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Transport:How Buhari revived Nigeria’s Abandoned Rail Line Project, Set to Commission The $1.53 billion Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line Next January

By Stephen Ubanna

Even though President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, who rode to power as an elected Nigeria’s  President , first in May 29, 2015 and then in  May 29, 2019, on a three-pronged  promise of security, revitalising the economy and fighting Corruption , may have  failed the nation, he appears to have cashed in on  the failures of past  leaders to develop the country’s colonial narrow gauge  rail line into a  double standard  gauge  to do so.

Between 2006 and 2014, there had been  attempts  by late President Umaru Yara’Addua and former President Goodluck Jonathan, of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to replace  the existing  British-built  narrow gauge system , which has a lower design capacity and in a deteriorated state , with a wider  gauge system and allowing-speed  trains operations to work,.

 Bu the Katsina born Nigerian President had succeeded in doing it to the admirations of Nigerians.Late President Yara’dua, had started the moves  for the replacement of the colonial narrow gauge system  by awarding a $8.3billion  contract to the state owned Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company, CECC, in 2006.

The Chinese Construction firm, however, could not mobilise on site due to the  paucity of funds. The death of the Katsina state Nigerian former President may have provided an opportunity for Jonathan from  the oil-rich Bayelsa state    who succeed him, in his capacity as the  then Vice President to resume work on the abandoned  multi-billion dollar project.   He was said to have re-warded the contract back to the Asian country of China  state owned Construction  Company in 2012 but that was how far he could go.

When all hopes appear to have been lost in replacing the country’s narrow guage rail line  system, the Nigerian and the Chinese governments  released funds for the project   forcing the CECC, to mobilise on site on March 10, 2017.

The project may have been segmented  as it has pretty difficult  for the Asian country Construction company to deliver it  on schedule. The Chinese Construction Company was said to have  begun work on  the $874 million  first segment  which was between Abuja and Kaduna, put at approximately 186km in 2011. The Company was said to have completed  it in December 2014 and handed over to the government for use

Jamoh: CIoTA National President/ DG, NIMASA

. In 2016, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, Authorities, on the orders of Rotimi  Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and minister of Transportation , had started allowing its High-speed trains to run on the standard gauge by passengers from Abuja to Kaduna and back at an approved fare.

The completion of the nine stations Abuja-Kaduna segment of the project for both passengers and cargo trains, may have encouraged the Nigerian President to give the nod to the CECC, which had  originally won the contract  to  start work on the $1.53 billion  Lagos-Ibadan rail line.  The 10 stations  railway route for both passengers and cargo trains is expected to operate on a maximum speed  of 150km/h. It is instructive to note that the  Lagos-Ibadan rail line  is the second segment  of the new 2,733km Lagos-Kano long double –track  standard gauge rail line project.

Amaechi  the minister of Transportation, who gave an insight on the  extent of work that had been executed by the Chinese firm on the Lagos-Ibadan project at the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration, CIoTA,  under the close watch of Bashir Jamoh, who incidentally is the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, last Thursday,  had confirmed that the  rail project had been delivered  to the government by the CECC, stating that  ‘’its usage would commence  before the official Commissioning by the Nigerian President  by January 2021’’. The minister was emphatic that ‘’the President   is set  to  commission the newly constructed  Lagos-Ibadan Lagos-Ibadan rail line’’.

Giving an insider information on the project, he disclosed that he has approved the fares  for the route, which many  believe was not much  different from the fares currently being  paid by passengers and cargo owners  on the Abuja-Kaduna route. An elated Amaechi said the approved cost of transportation for the Lagos-Ibadan route was quite fair, noting that passengers and cargo have no reason to complain.

The Rivers state born politician, described as one of Buhari’s closest political allies, who could not hide his feelings, had said that  in the transport sector alone,  the Buhari Administration  had done a lot  as more projects are still on going, like working  ‘’to complete  the terminals under the Aviation ministry’’. He cited the changes that had been made at the Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT , and the PortHarcourt Airports. He may have failed to speak on the Lagos and Kano, projects, insisting that  the only person  who is competent to  divulge such information, on when it would be completed is Hadi Seriki, the minister of Aviation as  it is directly under his supervision.

He may have gladdened the heart of the CIoTA, officials, when he gave kudos to Jamoh, their President, for his bold initiatives in the Institute, which has taken it to a new level, stressing that the Federal  ministry of Transportation   ‘’would partner  with it’’ to  encourage Professionalism  in the nation’s Transport sector  as well as ensure  seamless and effective  transportation across all odes’’.

Amaechi Receiving Plague From Jamoh, CIOTA, National President

The minister may have cue into the call by Yakubu Gowon, a retired Army General and former Head of State and Chairman of the CIoTA  Transport Summit, at the FCT,,’’for partnership between the public  and private sectors in order  to come  up  with innovative  ways of  solving the  transportation challenge in the country’’.

In apparent response to the minister’s speech, Jamoh, the CIoTA, President, had ‘’lauded the  effort  of the Buhari Administration  to upgrade transport infrastructure in the country’, noting that ‘’ the Institute under his Leadership would stop at nothing  in promoting  Professionalism  and training  to aid the government with the right manpower to man the country’s transport infrastructure’.  According to him, ‘’governement  has made  significant  investment  in the country’s transportation sector’’ that  cannot be allowed to waste due to inadequate manpower.

In a voice laden with emotion he said, ‘’ the journey for  the Institute  has just  begun’’,  He disclosed that  the Institute which  is building  on the  broad policies that are anchored  on a tripod of ‘’Professionalism, Education, Research, Development and Advocacy’’. Would never fail the nation.  He is right.

Philip Kaynet, a Deputy Director and NIMASA , Head of Corporate Communications, confirmed that the Leadership  of the Institute are doing everything within its powers ‘’to empower  members  with the required skills, knowledge  and expertise to  man the country’s transport infrastructure’’.

There indications that the Institute is  already  working  with Universities and other tertiary institutions to build Professionalism  in the country’s  transport sector from the undergraduate level.  The establishment of the University of Transportation at Daura, the Nigerian President’s home town by the All Progressive Congress, APC, ruling government speaks volume.

Recall that that Jamoh, the  CIoTA President  had said that that the Institute had set up Committees  to follow up  on its  policy recommendations  to ensure  their implementation to avoid being jettisoned by the government. He disclosed that the country’s Transport sector  was ‘’moving  into a new era  of Professionalism  that was set  to usher  in excellence  across  the various modes’’.

Stephen Ubanna

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