By Stephen Ubanna
Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, but later decamped to the All Progressive Congress, APC, and now minister of Transportation is a happy man.
. Aamechi, who will pride himself as the Nigerian minister of Railway, source of happiness is the fact that the state owned China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation , CCECC, has officially linked the Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line to the premier port, Apapa.
The Company had tweeted on Monday, January 25, 2021, that with the successful completion of the super structure of the last group of 25 meter monolithic track be of the bulk cargo line of Apapa port , the Lagos –Ibadan rail Line constructed by the CCECC, has officially been connected to the Nigerian Premier port, Apapa, described as the largest Container port in the West African sub-region.
The Apapa port branch line of the Railway, according to an informed Nigerian Railway sources starts from the Lagos station and extends southward to Apapa port of Lagos, with a total Length of 8’72 Km. Many see the rail line connecting the Apapa port as a big relief to importers and exporters in the south west states of Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun , particular in the import and export of their goods through the seaportthrogh railway Transportation.
The CCECC had said that at the beginning linking the Apapa port was a hard nut to Crack because of the difficulty of demolition and external interference that was beyond human imagination but the obstacles affecting the project were removed one by one to allow the project to go o on.
Recall that Amaechi , had given the officials of the CCECC, the end of January 2021, to connect the Apapa port to the rail line . Hear him: we analysed the synergy between the port and the rail lines. decongesting the Apapa port, and looked at the detailed plan for offloading cargo into the rail trains. had
This may have informed why the Company Engineers attached more importance to the ministerial directive to achieve the task goal of opening the Apapa port for rail services by the end of January 2021. The Company was said to have organised a Team to work day and night and Cooperate with each other to Complete the construction of culverts, the laying of nine groups of turnouts and the completion of 2.2 Kms in one one month, the paving of ballasted track and the pouring of 793 Kms monolithic track bed in connecting the branch line to the Apapa port. This may be in keeping with the minister’s order that they should increase their speed of work at the Apapa axis of the rail project in order to reach the Completion before the January 30, 2021, planned Commissioning.
The Apapa port , going by the Nigerian ports records is responsible for 70-80% of the country’s import and export cargo transportation. Amaechi , may have gladdened the heart of Lagosians when he disclosed that the moment the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, starts the movement of cargo from Lagos to Ibadan, it would go a long way to reduce drastically the gridlock in Apapa.
Going by the level of work that had been done on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, by the CCECC, may have given the minister the confidence that the perennnial gridlock in Apapa and its environs would com to an end between now and March 30, 2021. Recall that the minister had told President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, that the Commissioning of the the Apapa axis of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line would be at the end of January 2021. He was said to have repeatedly told the Katsina state born Nigerian President that the he is working towards achieving that time but that was how far he could go.
Perhaps, to ensure that the goal post for the Commissioning of the Lagos- Ibadan which had been connected to the Apapa port was not shifted again, Amaechi who could not hide his feelings had urged officials of APMT, to Cooperate with the CCECC, the Chinese firm handling the Ebuta Metta-Apapa port rail line extension process to ensure its Completion. This may have informed why the project is going on uninterrupted as all hands are on deck to ensure the Commissioning of the Apapa port axis of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.
In spite of the fact that the Apapa port axis of the Lagos –Ibadan project has been completed, Amaechi, may have shocked Nigerians when he said that the sum of $656 million would be needed to complete the Lagos- Ibadan rail project. He had said that the amount would be needed to put in place the necessary infrastructural facilities for the project to serve its intended purpose. Given an update on the progress of work of the Lagos –Ibadan rail project while defending he ministry 2021 budget proposal, the minister , who has equaled records of Nyensom Wike, both as minister and governor in the oil –rich Rivers state , had old the Lawmakers.
The worry of many was why an additional sum of $656 million would be spent on the 156.65 Km standard gauge rail line from Lagos-Ibadan project which had already gulped $1.6 billion, between 2006 and 2017, going by the minister’s revelation and which had reached almost 92% Completion require such an additual huge amount of money to facilitate its Completion.
It is instructive to note that the Lagos-Ibadan rail line was the first part of a new 2,733Km Lagos-Kano standard gauge. Rcall that the CCECC was awarded the Contract to build the Lagos –Kano rail line at a cost of $8.3 billion by the then Administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. But the Administration could not go ahead with the project due to paucity of funds.
There had been a lot of Controversy over the 2,733 Km new rail standard gauge rail line project in the country . Amaechi had said that the Cntract was originally awarded to the CCECC by the then Jonathan Administration for $11.97 billion but the Buhari Administration negotiated it down to $11.17 billion, making a savings of $800million for the country. The $11.17 billion 2,733Km standard gauge rail project which is to be funded by the Nigerian government and China was originally scheduled to be completed between 18 months and two years in a six phase manner but had dragged on till now.