By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
It was like a carnival of some sort for both young, adults and small-jubilating in all excitement, as the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed and his counterpart from the Ministry of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, passed through various train stations from Lagos to Ibadan.
The people assembled in various areas; singing, clapping, dancing and waving hands along the rail lines.
It was as though they have never seen a train passing before, their happiness was thrilling,wishing that they could jump-in and join the minister’s inspection team.
The reality of the rail Journey gave the communities more confidence in president Buhari led administration, as they were dancing to the next level windows of opportunities and how the federal government changed their traveling experience.
Members of the communities cheered and hailed the ministers, as they rode on the new trains in company of top management staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
Peoples Daily recalled that the Buhari’s administration made many juicy promises to Nigerians on infrastructural projects and bridging existing gaps of infrastructural problems to an end and ensuring the sustainability of such projects all over the nation.
Now that the promised rail transportation system has become a reality, skeletal service will commence by middle of September 2020.
The new Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail, spans about 157 kilometres. It is the first phase of the 2,733 km Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail line.
The inspection, commenced at Ebute-Meta Junction Rail Station building yard which is under construction.
To kickoff the inspection, the minister of Transportation,Rotimi Amaechi, first had a meeting with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) contractors handling the project to hasten the project speedily.
After that, he proceeded to Apapa station dockyard station which has also been added to the Lagos -Ibadan project as part of finding lasting solutions to continuous recurring gridlock that has been existing in those areas.
The Ministers and their teams inspected 10 rail station. The gigantic Ebute Meta Railway Station Building,Apapa Railway Station and Dockyard Station Agege, Kajola, Papalanto, Olocho, Omi-Adi, Abeokuta and Ibadan Train Stations.
Also, the Ebuta -Meta mega station which is yet to be completed has 6,000 holding passengers capacity per day. The dockyard stations along those route will be having passengers holding capacity between 1500 to 2,000 and all are at various stages of completions .
Speaking on Chinese loan the Minister of Information and Culture Lia Mohamade has justified all loans which the federal government collected from the Chinese government stating that, “we did not borrow money for service or overhead expenditures. We borrowed the money for capital projects, rails, bridges , roads , power and for other generally infrastructure.”
He said that Nigeria is effectively utilizing the funds it borrowed from China and elsewhere for infrastructural development to create jobs and provide the basis for economic development.
The Minister who made this known to over 40 journalists who accompanied them on the inspection of the new improved construction site of the Ibadan Train Station recently after a joint inspection of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail Project with his Transportation Counterpart, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi said, “There is no better way to answer Nigerians as to what we have done with the money we have borrowed than this trip,’’
‘’On this trip, you have seen first hand the stations being constructed, the rail lines and the people who are working on the projects.
“Rather than arguing with critics, we opted to allow you (journalists),the ears and eyes of Nigerians to come and see for yourselves what we are doing with the money we are borrowing,” he said.
Mohammed added that “ there is nothing bad in borrowing, provided the funds are invested in infrastructure rather than services or consumption.
“ It will also create jobs and creating enablement environment for the economy“.
The Minister said the tour of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail Project is the first in a series of inspection the administration is embarking upon to showcase to Nigerians the status of work on the projects the government is executing with the money it has borrowed.
Lai Mohammed noted that the Coaches for the Lagos-Ibadan Railway, could compete with those found anywhere else in the world and commended the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for his passion in delivering rail infrastructure to Nigerians.
In his words, “I am very excited when I got into the train this morning, not because I’m the Minister of Information but because it was as clean and modern as anywhere else in the world. I was also quite impressed with the passion of the Minister of Transportation.
“At every point in time, he’s pushing the contractors, telling them he can’t wait till November, because he wants to deliver to Nigerians, infrastructure.
You can also feel the passion and enthusiasm of Nigerians at every station we stopped. I’ll leave the story to you to tell Nigerians.
I’m impressed and I hope that you will come back here for the commissioning of the stations and the entire Lagos-Ibadan Railway project,” Alhaji Lai Mohammed said.
Similarly, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, has ordered China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), the contractors handling the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail to complete the project within five months.
He made it clear that COVID-19 has come to stay thus, Messrs CCECC are to devise measures of completing the project and urged them to procure Personal Protective Equipment for their workers as no excuse for failure would be accepted.
“I am not a doctor nor scientist to begin to know when Covid -19 will end,it has come to stay. Government has to run and to deliver our promises to the people because that’s why we were elected and we don’t have time, “If we just seat down in our houses and wait for covid 19 to end, it may end 2023, lets hope that by January, this project will be ready.” Mohammed said.
Speaking further,the minister stated that the new train is not a standing one,saying that services on that axises will commence soon .
Asking Amaechi about funding, he noted that funds are not the challenge being faced on the $1.6 billion project but lack of workers.
He, therefore, advised the company to adhere to safety measures such as compulsory use of masks and safety shields by all workers in order to get the required number needed to work in all stations.
On the Ibadan-Kano $5.6 billion rail which is yet to commence, Amaechi stated that the government is yet to secure the loan facility from China Export-Import Bank, assuring that it remains a priority project of the present administration.
However, the minister said $1.6 billion is being expended on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge rail line and the stations, with $200-$300 million counterpart funds from the Federal Government.
He appealed to the National Assembly to approve the $5.3 billion loan request from China to enable the government to execute the Ibadan-Kano Standard Gauge rail line.
On his part, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Cooperation, Engr. Fidet Ohiria has hinted that the Lagos-Ibadan Railway will begin skeletal services in mid- September.
“We’ll begin skeletal activities on the Lagos-Ibadan railway project in the middle of September from Yaba to Ibadan, while the finishing constructions continue, hopefully by January we will start services full blown”.
He said the rail project will unlock economic potential in the region and bring about more development.
On his apart, Hakeem Kabriu who is a worker at the rail construction site thanked the federal government for the opportunity given to him to have more experience and to increase his capacity which has helped him to provide for his family.
“With such projects many youth will have something to depend on and this will drastically reduce crime rate, terrorism among others”, Kabriu stated.
Further more, Mr. Segun Odeshola said the rail doesn’t only connect to his business but would give them better opportunities of new life.
“The federal government has done a lot in the aspect of transportation. With this rail station at Agbado, we can travel whenever we want.
“Skeletal Service Starts Mid – September
We will also sincerely enjoy the rail station because the community is poor but with this improvement, every thing will be good now and our livelihood will be changed”, Odeshola explained.
Meanwhile,for now the Lagos- Ibadan route will start with 24 coaches, one set of diesel multiple unit of 8 coaches and two motor cars for 16 trips a day.
“Also, I0 coaches from Etape to Warri,4 trips a day. There will be additional 10 coaches and one set of DMU for Abuja to kaduna services . This would move its trip up from 8 to 16 trips per day .
“With the operation of the new rail on board apart from traveling service,cargo delivering will be improved”.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Shipping Council said over 300,000 tones of metric of cargo will be moved between Lagos and Kano.
It added that many industries will enjoy the impact and benefits the rail offers to business owners home and aboard.