By Ebi Robert
The Nigerian Railway Corporation is regulated by an Act of the National Assembly known as the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, 1955. A bill to overhaul the Act was passed in 2016. The Act is divided into eighteen parts with a Nigerian Railway Corporation (Railway) Bye-Law as its only subsidiary legislation.
The Corporation is saddled with the responsibility of handling railway activities and services in Nigeria. Rail is one of the means of transportation in Nigeria, and it contributes massively to the economy of any nation if well managed. Over the years, the Nigerian Government has failed in giving the sector, its much needed attention, hence, its setback in generating adequate revenue.
Railway has been defined by the Act to mean any railway operated by the Corporation, and any portion thereof, for the purpose of the public carriage of passengers or goods, and includes, all land vested in or in the possession of the Corporation, for the said purpose; all lines of rail, sidings or branches worked over for or in connection with the said purpose; all hotels, offices, stations, warehouses, wharves, workshops and other premises or works whatsoever maintained or constructed for or in connection with the said purpose; all engines, fixed plant, locomotive, machinery, road vehicle and rolling stock belonging to or worked by the Corporation, for or in connection with the said purpose; and all vessels and rafts used by the Corporation, for or in connection with the said purpose, and references in the Act to a railway include, so far as the context allows, a railway under construction by or for the Corporation.
Railway can be used to transport various goods from one place to another. Certain goods that cannot be easily transported through other means of transportation can be easily transported through the railway. Therefore, the corporation is a very important one in the Nigerian Economy.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation is established and incorporated by Section 4 of the Act. Sub 2 of the section states that the Corporation shall be a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal and shall have power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and to acquire, hold and dispose of movable and immovable property for the purpose of its functions under the Act.
The Corporation is constituted with a chairman, who is appointed by the Minister charged with the responsibility of the railway, and twenty-six other members, appointed by the Minister also. The Corporation has some duties and powers as provided by Part 2 (Two) of the Act.
Generally, the undertaking of the Corporation shall be under the immediate management and control of the general manager who is a servant of the corporation. The same must appear to the chairman to have had wide experience of railway management. Apart from the general functions of the general manager, the corporation among other things shall furnish to the Minister such information relating to the discharge of its functions and its property and finances, including financial, statistical or other returns, as the Minister may, from time to time, require. Section 12 provides that the Minister may, after consultation with the Corporation, give to the Corporation directions of a general character, as to the discharge by the Corporation of its functions in relation to matters appearing to the Minister to be of grave public importance, and the Corporation shall give effect to all such directions.
The Act also gives power to the chairman with regard to certain decisions of the Corporation. However, Section 15 of the Act, deals with the general duties of the Corporation and the said Section states as follows:
“ (1) It shall be the duty of the Corporation to- (a) manage and operate, in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the railway undertaking transferred to the Corporation by virtue of the provisions of this Act and any expansions or extensions thereof and any new railway and to pro- vide all reasonable facilities for carriage by the Corporation of passengers and goods: Provided that the Corporation shall not be under any obligation to continue or introduce any particular service or facility which is uneconomic, or which appears to the Corporation unlikely to provide within a reasonable time adequate revenue to meet the cost of the Corporation of providing that service or facility, unless the Minister so directs, in which event the Corporation may be reimbursed from the public revenue of the Federation, the amount by which it is proved to the satisfaction of the Minister that the revenue received from the service or facility in respect of any financial year is less than the amount of the charges properly chargeable to revenue in respect of that year and attributed to that service or facility; (b) control the expenditure of the Corporation, whether on revenue or capital ac- count; (c) conduct the affairs of the Corporation as to ensure that, so far as practicable, the annual revenue of the Corporation are, taking one financial year with an- other, sufficient to meet all charges properly chargeable to revenue; and (d) direct and control any expansion or extension of the railway and the construction of any new railway. (2) In forming programmes of reorganization or development involving substantial outlay on capital account, the Corporation shall act on lines settled, from time to time, with the approval of the Minister. (3) For the purposes of this section, the expression “charges properly chargeable to revenue” includes the charges referred to in section 41 of this Act.”
