FREIGHT trains have finally begun operating on the 157km Lagos - Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which was completed in 2021.

The first service departed Apapa Port in Lagos on September 12 following several setbacks. Completion of the final few hundred metres of the line into the port had been blocked by a building housing freight scanners used by the Nigerian Customs Service’s (NCS), which impeded the right of way. Trains are now using a temporary line around the building.

Nigerian newspaper The Guardian reported that three services will now operate daily from Apapa port to Moniya in Ibadan, Oyo State, each carrying around 30 containers. Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) managing director, Mr Fidet Okhiria, said this will soon be increased to four a day. “We are ensuring that the operation starts so that we don’t give room for vandalism,” he says. “When the tracks are not in use, it is vulnerable to attack.”

The 157km line was inaugurated on June 10 2021. The line was built to reduce the amount of freight held at the port and to reduce congestion on the roads.

Flagging off the inaugural train, Nigerian minister of transportation, Mr Saidu Alkali, said efforts were underway to remove the customs building impeding the other two tracks, which would allow the total number of journeys between the port and Ibadan to increase to nine a day.

“The ministry is going to liaise with the minister of finance and the customs [authorities] concerning demolition of the scanning centre, which is affecting completion of the remaining tracks into the port,” he says. “With the movement of containers from Apapa to Ibadan, we expect the Apapa port to be decongested and our roads to be free of container-carrying trucks.”

NRC recorded Naira 1.3bn ($US 1.6m) in revenue in the second quarter of 2023, up 33% from the first quarter of 2023, and a 76.6% increase compared with the same period in 2022. Of this, Naira 1.1bn was generated from passenger operation, up 83.88% compared with the same period in 2022. Freight revenue was Naira 188m, up 105.04% from Naira 91.7m in the second quarter of 2022.

The National Bureau of Statistics says 474,117 passengers travelled by rail during the quarter, compared with 441,725 and 422,393 in the first quarter of 2023 and the same period of 2022, respectively. Freight volumes totalled 56,029 tonnes, up from 31,197 tonnes in the same period of 2022.