By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Management of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) has told National Assembly (NASS) Joint Committee on Land Transportation about the progress of work and plans for the ongoing railway modernization in Nigeria.
According to NRC Managing Director, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, Nigeria Railway Corporation has 25 years plan to link rail lines to all state capitals and oil producing regions of the federation.
Also, the contractor, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), has been directed to link the railway to the federal airport in Lagos.
Okhiria made the disclosure recently when the National Assembly Joint Committee on Land Transportation came to Lagos for inspection of the ongoing Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway Modernization project
“Railway has 25 years rolling plan. We have plan to link all the state capitals,” the NRC leader said in response to earlier observations made by the lawmakers.
Highlighting the progress made on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway Modernization project, Okhiria said that August 2020 will complete two years of the three-year project which is nearing completion.
He narrated that in the course of executing the project more than 2,000 houses were demolished and compensations were paid to their owners.
The NASS delegation was led by Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transportation, and Hon. Tajudeen Abass, Chairman of the House Committee on Land Transportation.
Members of the committee made observations during the meeting which was held in the Project Office of CCECC, Ebute Metta, Lagos.
For instance, they told Engr. Okhiria to send to them a written report of the briefing which he delivered ad lib; the lawmakers expect him to submit a detailed documentary account of how 2019 budgetary allocation to the corporation was utilized.
The parliamentarians questioned why the Chinese inscription on the wall of the project office was not translated to English. “The Lingua Franca in this country is English and we expect that in coming to the place we should know what this language means. It is good for us to have the language that we understand. The language is very important so that we shall understand when we’re reading the documents.”
The legislators stressed the need to extend the rail line not only to Apapa seaport but also to Tin Can seaport.
They stated that all over the world, even in South Africa, railway is linked to the airports, but it is not so in Nigeria. They therefore enjoined NRC management to begin to look into how rail lines in the country will be linked to the nation’s airports across the country.
In the assessment of the legislators, railway in the country has not made satisfactory improvement. They pointed out that more than 100 years after the colonial masters bequeathed Western and Eastern Railways to Nigeria much progress has not been made in the development of railway system in the federation.
They urged Nigeria Railway Corporation to up the game by facilitating strategy to link the whole country by railway.
They said, “We want to see the progress of Nigeria through railway that will solve all the road problem” of the nation.
The National Assembly lawmakers want China not only to end up building railway system for Nigeria; they want China to teach Nigerians railway technology and engineering for onward national development in rail transportation.
Top officials of CCECC attended the meeting.