The 1955 Nigeria Railway Act, which enables only the Federal Government to build a railway, is an obstacle towards linking southwest states by rail.
Director-General, Development Agenda of Western Nigeria (DAWN), Seye Oyeleye, said that having identified the act as the problem, it has set the process for a change in motion.
The DAWN boss was of the view that, “The fact that the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Amotekun happened despite the initial objections was enough to convince anybody that the railway project would also be built in the South-West in no distance future. If the five states in the South-West can be linked by rail and the roads are good, the development would attract investors and there would be economic cooperation”
“Today, it is no more news that residents of Lagos alone consume food items that worth millions of naira daily. If there are a semblance of infrastructural developments in neighboring states, they will be earning so much in revenue from farm produce sold in Lagos. We need a country that is structured along the line of development. Nigeria needs to restructure in line with development. With the revenue sharing formula that we operate now, the states will perpetually be under the Federal Government “.
Oyeleye spoke on the benefit of the rail project. “If railway track is built to connect the South-West, 44 cities and towns will be connected and those that designed it for us said when the project is done, the gross domestic product of this region will rise by over 50 percent. We need to confront everything that is not making this possible. We have tied ourselves to a constitution that is hindering development and this must change. It is in the interest of Nigeria that the South-West region should develop. If the region is developed, the Federal Government will make more money from here.
Oyeleye also spoke on the need for the Federal government to promote fiscal federalism and regionalism in order to promote socio-economic development.
According to him , “there was an urgent need for infrastructural development in the country to strengthen the internally generated revenue of various states ahead of the looming economic challenge that may come with a decline in the oil revenue “.
The Director-General urged the federal government to enhance the ability of states and regions in leveraging on areas of comparative advantage, instead of totally relying on the centre and going to Abuja cap in hand every month to collect monthly allocation, while local opportunities are left unharnessed.
He commended the respective state governors for their commitment to regional integration and development and urged them not to allow the rhythm to go down pointing out that regional integration would bring about common economic growth”.
“So far, the south-west Governors, regardless of their political lineage have bought fully into the drive for regional integration and development because they know it will enrich the region by increasing the IGR of the various states. The truth is that there cannot be an increase in the IGR if there is no infrastructure.
Oyeleye also called on the 36 states in the country, “to advocate for economic restructuring ahead of impending doom that awaits the nation’s economy in the next ten years “.
He asked the governors to go back to the drawing board and rethink the economy of their states to make them self sustaining, adding that the oil economy the country runs is already dwindling. “As things are, the type of economy we run as a nation is not sustainable. In the next 10 years, many states will collapsed because the oil revenue we rely on is dwindling.
Oyeleye said that, “There is an urgent need for governments at state and regional levels to return to the basics and rescue their respective regions and states. Today, many states are left with nothing at the end of the month after payment of salaries”