The Corporation also has the powers among other things to carry goods and passengers by rail, road and water within Nigeria; to store goods within Nigeria, whether or not those goods have been or are to be carried by the Corporation; to consign goods on behalf of other persons from any place within Nigeria, to any other place, whether within Nigeria, or elsewhere; to provide within Nigeria, both for passengers carried by the Corporation and for other persons, hotels, hostels, other living accommodation and places of re- freshment; to provide within Nigeria, such other amenities and facilities for passengers, carried by the Corporation and other persons, using the services performed or the facilities provided by the Corporation as it may appear to the Corporation requisite or expedient to provide; subject to the consent of the President, in any territory adjacent to Nigeria, to perform any services or provide any facilities which the Corporation may properly perform or provide within Nigeria.
Extensive study of the Act also shows a wide range of powers to be exercised by the corporation as provided by the Act.
The Corporation is also powered for the purposes of constructing a railway or additions or alterations to a railway or accommodation or other works connected therewith, to enter upon any land to perform necessary works. It also has the power to alter the level or position of any pipe, conduit, drain, electric wire or post, provided that it shall give reasonable notice of its intention to do so to the person having the control of such pipe, conduit, drain, electric wire or post; and the Corporation shall so exe- cute the work as to cause as little inconvenience as possible, and also temporary enter upon land for purpose of preventing accident or repairing damage. However, reasonable notice must be given to the effect.
On a general rule, no person is permitted to construct or operate a railway for the public carriage of passengers or goods within Nigeria. However, the wordings of the Act show that where the consent of the Corporation is sought, the same can do so. Part IV of the Act deals with further powers of the Corporation with respect to land, and the part has to do with preliminary investigation of land required for railway purposes, compulsory acquisition of land, Restriction on alienation, and so on.
Where the Corporation or its servant has been found to be negligent with respect to any act or misconduct, or the same has done anything contrary to the Law, the offended person or victim of the wrong act is expected to bring the intended action timeously as no suit against the Corporation or any servant of the Corporation shall lie or be instituted in any court, unless it is commenced within twelve months next after the act, neglect or default complained of or, in the case of a continuance of damage or injury, within twelve months next after the ceasing thereof.
The law provides that in the case of a claim for a refund of an overcharge in respect of goods accepted by the Corporation for carriage, or for compensation in respect of loss, damage, deviation, misdelivery, delay or detention of or to any goods so accepted, the cause of action shall be deemed to have arisen on the day of such acceptance.
The law also states that no suit shall be commenced against the Corporation, until three months at least after written notice of intention to commence the same, shall have been served upon the Corporation by the intending plaintiff or his agent; and such notice shall clearly and explicitly state the cause of action, the particulars of the claim, the name and place of abode of the intending plaintiff and the relief which he claims.
Section 84 provides to the effect that any summons, notice or other document required or authorized to be served upon the Corporation under the provisions of this Act or any other law may, unless in any case there is express provision to the contrary, be served by delivering the same to the chairman or secretary of the Corporation, or by sending it by registered post, addressed to the secretary of the Corporation at the principal office of the Corporation.
Also, the Act provides that in any suit against the Corporation, no execution or attachment or process in the nature thereof, shall be issued against the Corporation, but any sums of money which may by the judgment of the court be awarded against the Corporation shall, subject to any directions given by the court where notice of appeal has been given by the Corporation in respect of the said judgment, be paid by the Corporation, from the funds of the Corporation.
The Act also protects servants of the corporation from arrest, subject however to the provision of the Act. In section 86, the Act states that a person connected with the direct working of a railway shall not be removed under arrest, whether in execution of a warrant of his duties until the head of the department in which he is employed or the officer in immediate charge of the work in which such person is engaged, has been given an opportunity of providing a substitute. Then, in sub two, a summons issuing from any court, requiring the attendance of a person connected with the direct working of the railway, shall provide for a sufficient period of time, before such attendance is required, to enable a substitute for such person to be provided, for the execution of his duties in the railway.
Section 87 then provides that in any suit, the Corporation may be represented in court at any stage of the proceedings by any servant of the Corporation, who shall satisfy the court that he is duly authorized in writing by the Corporation in that behalf.
The 99 sections Act that establishes the corporation clearly goes a long way to spell out the internal regulation of the corporation and also the managerial network of the railway. With other parts dealing on the subject which wasn’t touched in this write up, we can say that the Railway Corporation is one of the major federal bodies with an onerous task, even though not seen with the big orb.
Written By Ebi Robert, Co-editor TheNigerialawyer
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