­sider the fact that th­ese ma­te­ri­als are highly com­bustible, so safety is al­ways the key con­cern for us.”

Speak­ing with the Daily Trust, the spokesman of NRC, Mr. Ab­dur-raouf Ak­in­woye dis­closed the cor­po­ra­tion had com­menced talks with oil mar­keters in the coun­try with a view to part­ner­ing with them in lift­ing their prod­ucts to all parts of Nige­ria.

Apart from the move­ment of petroleum, the NRC has also com­menced move­ment of ce­ment usu­ally con­veyed through heavy duty ve­hi­cles and trucks, a sit­u­a­tion that con­sti­tutes dan­ger to com­muters on the high­ways.

Ak­in­woye said “We are mov­ing petroleum prod­ucts from Lagos to Kano. We are equally mov­ing ce­ment from the La­farge com­pany to all parts of the coun­try. We have gone into dis­cus­sions with oil mar­keters to let them know that we have all it takes to move petroleum prod­ucts from tank farms in Lagos to all parts of the coun­try”.

Ob­servers say the re­vamp­ing of the rail trans­porta­tion sys­tem would have more im­pact on Nige­ri­ans with the re­sus­ci­ta­tion of move­ment of petroleum prod­ucts and haulage ser­vices by the NRC. This was the case in the early days of the NRC when the rail mode of trans­porta­tion was vi­brant. The move, ac­cord­ing to stake­hold­ers, would not in any way send truck driv­ers off the road com­pletely. It would, how­ever, re­duce the num­ber of tankers and heavy­duty trucks, with the re­sul­tant ef­fect be­ing re­duc­tion of car­nage caused on the roads.

A sec­tor com­man­der of the FRSC told the Daily Trust the mea­sure would re­duce car­nage on the high­way. He said “Hon­estly this is what the FRSC has been ad­vo­cat­ing be­cause the rate of crashes by tankers and trucks on our high­ways is a se­ri­ous source of con­cern and we are hope­ful this would dras­ti­cally re­duce with this new sys­tem”.

Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Union of Tex­tile Gar­ment and Tai­lor­ing Work­ers of Nige­ria (NUTGTWN), Com­rade Issa Aremu strongly wel­comes the idea, say­ing the ques­tion is not about the fea­si­bil­ity,rather it should be the norm. Aremu re­called that the rail­way used to be the mode of trans­porta­tion of petroleum prod­ucts in the past and said noth­ing stops the rail­way cor­po­ra­tion from re­vert­ing to the good old sys­tem.

An in­de­pen­dent petroleum mar­keter, Al­haji Ab­dulrasheed Ola­pade stressed that the Nige­rian Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion (NNPC) could adopt the rail trans­porta­tion sys­tem to ease move­ment of its prod­ucts to var­i­ous parts of the coun­try.

Olopade main­tained the ini­tia­tive to start mov­ing petroleum prod­ucts to all parts of the coun­try through train is re­al­is­tic and sus­tain­able. He said “Noth­ing is dif­fi­cult for a gov­ern­ment to do at any level if they are hon­est and sin­cere. The prob­lem we are hav­ing in this part of the world is that ev­ery pol­icy is not an­chored on hon­esty and sin­cer­ity.”

The oil mar­keter, who ar­gued that “lack of sin­cer­ity and hon­esty on the part of gov­ern­ment wors­ened the prob­lem of pipe­line van­dal­ism which dis­rupts fuel dis­tri­bu­tion na­tion­wide”, stressed that the rail­way ar­range­ment should be metic­u­lously han­dled to pre­vent it from be­ing hi­jacked by sabo­teurs.

While stake­hold­ers wel­come the rail idea, they urge that all the nec­es­sary fa­cil­i­ties that would drive and en­hance the process be put in place to avoid any hitches in its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

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