By Adeyinka Aderibigbe & Frank Ikpefan
Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi has debunked reports the Ministry would be requiring another $650m to complete the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge.
The report, which went viral on social media last week, has pitched ministry against Nigerians who have started to doubt the sincerity of the government to deliver on the project.
But denying the report in its entirety when he led the Director-General of the Budget Office Mr. Ben Akabueze and Senate Committee chairman on Land Transport Senator Abdulfatai Buhari as well as the Nigerian Railway Corporation Board chairman Alhaji Al-Hassan Musa among others, Amaechi said the report was a “complete misrepresentation” of what happened at the National Assembly when he went for ministry’s budget defence.
He said: “I was merely reporting to the Senators that the entire Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge was at the cost of $1.6 billion and that we have had to request for another $650 million for additional works at both the Lagos-Ibadan and the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge.
“The approval had since been obtained and the funds released long ago and we have since used it for the same purpose. We do not need any extra funds to complete this project and we are saying to Nigerians that we do not need any fresh money to complete the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge.”
Amaechi, who rated the work on the stations as slow, however, directed the CCECC to accelerate the rate of work.
“What the CCECC has always been using as an excuse was the COVID-19 but this excuse could not be tenable because they have been back at work now in the last four months and no one has been sick on site. So we are urging them to increase the tempo of work as the government is determined to hand this over to Nigerians in January,” he said.
Amaechi seized the opportunity to apologise to Nigerians for the bad experience of a spoilt locomotive on the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail.
He said he has demanded an explanation from the CCECC as to why brand new locomotives recently bought by the Nigerian government would be breaking down.
He assured that all rolling stocks bought from CCECC are on warranty and the government has the right to request for replacement of any malfunctioning equipment.
READ ALSO: Yuletide: Fashola asks contractors to make Lagos-Ibadan road motorable, safe
“I have asked that the malfunctioning equipment be pulled out and the CCECC and the NRC engineers are looking at whether it is something that could be repaired or replaced. The only challenge is that until that is done, we may have to scale down our services on that line,” Amaechi said.
Shedding more lights on the need for the Kano-Maradi line, the Minister of Transportation said the government is driven solely by economic reasons.
He said for a long time, Nigeria has not been competing well with neighbouring West African countries such as Togo, Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana for the landlocked nations, and the railway is seen as one that could solve that problem. All goods that are meant for the Niger Republic would be processed at Maradi, where we intend to take the rail line as well as build warehouses. “It has nothing to do with Mr. President or any other consideration”, Amaechi said.
Shedding some light on the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway project, the Nigerian Railway Corporation’s Managing Director Engr Fidet Okhiria said the commercial operation may begin on the corridor by the first week of December.
He disclosed that the corporation is already working with the contractor to design a workable and seamless operational plan for the operation.
“The corporation is working with the CCECC to begin commercial operation by the first week of December. Right now we are putting finishing touches to the plans that would have the least impact on their operations.”
He said passengers would be able to board the train from the Lagos station at Ebute Meta, stopping only at Abeokuta and the Ibadan stations.