Sunday Okobi and Solomon Elusoji
Members of the Senate Committee on Land Transport and Foreign and Local Debt have expressed delight with the progress of the Lagos-Ibadan railway modernisation project.
They stated this during their recent oversight visit to the Agege, Lagos section of the rail line. The National Assembly recently approved the federal governmentâ€™s request of a $1.4 billion loan to complete railway projects in the country.
In his remark, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, said: â€œWe have been mandated by the Senate to go to the site and look at how far the work has gone.
We are here today and we have seen for ourselves that indeed there is progress. â€œWeâ€™ve been given a deadline of which to report back to the Senate so that other conclusive parts of the foreign loan agreement can be sealed. And that is taking our own report to the Federal Executive Council for them to prepare the signing of the loan agreement with the China Exim Bank.â€
Ashafa also observed that the contractors- China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), are complying with the local content clauses in their contract with the Nigerian government.
According to him, â€œWe have also confirmed that on ground, the local content factor of the loan agreement is being adhered to strictly; that is, the purchase of some of the raw materials needed from local sources. We confirmed that they are getting their sand locally, from the riverine areas in Lagos, Ogun States and sometimes Oyo State, for the gravel.
â€œAgain, theyâ€™ve confirmed to us that labour, which forms part of the dividends of having this kind of project on ground will be sourced locally; at least about 70per cent will be Nigerians. At the end of day, when this project is about to be completed, we will have about 7,000 fresh employed Nigerians. If you marry that to the infrastructure development and the essence of having a modern rail project, you will see that we are moving forward in ensuring that the promise of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is being achieved gradually.â€
On his part, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debt, Senator Shehu Sani, also stated that he was impressed with the level of work going on. â€œWe are here to ascertain what is actually going on and to deliver a clear message to the contractors that this project must not stop.
â€œThe necessary funds have been approved, and we have also learnt that they will get N12 billion within the next seven days, so there is no excuse for this project to stop,â€ he stated.
Sani also pointed out that the Senate is â€œvery cautious in terms of approving loan requests for the very fact that we donâ€™t want to leave a legacy of debt for the future generations of Nigeria. If we must borrow, there must be a concrete evidence that that money was judiciously used for the next generation of Nigerians to enjoy,â€ he stated, adding that â€œno nation can aspire to the status of industrialisation without upgrading its railway system.â€
He said the Lagos â€“ Kano, Lagos â€“ Calabar, Port-Harcourt â€“ Maiduguri, and Kano â€“ Kaduna railway lines will also be carefully studied.
Sani added: â€œWhat we are doing here is to ensure we get value for our money. Nigeria deserves the best railway system and as a Senate, we are here to ensure that is possible.
â€œWe have told the contractors that we want to see a rail-line that is equivalent to what they have in their own country that will be constructed in line with our industrial aspirations; that will make it easy to transport goods, services and people.â€
Meanwhile, the CCECC Chief Project Coordinator for the Lagos-Ibadan project, Leo Yin, has given the assurances that the railway lines will be delivered in 2018. â€œWe signed a 36-month contract, but we are trying to deliver next year.
â€œWe have no excuses but to deliver the project to the satisfaction of the client. We have delivered the first standard, modernised railway system in West Africa which is Abuja to Kaduna. Right now, the people are enjoying the services. So I believe for this Lagos-Ibadan project, we will just do better than that.â€
The Lagos-Ibadan rail-line project has an extension that starts from the Lagos Ports at Apapa, which will facilitate the transport of goods from the port into the country. The project, which is estimated to cost $1.487 billion, is expected to facilitate travel-speed of up to 150kilometres per hour, with conditions to be upgraded to 200km per hour.