Kasim Sumaina in Benin
The federal government has given till June 2018 to various companies handling the Itapke-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line to get the job done in order to resume its commercial activities.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, gave this directive on MondayÂ while inspecting the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line in Delta State.
Â Amaechi hinted that there are two phases of the contract, the first one was awarded in 1987 and the second, 1994.
The minister, while briefing the press during the inspection tour, said: â€œThis contract; depends on who you are talking to, some would say 30 years while other would say 34 years but whatever year it is, we need to get this place functioning and the directive of the federal government is we should start and our target is that by June, commercial activities would resume.â€
According to him, â€œIf this contract was completed between the time it was awarded, Nigeria would have been the firstÂ country in Africa to have a standard gauge.â€
He disclosed that the directive from the federal government was to get the place functioning.
Â â€œWe have a directive from the federal government that we must complete the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line and it was put in this year budget. By the end of December last year, we had disbursed some money to the contractors; Julius Berger and others to commence work, so we have come to see how far.
â€œWe are constructing bridges too in order to reduce contact with humans beings who would try to cross the track because this is a speed lane and once it starts, it is going to be 120 to 150 kilometres per hour and the chances of killing human beings are going to be higher than the narrow gauge because it is a standard gauge.â€
He said: â€œI canâ€™t say until the federal government awards the remaining part of the track because from Itakpe-Ajaokuta is bad. They have vandalised everything there and stolen most of the steel and other materials.
â€œIf the cabinet approves, the project would be awarded to CCECC to rehabilitate it and we are hoping that CCECC would be able to finish before May, 2018. Also, there are no stations, so CCECC would have to build stations.
He added: â€œJulius Berger was handling the project before but they said they cannot continue because they had demobliise and taken all their equipment back to France and they canâ€™t start bring the equipment back again because it would cost us more to take a contractor who is in Nigeria and has all the equipment and that can fix it because standard gauge is standard gauge anywhere, there is no magic about it.
â€œFor that reason, Julius Berger opted out and said, yes we built it and not much work is remaining and because of the number of kilometres remaining, compared to the amount of money that would be used to mobilise us back. So, they suggested we give it to a contractor that is already based in Nigeria and all our rail contracts are being done by CCECC. So, we have contacted CCECC and it is going through due process and waiting for approval by the cabinet.â€