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Will Amaechi complete the Lagos-Ibadan fast rail?

Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi inspects work at the ongoing Lagos-Ibadan fast rail project (File photo)

On March 7, 2017, the Federal Government took a big leap towards addressing the hydra-headed congestion in Nigeria’s premier port in Lagos and solving the mass transportation challenge in the nation’s commercial capital with the ground-breaking of the 156-kilometer Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who was then the Acting President, carried out the ground-breaking held at the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) compound in Ebute-Metta amidst excitement and expectations from Nigerians.

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The Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail was originally designed from Ebute-Metta, Lagos, to Ibadan but on the advice of the minister, the project was extended to the port for economic reasons. It is believed that with cargoes being massively moved by rail from Apapa to many parts of the country, the problem of congestion in Apapa, caused by trailers and tankers staying for weeks on the queue to load, would be reduced to the barest minimum.

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Following the inauguration of the project, a Project Steering Committee led by the minister himself was set up to regularly interface with the contractor, the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) to ensure timely delivery of the project.

From day one, many observers including Nigerians see the project being delivered in December 2018 as a tall dream. But from inception, despite the gargantuan works to be carried out, the minister kept pushing on and making the expectant members of the public, especially those on the Lagos-Ibadan axis, to believe the project would be delivered.

As part of the project specifications, there would be construction of four extra-large bridges, 11 large bridges, four medium bridges, two steel structure bridges, 10 frame bridges, 207 culverts, 40 railway-crossing bridges, 31 pedestrian overpasses, among others.

Before the civil works could commence, it took the contractor more than a month following issues of accessing the right of way which required payment of compensation to legitimate property owners and demolition of obstructing structures. About N2bn was paid as compensation before the project could commence.

But in the Lagos corridor, the encumbrances are humongous ranging from bridges obstructing the expected height of the rail line as well as oil and gas pipeline, water pipeline, a military barrack, all of which slowed down the pace of work, especially in Lagos.

Daily Trust on Saturday reports that the project has a three-year lifespan but the government mounted pressures on the contractor to deliver it in less than two years.

But despite the sustained pressure on the contractor, the project could not be delivered in the first tenure of the Buhari’s administration. However, many milestones were attained in the efforts to deliver the project. On May 3, 2018, the contractor commenced the laying of tracks on 3rd of May 2019 after much of the encumbrances were resolved.

As the first term administration of President Buhari winds down with the imminent cabinet dissolution, the question remains whether Amaechi would complete the project. Will he return as the Minister of Transportation?

At the last project inspection conducted on Saturday May 11, the minister gave a recap of the level of implementation of the project, declaring that it has reached 70 per cent completion stage from Ebute-Metta in Lagos to Ibadan which was the original concept of the project before the extension to Apapa to aid massive transportation of cargoes.

If Amaechi would be stepping aside soon, then analysts say the team which would carry on with the project must sustain the energy and commitment demonstrated by the minister in driving the project to fruition.

 

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