In a surprising turn of events, Mr. Fidet Okhiria, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), is slated to undergo disciplinary proceedings due to alleged mismanagement and operational discrepancies plaguing the immensely popular Abuja-Kaduna train service.
As part of this development, Okhiria and his management team are anticipated to make an appearance before Transportation Minister Saidu Alkali. The purpose of their appearance is to provide a comprehensive briefing on the operations of the nation’s oldest public corporation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, at the Bukar Dipcharima House in Abuja.
Sources reveal that the decision to hold Mr. Okhiria accountable was communicated during the week by the Transport Minister himself. He conducted an unannounced visit to the Abuja Train Station of the Abuja-Kaduna Train Service (AKTS) to gain firsthand insight into the state of affairs of the nation’s flagship standard gauge railway, which commenced commercial operations in 2017.
Citing recent reports citing persistent train delays, passenger safety concerns, and overall dissatisfaction among passengers, Minister Alkali emphasized that Mr. Okhiria will need to personally address his shortcomings and convincingly explain why he should not face disciplinary measures.
Minister Alkali commented, “It is in pursuit of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s agenda of Renewed Hope. By scheduling visits, necessary improvements can be implemented as they will be aware of your inspection. Seeing is believing; during my visit, I inspected the coaches. Some of the toilet facilities are non-functional.”
He also noted, “I have received complaints from security escorts that their allowances haven’t been paid for the last five months. I’m pleased that the MD of NRC will appear before the ministry to provide a briefing. The lifts and escalators are not operational, posing challenges for the elderly and disabled passengers.”
Minister Alkali stressed that Mr. Okhiria must provide a convincing explanation to avoid disciplinary actions.
The minister’s agenda for the meeting includes reviewing NRC’s performance over the past decade, the current status of the corporation’s finances, and its future prospects.
Additionally, Minister Alkali intends to inquire about the status of NRC’s subsidiaries, particularly the Nigerian Railway Corporation Property Management Services Limited (NRCPMSL), which is arguably the largest property holding firm in Nigeria.
It is expected that Mr. Okhiria will provide insights into the nation’s dealings with the ChinaExim Bank, which facilitated the loan enabling the acquisition of the busiest trunk network—the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge. The Buhari administration successfully completed the Lot II segment from Lagos to Ibadan in 2021 under this contract.
Minister Alkali also revealed his swift plans to overhaul railway services. He assured the public that within the next 48 hours, the escalators will be repaired, and the lifts will be operational once again.