. Condemns poor engagement of Nigerian engineers.
The Federal Government has directed the contractor handling the modern Lagos-Ibadan rail line, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, to commence work on the Lagos-end of the project, having cleared most of the huddles hindering the job, including the right of way issue.
This is coming barely six months to the December 2018 deadline for the completion of the $1.5bn standard gauge line, whose ground-breaking was performed last year by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was then the Acting President.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, who gave the updates on the rail project in Ibadan, Oyo State, on Thursday, after a monthly meeting with representatives of the contractors, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of work on the new track.
The CCECC had to suspend work in Lagos and moved to other areas in Ogun and Oyo states following a number of obstructions on the rail line’s right of way such as houses, companies, gas pipelines, water pipes and overhead bridges.
But Amaechi said on Thursday, “I am very impressed with the Lagos State Water Corporation and the committee we set up, headed by the chairman of the NRC. We put all the engineers on that committee to find solutions to those problems that we have identified and the committee has done well.
“If you remember, we said we had a challenge of 24 kilometres of water pipes in Lagos, but the team found out that we only have two kilometres of water pipes on our right of way. So we’ve now directed the CCECC to commence the construction on the Lagos part of the project.”
The minister expressed his displeasure with the contractor’s inability to accomplish the 11 kilometres of track it promised, a situation he attributed to the rain.
He said, “They have started laying the tracks as you know. But am I impressed with the laying? The answer is no. We agreed at 11km; they have done only three. They have apologised and said that at the next meeting, which will take place on the 25th of July, they would have done more than 10.
“The reason for the snail’s speed is the rain. It is slowing down the civil work. But they are trying to manage the situation until the dry weather comes. The capacity is that they can lay 10km in one day; it is the civil work that is the problem. It is not the laying of the tracks; it is how to manage the civil work under the current situation of weather, and they are working towards that.”
Amaechi said President Muhammadu Buhari remained committed to the promise of delivering an efficient rail system for the country in order to ease the movement of people and goods nationwide.
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“The whole Nigeria knows that the President is committed to railway and that’s why I will say I’m fortunate to be the Minister of Transportation, because if they tell the President that the Minister of Transportation wants to see him, he assumes it is about the railway. So, he will just say, ‘Please let him see me.’
“The President believes that the cost of production and movement of goods, including that of agriculture, will be cheaper for the benefit of the Nigerian society if we are able to have a (functional) railway system.”
The minister also kicked against the few number of indigenous engineers employed to work on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.
He directed the CCECC to engage more Nigerian engineers and ensure that they understudy their Chinese counterparts in the construction of the rail project so as to enable indigenous experts to efficiently take over once the foreigners leave the country.
Amaechi told one of the managers of the CCECC, “You have to employ more Nigerian engineers here to understudy what you are doing.
“We need more Nigerian engineers here because the number I see here is few and this shouldn’t be allowed. Of course, we won’t allow it.”