Amaechi decries delay in Lagos-Ibadan train project

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Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi will meet on Friday with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) on how to resolve the challenges stalling the project’s pace into the nation’s foremost ports.

Amaechi scheduled the meeting Monday when he discovered that the project may not be delivered in May due to the slow pace of work between Ebute Metta and Apapa, both in Lagos. He noted that given the pace, delivering the Lagos-Ibadan speed train project in May was uncertain.

The minister described the pace of work on the Ebute Metta to Apapa axis “as painful,” adding that he would focus more on it during subsequent inspections. Amaechi spoke in Omi-Adio, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, during the monthly inspection of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project.

The minister was accompanied by the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, Desmond Elliot (Surulere Constituency I), some government officials, the contractor and officials of TEAM Consulting Limited, consultants to the project.

On the pace of work, Amaechi said: “It’s a mixed bag. In some stations, you are impressed; in others, you are not. The last time we came, we had to suspend work because they were using what we referred to as stone dust. But now, they are using blast to do the foundation.

“Not much has happened at Abeokuta Station. The worst is from Ebute Metta to Apapa. That is painful. It will be the focus henceforth. They are coming up with all sorts. But I have asked to meet with NPA on Thursday or Friday to resolve those issues.

“The second excuse they have is that their vessels are at the sea port and they can’t berth because of the long queue.

“We will address it when we meet with NPA to see how they can come forward because we really need to complete this project as soon as possible. CCECC, NPA and TEAM will be at the meeting and we will resolve the issues.

On the April or May completion date, the minister said: “I can’t answer that question because when we asked the contractors, they told us it’s possible. Let me not continue to give you a date and then getting to that date, we are not there.

“They are being political. When I complained the last time, they said minor stations would be completed in April. They won’t talk about the major stations.”

Giving update on the rail tracks, Amaechi said: “If it’s in terms of tracks, it’s 100 per cent completed, apart from Ebute Metta. But what you must know is that there are two contracts here. The first contract is from Ebute Metta to Ibadan.

“The second contract is from Ebute Metta to Apapa seaport, which is about six kilometres. And that’s where we have been having problems. If you have been following this inspection, we have always had problems with Lagos because of the urban nature of the city. We have a lot of demolition to do.”

Makinde said the railway would help to decongest Lagos State, which is currently overpopulated. The governor expressed confidence that some of the challenges the project encountered in Lagos State would be avoided when Ibadan-Kano project begins.

He said: “I can say so far so good. Work is going on and a lot of effort is being put into it. A lot has been achieved so far and a lot still has to be done.

“For us in Oyo State, it is a wake-up call because the track is already here. So, we need to brace up ourselves with what we have to do as a state government so that the handshake can be seamless and everything can be done smoothly.

“The rail will boost our economy and people can work in Lagos and live in Ibadan. Students can attend our schools here. So, it will decongest Lagos and help to improve our economy and help us to get out of Lagos shadow.

“In the area of employment, some companies might decide to set up businesses in Ibadan. Goods produced can come straight from Apapa port to Ibadan dry port. So, we see a lot of social and economic benefits with this rail. Those who fear travelling by road will embrace this new initiative.

“We will look into other things that will make the rail operation smooth, like the construction of roads and security.”

On the Ibadan-Kano track, Makinde said: “When you are starting from the scratch, you have the opportunity to get it right, because Ibadan is not as developed as Abuja. There will not be serious encumbrance.”

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