RAILWAYS PLANNED CONCESSION: Workers Raise Alarm Over Fate Of 15,000 Workers

The United Labour Congress (ULC) on Tuesday expressed worry that over 15, 000 workers of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) might be laid off if the Federal Government succeeded in  its concession plan of  the corporation.President of the ULC; Mr  Joe Ajaero, therefore, urged the government to review the plan in an interview in Lagos.“I am skeptical about the concession; as many workers as 15,000 may lose their jobs.“There are so many responsibilities attached to railway service that is why the government should be committed to developing the sector to enhance the nation’s economic growth.“Allowing the private sector to handle the rail service completely will not augur well for our economy,” Ajaero said.He advised the government to inject more funds into the sector as a way of stabilising and building a strong foundation for economic development and growth.He suggested that the government should be involved in the construction of standard gauges across the country for railway service.These would amount to providing part of the social amenities the people had been craving for from the government, he said.The union leader said that it would be a big challenge for the government in the nearest future to monitor the nation’s social infrastructure if it should hand them to the private sectors now.“If the government builds the standard gauges, they will meet international standard,’’ he said and be for the good of the citizens,” he said.Ajaero listed other advantages attached to developing railway sector in the country.It would also reduce the pressures on our highways in term of haulages and petroleum transportations, he said.Ajaero said that the issue of price variation in terms of cost and hazards on the roads would be a thing of the past in the petroleum and agricultural sectors with an effective railway service.The labour leader said it would also help in the movement of agricultural products from the rural areas to the urban areas and prevented them from being destroyed.The Federal Government had constituted a 20-member steering committee on the concession of the eastern and western lines of the NRC.The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, inaugurated the committee, headed by the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, in August 2016.The government is planning to concession the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri and Lagos-Kano rail lines to the U.S. conglomerate, General Electric (GE).