NIGERIAN Railways Corp is once again on the point of collapse, with only 30 of its 200 locomotives in working order, according to Board Chairman Alhaji Waziri Mohammed. What is particularly sad is that the 50 Class 2101 locos, 150 passenger coaches, 20 railcars, 100 guard’s vans and 400 wagons supplied in 1998 from China under a deal worth US$529m now need urgent repairs.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is taking the situation seriously, not least because many poor people rely on the railway for cheap transport. He has decreed that a rehabilitation contract awarded to Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corp is to be taken over by M B Anamco, a DaimlerChrysler subsidiary that builds buses. The move is subject to approval by parliament. The Chinese deal included resignalling, rehabilitation of 3500 km of track, bridge reconstruction, and staff training. Around 70% is thought to have been completed.

Waziri Mohammed has indicated that foreign consultants may be called in to help restructure NRC and train its staff.

The government meanwhile still entertains plans to build a 1435mm gauge network (RG 10.00 p636), and to convert the existing 1067mm gauge lines. That, to put it mildly, will not address the real problems.