Nigeria focuses on completion of on going project

Shiktra Shalangwa, Abuja

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The Nigerian government is focused on completing its project, rather than paying attention to distractions from politicking.

The Minister of Transportation Mr Rotimi Chibueke Amaechi stated this
during the Program “In The News” with Voice of Nigeria, in Abuja.

The Minister said, “What the president is saying is ‘eyes on the ball’, don’t be distracted, cause if they distract us at the end of the day we will not be able to complete all the things we are doing.  The President’s intention is for us to complete all that we are doing. So the fact that you are shouting APC and PDP is none of our business.”

He said as far as the President is concerned, the APC party chairman, Adams Oshimole should be responsible for responding to the opposition.

Looking at the progress made in the Rail system in Nigeria, he said that “by the time we took over, the tracks has been vandalised, from Ajaokuta to Itakpe, the Nigerian government had to raise over 100 million Dollars for the replacement of those tracks.

“We are building the stations at Itakpe; we rode from Itakpe to Warri, we arrived quiet very late at 8pm because of two reasons; first we were stopping literally at every station or where we had earmarked for the station to be built, the second reason was that we were doing inspection, so the speed was very low.  We were doing 40 kilometers per hour. On completion we would be doing 120-150 kilometers per hour.  So you should expect to be in Warri from Itakpe in three hours.”

On completion of the project Mr Amaechi said, “if not everything, it’s almost ready for us to take off.  We are waiting for them to complete the station.  It use to be purely cargo but now we’ve made it cargo and passengers. It was built for the movement of iron ore from where it is mines to the seaport or export or to Ajaokuta where it can be processed to finished products.  So I was glad I did that that.”

On the Abuja–Kaduna rail line, he stated that before the light rail started functioning, it was difficult to get to town from Idu station, to board a train to Rigasa in Kaduna State.

But now the light rail gets passengers to town and makes it easier to access the train.
About the Apapa rail system looking at the gridlock on the road, the Minister responded, “We are trying to rehabilitate the narrow gauge, the moment we complete the rehabilitation of the narrow gauge it will be much easier to move the freight from seaport to the interland, so we are talking to GE and Transset. Who have agreed to be in the concession that would ensure they rehabilitate the narrow gauge.  At the conclusion of rehabilitation it would be doing 80 kilometres per hour and then they will be able to move the cargo, so that will ease
that gridlock that we have in Apapa.  The major thing is the commencement of Lagos-Kano rail line, standard gauge. The first phase of it is Lagos-Ibadan and we hope to complete between December and January, when completed then we will be able to move alot of cargoes. Currently what we are moving between Lagos and Kano is about 30 million tons of cargo and what the rail is moving is only about 200 thousand tons of cargo per year which is very poor.  So you have at total 29 million and eight hundred thousand tons of cargo that we are moving by road, damaging our roads.”

“So by the time we are done we should be able to move between one and three million tons of cargo, reducing the pressure.  But if you combine the standard gauge with the narrow gauge we should be able to move up to ten million tons of cargo leaving about twenty to be moved by road. It’s a three year contract so if I want to give you a time frame, I would say in three years we should be able to complete it. But we are compelling or putting pressure on the contractors to complete work before the end of the year, so they are working day and night. We are insisting that they must complete it in 2018 or at the first quarter of 2019. When that happens we would be able to carry or move both cargo and passengers from Lagos to Ibadan.”

The Transportation minister also hinted that, “We are hoping that by this year if we get the loan we should be able to commence the construction of Ibadan-Kano”.
Similarly there was cabinet meeting that discussed getting loan to commence Lagos to Calabar.

He said, “From Calabar to Portharcourt should be the first phase, we are doing it in segments because we don’t have money. When we had money during the era of Obasanjo, Yar’adua and Good luck, we should have been able to start even if we don’t start Lagos to Calabar,  we should have started Lagos to Kano which was 8.7 billion dollars. Then you know that if you are borrowing money, you are borrowing for Lagos to Calabar. But now we are borrowing money for literally everything on transportation, which is not too good for us.  We hope that when we do get moneyed should be able to commence the construction of Lagos to Calabar which covers the whole of South. At Benin, there is a spur to Agbo, Asaba, Onitsha, going through the river Niger then continues to Owerri, Sapele, Warri, Bayelsa, Portharcourt Aba, Uyo and Calabar. If we do have money we are also covering from Portharcourt to Maiduguri, Beginning from Boni to Maiduguri, with a deep seaport in Bonita,  so we will do Boni  to Portharcourt, Aba,  Owerri,  Uhmaiya, Oghka, Abakiliki, Makurdi, Lafiya, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Damturu and Yola,  which is huge about two thousand kilometers and I don’t know the cost I’m waiting for the final study which the department of railway is doing.
So it should be ready before the end of September.”

On aviation, the Minister said there was a huge problem about the location of the second tower at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport.

He said, “It’s not the building, the building is completed, those who designed it and located it there did not take into consideration the tower.  So it means that we have to demolish the tower. The fingers will not take a 380 plane so we need to change it. there are a lot of things involved, a lot of things they took for granted that were not part of it,  which we are now redesigning and they are asking for more money from China Exim bank to complete it.”

Working towards Air Nigeria, the Minister said it’s before the cabinet but it’s not been approved yet.

He explained that, “I believe that we need Air Nigeria, What we are discussing now is the model, what model of financing should government be getting, involved or should it be purely private. What killed Nigerian Airways, was it not because government was involved? Now we are keeping government away, let the private investors put their money and manage it themselves.”

He added that the airline is Nigerian because it belongs to Nigeria; it was only given as a franchise.

Sammie Idika