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Lagos-Ibadan rail project can’t be abandoned, say Amaechi, Ashafa

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Lagos-Ibadan railway. Photo/Twitter/MinTransportNG

Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, has said the 156 kilometers Lagos-Ibadan rail project, which is still under construction would not be abandoned for any reason.

According to him, the National Assembly had already held the budget session of 2019 with the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, over the issue of funding of the rail project.

Speaking to newsmen during the inspection of the rail project, Ashafa noted that the synergy between the Nigerian Senate Committee on Land Transport and the Ministry of Transportation is of interest to benefit average Nigerians.

He noted that added value has been exhibited in the course of the project, as there are increased activities in commerce.

While lauding the works done so far on the project, he said there was improvement of about 30 kilometers on the rail project within the last eight weeks.

He maintained that the rail project has led to the employment of over 10,000 Nigerians by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation, which has dropped the level of unemployment in the country.

He said: “When you look at the indirect benefits by the way of commerce and trade, it is endless. This is a project that cannot fail and a project that cannot be abandoned.”

He maintained that the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the just held national elections, would give continuity to the project.

He commended Amaechi’s resilience in pushing the project forward, saying that the minister has assured the senate that he will kick-off works with the Lagos-Calabar rail project as soon as he gets foreign investors, who would partner with the ministry.

“We have told him that our own counterpart funding wouldn’t be a problem and we have guaranteed him that once he is ready, supplementary budget can be put in place to accommodate that, because Nigerians have seen what their money is been spent on,” he added.

In his remarks, Amaechi, projected that the rail works will be completed up to Ibadan by May this year. He noted that what would remain might be the construction of stations alone.

He said although the contractors were having challenges with ongoing constructions at kilometer 102, but that they gave assurance that by 8th of April, they would have concluded the works up to kilometer 109.

The Minister also noted that as a result of poor geological survey, the contractor were having soil challenges, which were caused by high water levels and needed to carry out soil replacement at Kilometer 110, and 116 to 119.

However, he noted that although the contractors did not meet his expectations, the works they have done so far impressed him.

“They have done track laying up to kilometre 95, and soil grading up to kilometre 98 and they have promised that in one week time, they would have laid the tracks up to kilometre 98 and would have started laying beams across the bridge at kilometre 98,” he said.

On the presidential ride, he said, “If it’s just a ride, it could take place by the end of May, but its beyound just having a ride though CCECC have promised to finish the laying of double tracks by the end of May.

“This means that you can take just one ride from Lagos to Ibadan station but that is not enough. They have to finish with the stations, which they have started constructing, and they have to also work on communications and that would be one at a time.”

Amaechi reiterated that the project would not be abandoned as part of its funding comes from China Eximberg Investment Limited and the government has paid its part of the funds needed for the project.

The Minister also disclosed that he would be going to China soon for negotiation concerning the Lagos-Kano rail project.

He also called on private investors, who are ready to invest in the rail project to come forward, as funding is becoming a challenge.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, reiterated that by May, the tracks would have been laid up to Ibadan and would create opportunities for private sector investments especially in train stations.

He maintained that the project was an opportunity for employment and involvement of the communities, stating that it would create chains of opportunities, lines of communication and high employment content.

He noted that shippers would be the highest benefactors in the project, as the cost of transportation of their cargo from the sea to their warehouses would reduce drastically and substantially.

His words: “Trucking is the only method we have now but if truckers would have competition from the rail, we can expect that the law of demand and supply will apply and even more importantly, the security and safety of the cargo.

“There would be delivery of cargos in such a smooth way that it would also create employment. 90 per cent of all the cargos are delivered through the roads, now, we have a cheaper mode and it would affect the other mode.”

However, he said NSC has acquired 40 hectares of land for the Ibadan Inland Dry Port at Olorisa-Oko, Ibadan Oyo State, which would give 3,000 direct employments and about 2 million indirect employment.

He noted that bids for the construction would open 16th April, while the construction time would take 18 months.

In his remarks, Minister of Railway Development, Ghana, Joe Ghartey, said he was impressed with the level of works being done on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.

He said: “The project is very impressive. It would ease the burden of transportation in Nigeria, make things cheaper, and boost the economy in a manner that Nigerians cannot imagine.”


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