By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
The authorities of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) have begun discussions with Lagos State, Ogun State and Oyo State governments on how to ensure the safety of inhabitants of communities along Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway corridor.
The discussion focuses on building overpasses, underpasses, bridges and pedestrian crossings where necessary.
Shedding light on safety along the train corridor, Chairman, Board of Nigerian Railway Corporation, Alhaji Alhassan Ibrahim Musa, said officials of NRC have had talks with people’s representatives on the subject.
At the meetings, points identified were that overpasses, underpasses and bridges were to be built in the affected communities to provide safe movement for people.
Elaborating on the effort made by NRC management, Alhassan Musa said: “In the cause of this project, we sat down with the people’s representatives, that is, Lagos State government representatives, LAMATA (Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority), and so on.
“Points identified were overpasses were going to be created, bridges and underpasses also.
“We agreed so bridges are going to be provided by the project, others are going to be provided by Lagos State government.
“We’re doing our best to put this in place. Right now you can see we’ve got completely new bridge at Costain, and we brought down the old one.
“There’re so many underpasses where vehicles and human beings go under the track. In some places you have overhead bridges all the way from Lagos to Ibadan. This is a fast-moving train compared to the narrow gauge that we have.”
He pointed out that in other climes, what is obtainable is raised track, and stressed that such method is too costly to be affordable in Nigeria. “And because of that we’re are having these interfaces to enable people to cross without having to come in contact with the railway tracks,” Musa added.
Managing Director of NRC, Engr. Freeborn Edetanlen Okhiria, while corroborating the assertion of the chairman, said that the first principle is to achieve a very safe operation corridor for trains, and to ensure that the public, passengers and operators of the train are safe.
Okhiria declared: “So, in Lagos we’ve portions of overpasses that the federal government will do, andthose that the state governments will do.
“And similarly we’ve made provisions that government has approved for the ministry to provide pedestrian crossings “
The two NRC leaders related these details during the September 2020 monthly inspection of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway project.
Responding to their explanations, Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, charged them to complete overpasses so that if any accident happened as a result of failure to provide the facilities, it will not be federal government but State governments that would be liable.
Amaechi pointed out that the affected communities have been writing to the government with regard to the need for safety measures along the railway lines.
According to him, he passes the letters written by the affected communities to the permanent secretary who sends them to the director of railways. “I’ll not hear about it again. We’re being unfair to them, because they gave us all the cooperation we wanted. If these communities have been so good to us, why do we want to visit them with what was not there before we came?” the transportation minister said.
He, therefore, directed engineers to study, village by village, the impact the construction of railway modernization project has caused the communities.
He expressed concern that fencing of the railway corridor is very expensive, regretting that communities break the fences where they are erected. He cited Warri-Itakpe as an example.
“We’re also fencing in Kaduna-Abuja. We’ll fence where we suspect more human interference, like Lagos. We’re not fencing at Abeokuta and Ibadan, but my fear is in the future there will be need to put fences in those areas,” the minister illustrated.
Amaechi gave an outline of other railway modernization projects. For example, there is a transition period between now and January on Kano-Maradi project, while acquisition of right of way and payment of compensation for Ibadan to Kano axis have begun.
He pointed out that Kano to Maradi project is likely to kick off easily because the loan for it is to be acquired from European banks which is easier to achieve than the loans from China.
The transportation minister spoke about Port Harcourt to Maidugri rail construction which he described as the third project, noting there is no time line on that because of its tedious nature.