By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has assured that it will commission the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway and Ebute Metta (Lagos) to Apapa seaport Lagos railway modernization projects in January 2021.
Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, said this while briefing journalists on his findings after the inspection of both contracts on Saturday, 19th December 2020.
“We’ll commission the entire projects. First contract is Ebute Metta to Ibadan and second one which was awarded later is Ebute Metta to Apapa seaport,” Amaechi declared.
He disclosed that to ensure the realization of the commissioning, they’ll be meeting today to ensure that the contractor, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), increases the speed of work on the sites of both projects.
Amaechi clarified misconception on how loans are sourced for the projects, stressing that it is not the duty of Ministry of Transportation to take loans but to work with the loans taken on its behalf by Ministry of Finance.
He said: “It’s better for Nigerians to know that Ministry of Transportation does not take loans. The earlier we get that into our psyche the better for us. The only reason you people accuse Ministry of Transportation of taking the loans is because we implement the loans, and we escort Ministry of Finance to sign the loans as witnesses.”
He pointed out that the only loans the government has taken for his ministry are the 500 million Dollars loan for Kaduna-Abuja and 1.14 billion Dollars loan for Lagos-Ibadan railway projects, totalling 2.1 billion Dollars.
According to him, the rest loans are proposals.
On the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway system which began commercial operations on 7th December 2020 with only one passenger, the transportation minister expressed optimism that demand for rail transportation on axis will increase, in spite of what Nigerians say that N3,000.00 is an exorbitant fare for economy class.
Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Engr. Freeborn Edetanlen Okhiria, told him that as of Friday 18th December 2020 passenger traffic has risen to over 140 from Ibadan to Lagos and 187 from Lagos to Ibadan.
Amaechi stated that by the the time the service begins to run efficiently, there will be increased interest in the use of rail transport.
He noted that Kaduna-Abuja rail route began on a disappointing note of about 100 passengers and rose to three hundred. “Now we’re doing 4,000 plus,” Amaechi stressed.
He said Nigeria now operates multi-modal transport operations which offer commuters several options to choose from for mobility, namely: road, rail, water, air transport systems.