BreakingNews 26/2/17: Outcry as cattle trains pulled out of Zamfara


[ Masterweb Reports: Shehu Umar reports ] - Cattle dealers and other residents in Zamfara State have expressed disappointment over the Federal Government’s suspension of cattle transportation by rail from Gusau to Lagos, six months after the scheme was flagged off, saying they had lost a lot of resources. 


In September last year, the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Incentive- Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), flagged off cattle  transportation by rail in Zamfara State.


When the scheme was inaugurated, it was jubilation mood at the Gusau rail station, where hundreds of residents gathered to witness the epoch-making event. 


Shortly after the flag-off, a train carrying 500 cattle in 15 wagons left Gusau, the state capital, for Lagos. Residents lined up to cheer and wave at the train as it moved slowly along the rail track. 


The milestone, however, stopped abruptly six months after, thereby eliciting concerns in Zamfara.


Expressing displeasure over the new development, the chairman of Cattle Dealers Association in the state, Alhaji Aminu Garba Gusau, told Daily Trust on Sunday that they had done everything humanly possible to restore cattle transportation by rail, but to no avail.


“We met with various stakeholders in Zaria, Abuja and Lagos. We were asked to gather cattle for conveyance to Lagos. After we had done that, the train didn’t show up. We lost our capitals to feeding and medicine.


“We gathered the animals ready for transportation, but we were disappointed because the train didn’t come back. We wrote to the Director of Operations of the Nigerian Railway in Zaria, but up till now there is no positive response from them.


“Later, we were asked to increase the transportation fare for each of the wagon. We had earlier paid N90,000 for each coach that carried about 30 cattle, but we agreed to increase the fare to  N105,000 for each of the wagon as they demanded,  but the train hasn’t returned.


“I think they are not sincere about the programme. They launched it to achieve a selfish agenda, after which they felt they had nothing to do with us again. We are calling on the president to look into the matter since this government is determined to diversify the economy.


“We now convey the cattle to Lagos by road, which is more expensive. We spend about N200,000 on a full load of a trailer. But by rail it costs us not more than N120, per wagon of a train,” he explained. 


He further explained that the excuse given by the NIRSAL on the pages of newspaper, that they were facing some technical hitches concerning the rail track, should have been communicated to them.


Garba added that they had engaged the services of people who did one thing or another for them at the rail station.


“We had sand collectors, cleaners and food vendors here. When the train first arrived, all these activities were thriving, but due to the suspension of the activities, the place became deserted,” he said.


When our correspondent visited the rail station at the state capital, it was virtually deserted. Most of those in the cattle business said they were worried over the development, saying they had missed a lot of opportunities to make their business better.


Some residents who spoke with our correspondent expressed disappointment at the development, saying it was not good for cattle and other businesses in the state.


They said cattle transportation by train could make a tremendous economic impact on the residents of the state as many job opportunities are directly or indirectly created.


A resident, Alhaji Sani Kabiru, recalled how rail transportation helped in building the people’s economy 30 years ago.  “We are aware of how this helped to build the economy of the people, especially those in the hinterlands.


“The ancient city of Kaura Namoda became a trading hub, not only in Zamfara State but in the entire North, all because of the presence of a rail line that terminated in that city,” he recalled. 


He argued that the suspension of the rail transportation would make the price of meat skyrocket. According to him, if the means of transportation is by road, the price of each cow in Lagos would significantly increase and the burden would be shifted to the final consumers.


Another resident, Aliyu Hamisu, said government had engaged in disservice to the people, adding that there was the need to find an easy way of doing business for the people.


But a truck driver, Danjuma Garba, said transporting cattle by train was designed and introduced to send them out of business.


“Most of our shuttles from the northern to the southern part of the country involve cattle transportation. Now that a train is introduced, the dealers will definitely shift their attention to this means of transportation because it is cheaper.


“I am not saying they shouldn’t patronise rail services, but we also need to do our own business,” he said.


On the accusation that trucks are responsible for most of the damages and accidents on the Nigerian highways, Garba blamed road contractors, saying that “very few truck drivers are reckless.’’   


Responding, the special adviser to the Governor of Zamfara State on Animal and Livestock Health, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Maru, said cattle transportation by rail was initiated by the Cattle Dealers Association, adding that they were not involved in the process.


“Even when the train stopped coming, none of them briefed us. So I can’t tell you exactly what the problem is because they didn’t inform us about the development,” he said. 


Speaking during the flag-off ceremony of the scheme, the managing director of NIRSAL, Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed, had said that medical supplies, personnel and food would be on board to ensure the safe arrival of the cattle to their destination. He said the total transaction between the northern and southern part of Nigeria was estimated at N850billion to N950billion per annum, adding that it was a big market for Zamfara State and other cattle zones in the country.


He said that with the launch of the scheme, farmers who ranged from cattle dealers to vegetable producers, would have an easier and cheaper means of transporting their produce to all parts of the country.


“They now have wider access to market, which will increase their profit margins and serve as a motivator to greater agricultural production. The scheme will also guarantee the safety of the agricultural produce and the farmers,” he added.


Just like the train, his projections have become a dream  that has been stopped in its tracks.


*Photo Caption - As seen.

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