By Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The federal government has disclosed that it is set to take delivery of the first batch of 10 coaches, out of the 64 coaches expected from China in June 2019, to reduce the congestion at the Abuja-Kaduna rail line.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, made this known, Monday after leading a delegation to China to inspect the pace of work at the Chinese Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) Tangshan Company Ltd.
A statement by the Director of Press, Ministry of Transportation, Muhammad Idris, in Abuja, said that the minister requested that 10 coaches be delivered to Nigeria latest June to relieve the burden on the Abuja-Kaduna line as well as the Lagos-Ibadan line which will soon be ready.
According to him, “We need coaches by June latest. We need coaches that can carry men from one point to another and we need a minimum of 10 coaches now out of the 64.
“I requested 10 coaches now because we need to improve on Kaduna-Abuja line. If the 10 do not come, there is nothing I can do but it has to come because they have to manufacture for us to use in Kaduna-Abuja and again, Lagos- Ibadan will soon be ready. We also have to ensure that we get coaches that we can be using, pending when they finish the construction of the 64 coaches.”
Amaechi, while lamenting the pace of construction of the coaches, which he described as slow, however, noted that the company needs to improve on it.
“In fact the contract has expired, we may not have paid all the money but we paid quite a substantial sum and therefore they should construct speedily.
“The contract was signed in December 2017 and was supposed to expire in February 2019. The time has expired and there is a breach of contract but we will look at what the law says because more than one third of the money has been paid,” he said.
He pointed out that the issue is not with CRRC but a contract between Nigeria and CCECC, adding that it will be addressed in Nigeria.
The minister, while at CRRC Shandong to inspect the cargo wagons being built for Nigeria, disclosed that there was a verbal agreement with CCECC to localise the railway industry in Nigeria which was supposed to produce 15 per cent of the coaches, locomotives and wagons.
He said: “We had a verbal agreement for them to produce 15 per cent of the coaches, locomotives and wagons. They came back and said it was too expensive to establish locomotives and coaches factory, that we can start with wagon and do 100 per cent assembly in Nigeria for the first five years. After the first five years, they will now build a factory that will manufacture wagons in Nigeria.
“It is not part of the contract we signed in 2017, but I insisted that for me to sign, they must localise it to create more jobs, reduce the expenditure of foreign exchange. Instead of going to buy dollars, you pay the Chinese in their local currency.
“We have to go further to ask them if we can own it, we have not talked about ownership but what we said is, localise it. Even though they are using their profit to build it, you can make them hand over the ownership to Nigeria. As for the assembly plant, I intended for Zaria but they chose Kajola in Ogun State.”
Amaechi, further directed the Managing Director, Railway to hand over land for the wagon factory to CCECC before May 8, 2019.
Similarly, the General Manager, CRRC Tangshan Company Ltd, Mr. Zhou Junnian, expressed excitement over the visit of the Nigerian delegation to the CRRC and for their trust.
Junnian revealed that the passenger coach components are 100 per cent from China, adding that materials for works depend on the speed of the product and the customer requirements.
He said that in the future, CRRC will work with the CCECC to meet the high standard and quality needed to finish the projects.
Earlier, the Chairman CRRC Shandong, Mr. Wang Zichong, while speaking on the progress of the Nigerian wagon design and manufacture, noted that the design has been completed, adding that they have been purchasing the materials and prototype manufacture will be carried out as early as they can.
Zichong stated also that the specification for Nigeria’s localisation workshop has been completed. “We are preparing the fixture and equipment manufacture,” he added.
On when the assembly plant workshop would be completed, he stated that it can be done in six months if given the land.