The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has announced that commercial activities will begin on the Lagos-Ibadan Railway on December 7. This was disclosed when the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, visited for his monthly inspection of the ongoing work. The Minister was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Magdalene Ajani and Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria.
At the Agege substation, the Minister expressed dismay at what he called the slow pace of work, even as he told the personnel of the contractor, the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) that he would return on-site on December 19 to ascertain the progress of work. He also debunked media reports which suggested that the government is requesting an additional $650million for the completion of the project.
The Federal Government had come under criticism for requesting an additional loan despite the claim that the job was at 90 per cent completion level.
Amaechi during its monthly inspection of the rail project clarified that the government never requested an additional loan for the project, saying the $650million loan that has long been approved was for the Lagos-Ibadan and Itakpe-Warri lines.
He decried the pace of work on the Lagos-Ibadan rail line project stating that inadequate manpower was slowing it down, appealing to the contractor to engage more hands to speed up the pace of work.
The Guardian gathered that though contract staff handling different aspects of the project numbered about 10, 000 before the outbreak of COVID-19, the current strength is about 3,000.
Amaechi said: “I never told the National Assembly we required $650 million additional loan. What we laid was the cost of the contract, which was between $1.6. The $650million was for extra work for Itakpe-Warri and Lagos-Ibadan, and that has been approved a very long time.
“All the funds we required for the project have been approved and we don’t need additional money. Speaking on the Kano-Maradi line, the Minister insisted that the project is purely based based on economic development and employment consideration.
He said: “We are tired of making this explanation; we don’t have wives in Niger Republic. My first time in Niamey was three weeks ago, and I was there to request for a right of way and land to build warehouses.
“We are doing it to grow the economy and create employment. Even if we stop it at Jibya, Jibya to Niger is just a 20-minute drive.
“I have said that we are not competing well with Benin Republic, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana over cargos that come from a landlocked state. The excuse they gave is that for the poor competition is that our roads are bad, criminals attack them, multiple checkpoints and they are unable to do business because of the high cost of transactions.
“So, if we must compete favourably, transaction costs must compete favourably. Nigeria has to make the sacrifice of not just rebuilding their roads but also the rail lines.
“What this means is that goods going to the Niger Republic can be processed by the Nigerian Customs at Maradi and transported to Apapa seaport in which case there will be no police, customs, immigration checks.”