*clarifies Issues on Niger Republic Rail Project
By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has apologized to Nigerians over the breakdown of brand new locomotives used for the standard gauge railway train from Kaduna to Abuja.
Amaechi said the failure of the new railway engines might induce the government to return old locomotives to drive the trains.
The consequence of the locomotives failure to perform is that it will affect the number of times trains run per day as well as the turnover, he said.
The transportation minister made the apology on Monday when he inspected the ongoing Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway project.
“I like to apologize to Nigerians over what is happening at Kaduna-Abuja line. It’s a bit worrying in the sense that they are brand new locomotives,” the minister stressed. “In fact, we may be forced to bring back our old locomotives, but there’s other warranty so we called the Chinese to come back for the locomotives that are bad or that have failed more than two or three times that are here. And the response to that is that on behalf of the government and on behalf of the ministry we now apologize to Nigerians.”
Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) has been directed to fix the bad locos or invite Chinese engineers to do so, Amaechi disclosed.
He regretted that Nigerian engineers do not have the expertise to carry out the repairs.
He said: “The truth is that NRC has sent engineers to go and assess it. This is brand new that shouldn’t fail by now; it should be failing after two, three, four, five years.”
Amaechi announced that the Technical Committee of NRC will meet on Tuesday 24th November to discuss measures to be put in place to accelerate the speed of work on the project under inspection, noting that such measures are necessary because Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection rate is slowing down in Nigeria.
He highlighted issues relating to criticisms trailing Nigeria constructing railway lines to Republic of Niger.
He declared: “All lines can take both passengers and cargo, and the essence of that line is to ensure that we are able to transport cargo, not just from Niger Republic but from neighbouring states.
“I’ve said it so many times to Nigerians that we’re not competing well with Togo, with Benin Republic, with Ivory Coast and with Ghana over cargo that comes from neighbouring landlocked states.”
The transportation minister pointed out that the excuse for the poor competition with Nigeria is that roads in Nigeria are bad, that criminals attack them, in addition to police and custom checkpoints which makes it difficult for them to do business without high cost of business transactions.
He stated that to entrench favourable competition Nigeria has to make sacrifices, not just by building or repairing roads, but emphasized that having a rail link will solve problems.
He expressed belief that the railway connection will solve the disadvantages enumerated above.
The transportation minister was accompanied on the November inspection by the Chairman, Board of NRC, Alhaji Ibrahim Alhassan Musa and the Managing Director of NRC, Engr. Freeborn Edetanlen Okhiria.