The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has urged politicians to stop politicising railway contracts and projects. This is even as he disclosed that he met the nations narrow gauge rail line at a dismal operational capacity speed of about thirty to forty kilometres per hour with a serious shortage of rolling stocks and dilapidated railway tracks. He stressed that the entire system was bedevilled by wired maintenance gap at the time he assumed office in 2015.
Amaechi stated this while fielding questions from newsmen in Lagos over the weekend.
According to the Minister, “The last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of the narrow gauge railway but none of the contracts was fully executed as claimed.”
Explaining further, he said, “Jobs were carried out in some sections of the awarded portions without completion, while others were poorly executed or outrightly abandoned despite the huge amount of cash expended on the projects by the past government.”
On the Abuja-Kaduna rail modernization project, the Minister opined that although the Jonathan’s Administration had commenced construction work of the project with about seventy percent completion, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over the project and completed it.
He explained that to get commercial operations to commence on the Abuja-Kaduna rail route, the government had to respond to the yearnings of Nigerians by procuring some locomotives and passengers’ coaches to achieve President Muhammadu Buhari Administration’s mandate of a safe and effective transport system for Nigerians.
“The government of former President Goodluck Jonathan had awarded some contracts to rehabilitate the narrow gauge. They claimed that the contracts were implemented but they were not visible because by the time we took over, narrow-gauge was about eighty kilometres per hour but the actual capacity of those tracks were seventy kilometres per hour.
“The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan had commenced construction work on the Abuja-Kaduna railway, and if measured, it will be between eighty percent completion. So, what we did was to add twenty percent construction work to complete the entire project. And to commence commercial activities on the track, we had to order for rolling stocks,” the Honourable Minister of Transportation explained.
On the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway Project and Lagos-Calabar, Amaechi said, “We started the implementation of the Lagos-Kano railway and commenced the construction of Ebute-Metta to Ibadan railway by changing the entire policy. Those who designed the rail tracks designed it only for passenger purposes because none of these initial designs terminates at the seaports.
“So, it was President Muhammadu Buhari that directed that all rail line must be connected to the seaport. We had to take the Lagos-Calabar rail to go through the seaports in Warri, Calabar and the one in Port Harcourt and Onne. And then the Lagos-Kano rail had to end up at the Apapa Seaport”, Rotimi Amaechi added.
Amaechi further disclosed that plans are underway to also construct a new seaport in the Bonny Island of Rivers State.
Amaechi, however, lamented the politicization of railway projects by politicians in the country, saying that the basic purpose of the Railway project in any Country is for economic purposes.
Hear him, “Nigerians believe that we should be able to finish the rail projects today, but you see, the money is just not there, and they are politicising the railway. The railway is not built for political purposes, they are built purely for economic reasons and it doesn’t have the capacity to pay back whoever that invest in it. That is why the government is the only institution that constructs rail. It is capital intensive and the turn over is not as rapid as what any businessman would want it to be”, he stressed.