Amaechi gives contractors working on Lagos-Ibadan railway line two weeks to complete the job

TRANSPORT minister Rotimi Amaechi has given the contractor working on the Lagos-Ibadan railway line two weeks to complete the Iju to Agbado section of the project as the government wants commercial operations to begin on it this month.


Historically, Lagos to Ibadan was the first piece of railway track built in Nigeria when the British government began construction of a link in March 1896. It began operations in March 1901 and was extended to Minna in 1911, where it met the Baro-Kano Railway that was built by the government of northern Nigeria between 1907 and 1911 and in 19212, the two lines were amalgamated into the Government Department of Railways, the predecessor to the Nigerian Railway Corporation.


Over the last 10 years, the Nigerian government has sought to improve upon the railway network built by the former colonial masters as the trains are slow because they are built on a narrow cape gauge. Former president Dr Goodluck Jonathan's administration awarded contracts for the widespread redevelopment of the railways, including upgrading the tracks to standard gauge.


Since assuming office in 2015, the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari has stepped up the completion of these projects and already, the Abuja to Kaduna section of the railway network is functional. Seen as the next most important part of the project, the Lagos to Ibadan section is being handled by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company and economist Bismarck Rewane, the chief executive of the Financial Derivatives Company, said that when completed, the link with reduce inflationary pressures in Nigeria.


Visiting the site yesterday, Mr Amaechi said that the section between Iju in Lagos State and Agbado in Ogun State was central to the project being completed. He added that although there had been a considerable improvement on the project, it was important to get the Iju-Agbado section ready this month.


Mr Amaechi, directed the contractors to get the section ready for test-run in two weeks, stating that the project would reduce congestion at the Lagos sea port. He stated that the excuse given by the firm for the delay was that the equipment used was not off-the-shelf and the machines could be moved easily to Nigeria from abroad.


“Getting to Abeokuta, you will see that there’s an improvement but the problem they have now is the civil work between Agbado and Iju, which is critical to me because I don’t think passengers will go to Agbado to join the train. I believe that the closer we are to Lagos, the better for the rail and that is why I had to tell them to tell me what they will do about this before the next two weeks.


"Although there’s a huge improvement up to this point, I want them to speed up the construction from Iju to Agbado. Part of the solution to the congestion around Lagos sea port is an efficient rail line, you can argue that the narrow gauge is there but it is not efficient and the moment you fix this, then those goods will be transferred to the rail and then the logjam will disappear," Mr Amaechi added.




Mr Rewane added: “This is a massive project that will have a multiplier effect when completed and will reduce logistics and distribution cost, which are the major areas of inflationary pressures in Nigeria. So I think we should give them time to complete it because it will increase productivity and reduce cost.


“It will reduce inflationary pressures because the cost of moving goods from point A to B will be reduced since you are not coming by road. So, that is a good way to reduce the pressure and inflation is one of the core economic concerns for Nigeria, therefore, anything that can reduce inflation is good for the country.”