The National Assembly Committees on Land Transport have cast doubt on the feasibility of achieving a completed standard gauge railway line from Ibadan to Lagos before the deadline of December 2019.
The committees, which also noted that railway narrow gauge network which traverses the entire country, seemed not to be functioning at its optimum level, stated these when both committees at the National Assembly, paid an oversight visit to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), in Lagos as well as had an inspection tour of the ongoing standard gauge project along Aduma, Papalanto axis of Ogun State recently.
They stressed the need for the NRC and CCECC to expedite actions on the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, adding that in the past three years, â€œwe have worked together as partners in the rail revitalisation agenda of President Muhamadu Buhari. This revitalisation agenda has proven to be at the heart at the infrastructural development programmes of the president.â€
On the deadline of the completion of Ibadan-Lagos standard gauge, the Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa said, â€œI have made request that deadline should be extended, and they are looking at sometimes in the middle of next year,2019.
â€œEven if the entire project is completed and they are able to get Lagos to Abeokuta and it is fully completed by February to March, 2019, I think we have done very well.
â€œIt is a legacy project that all should be proud that in our time the administration of Muhammadu Buhari is able to give this back to Nigerians. We used to have narrow gauges.
â€œWhat they are doing now is standard such that it competes with any modern rail project globally. I think that Nigeria should just shift from the old way of doing things, to the new way.
â€œThis is one that is going to be embraced by all and sundry. I am also happy that the Lagos State Government headed by Governor Akinwumi Ambode is working in tandem with the federal government on this project.â€
Ashafa urged the NRC to channel more resources towards assisting the haulage sector of the economy particularly in the transportation of petroleum products, saying it would greatly help to reduce the amount of casualties from recurrent and incessant tanker accidents leading to preventable infernos around the country.
In his remarks, Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport, Aminu Sanni, said the committee in line with its mandate was visiting for the purpose of ensuring that funds appropriated by the National Assembly for the execution of projects by the ministry are judiciously utilised.
Sanni said the Ministry of Transport was aware that the committee had been supportive of the ministry in terms of budgetary allocation for critical projects that are essential for Nigeriaâ€™s economic and social development and will continue to do so in such regard.
In his reaction, the Managing Director of NRC, Mr Fridet Okhiria, said the call for extension of the deadline of the project by the National Assembly had not been agreed.
According to him, â€œWe know that there are obstacles and hindrances along the standard gauge line. We are working hard to make sure that those obstacles are removed. This is why they are asking for extension.â€