The FCT double track Rail Project under construction
The Federal Government has intensified efforts to infuse life into the Federal Capital Territory’s (FCT) mass transit by the introduction of rail transport in 2015, writes Chiemelie Ezeobi
The coast was cleared on Friday August 24, 2012 for the emergence of Abuja as a true mega city with the full compliments of modern multi-modal transportation systems. The symbolic development came through the signing of the Addendum of Variation of Scope Contract between the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and the contractors handling the strategic Abuja Mass Rail project, the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in Abuja.
With that historic event which took place at the Minister’s Conference Room, Garki District, Abuja, the ultimate stage was set for the achievement of what has been elusive for several years: a robust rail transport scheme to compliment the current total reliance on road. The agreement was for the completion of Lots 1A and 3 of the rail project.
The Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed signed the contract on behalf of the FCT while the Vice-President of CCECC, who is also the Managing Director of CCECC Nigeria Limited, Mr. Cao Bau Gang signed on behalf of the company.
The project which is now billed for completion within the first half of 2015 is destined to change the face and socio-economic status of FCT for the better. It will go a long way in solving Abuja’s nagging transportation problems by unleashing a multi-modal scenario while at the same time boosting economic and commercial activities in the territory. Again, it will create thousands of jobs and help to remove the present concentration of the city’s population on the city metropolis of Abuja otherwise known as the Federal Capital City (FCC).
Upon assuming office as the FCT Minister in April 2010, Senator Mohammed set about looking for ways of bringing the much anticipated rail project to fruition. He met formidable obstacles on the way especially as they concerned funding and perception. Poor budgetary provision and absence of foreign credit meant the project could hardly get off ground beyond the design and feasibility level.
A crucial $500 million counterpart facility from the Chinese EXIM Bank was a necessity to fund the foreign components of the project. However, for years, sundry obstacles made it impossible for the facility to be secured thereby stalling the project. At a time, the vital loan became an object of huge legislative and media controversy largely due to misconceptions. But with sound advocacy, sagacity and clear vision, Senator Mohammed moved to secure the needed legislative and administrative nods for the facility to be accessed.
He did that bearing in mind that for several years hopes had been raised and dashed concerning the much talked about FCT mass rail project. Realising that there was no way, the rail project could succeed without the $500 million facility, the FCT Minister after securing the nod of the legislature, engaged the support of the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Bureau for Public Procurement which issued a certificate of no objection. He equally obtained the approval of the Federal Executive Council. The Minister’s excellent relationship with members of the National Assembly and good rapport within the Federal executive Council apparently made things less cumbersome.
The culmination of all these was a trip to China by the FCT Minister in company with the Finance Minister and others earlier this year where the agreement for the $500 million Chinese EXIM loan was thoroughly negotiated and signed. Even before the signing of the agreement, the FCT Minister had ensured that the implementation of the project largely based on local input had continued. That made it possible for the project to reach the present completion level of more than 20 per cent while N22 billion had been spent on it through local budgetary allocations.
With the contract variation and addendum, the scope of the project now encompass the construction of flyovers, bridges and under-passes, aspects that were not captured in the original concept. The total contract sum including both local and foreign components now stands at $823.54m. With $500m from the Chinese EXIM, the rest ($323.54m) would be sourced via local appropriations.
Following the review and the graduation of the project in phases, the current phase of the rail project which is made up of Lots 1A and 3 will cover a distance of 77.78 kilometres and would connect Abuja city through two major routes namely Airport axis to Abuja city centre and Dei Dei/Kubwa axis to the city centre.
An obviously elated FCT Minister, while speaking after the signing ceremony last Friday assured that modern railway transportation system would be delivered to FCT residents, Nigerians and indeed all visitors to the Nation’s capital in or before 2015 as an integral part of the transformation of the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
The Managing Director of CCECC Nigeria Limited, Mr. Cao Bau Gang, in his remarks, pledged to complete the project in less than 36 months. He said that his company would facilitate considerable know-how transfer by training Nigerian professionals on how to manage and maintain the rail facilities after completion and handover.