By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has been directed by the National Assembly to channel more resources towards facilitating the haulage sector in order to minimize road haulage accidents.
Senator Gbenga B. Ashafa, Chairman, Joint House Committee on Land Transport, said this yesterday during an oversight function visit to NRC Compound, Lagos and the premises of China Civil Engineering Construction Company Ltd, the contractor handling the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway project.
“I would like to encourage you to channel more resources towards assisting the haulage sector of our economy, particularly in the transportation of petroleum products. This could greatly help to reduce the amount of casualties from recurrent and incessant ranker accidents leading to preventable infernos around the country,” Ashafa emphasized.
He expressed disappointment over the unsatisfactory performance of the narrow gauge rail service. According to him, the narrow gauge network which traverses the country seems not to be functioning at its optimum.
While inspecting the stretch of Lagos-Ibadan railway project sight, the committee sought answers to the challenges faced on significant portions of the tracks and the current position of talks with General Electric (GE) and other investors as to the handover of the narrow gauge rail network for their management.
The committee was jointly led by Senator Gbenga Ashafa and Hon. Aminu Sanni, Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport.
Though the committee commended CCECC for being industrious, they observed during the inspection that the completion deadline of December 2018 for the on-going Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway project would not be realizable.
Ashafa said: “After all said and done, after the inspection today, I can say categorically that the December 2018 deadline won’t be a reality. This is understandable giving the quality of job that is being done.”
The committee leader pointed out that he had been told that the contractor handling the project, CCECC, had made a request that the deadline of the project should be extended to around the middle of 2019.
Another issue that arose during the inspection was the desire of the lawmakers to probe into the quantity and quality of local contents of personnel and materials employed by the contractor.
For example, members of the committee stressed that they would want to know the details of both skilled and unskilled labour employed, the number of Nigerian engineers working in the project and the type of materials sourced locally.
The Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation, Engr. Fidelis Okhiria, accompanied members of the committee and gave satisfactory clarification to any doubts that arose. These included giving detailed explanation of the difference between narrow and standard gauge, and what right of way means.
The lawmakers pointed out that petitions had been received from people claiming that their lands were acquired but compensation has not been paid to him. Having regard to this enquiry, Okhiria explained that those who built on NRC land do not deserve to be paid compensation.
By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos