Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has disclosed that he met a narrow gauge of a dismal operational capacity speed of about thirty to fourty kilometers per hour with a serious shortage of rolling stocks and dilapidated railway tracks .
He stressed that the entire system was bedevilled by wired maintenance gap at the time he assumed office in 2015.
Amaechi stated this while fielding questions from newsmen in Lagos, Friday.
According to the Minister, the last Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of the narrow gauge railway but none of the contracts were fully executed as claimed.
Explaining further, he said, jobs were carried out in some sections of the awarded portions without completion; others were poorly executed or out rightly abandoned despite the huge amount of cash expended on the projects by the past government.
On the Abuja-Kaduna rail modernization project, the Minister opined that although, the Jonathan’s Administration had commenced construction work of the project with about seventy percent completion , the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over the project and completed it.
He said to get commercial operations to commence on the Abuja-Kaduna rail route, government therefore responded to the yearnings of Nigerians by procuring some locomotives and passengers’ coaches to achieve President Muhammadu Buhari Administration’s mandate of a safe and effective transport system for Nigerians.
“The government of former President Goodluck Jonathan had awarded some contracts to rehabilitate the narrow gauge. They claimed that the contracts were implemented but they were not visible because by the time we took over, narrow gauge was about eighty kilometers per hour but the actual capacity of those tracks were seventy kilometers per hour “.
“The Administtation of Good- Luck Jonathan had commenced construction work on the Abuja-Kaduna railway and if measured it will be between eighty percent completion. So, what we did was to add twenty percent construction work to complete the entire project. And to commence commercial activities on the track, we had to order for rolling stocks”.
On the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway Project and Lagos-Calabar , Amaechi said, “We started the implementation of the Lagos-Kano railway and commenced the construction of Ebute-Metta to Ibadan railway by changing the entire policy. Those who designed the rail tracks designed it only for passenger purposes because none of these initial designs terminate at the seaports”.
“So, it was President Muhammadu Buhari that directed that all rail line must be connected to the seaport. We had to take the Lagos-Calabar rail to go through the seaports in Warri, Calabar and the one in Port Harcourt and Onne. And then the Lagos-Kano rail had to end up at the Apapa Seaport”, he said.
Amaechi further disclosed that plans are under way to also construct a new seaport in the Bonny Island of Rivers State.
Amaechi however lamented the politicization of Railway projects by politicians in the Country, saying that the basic purpose of Railway project in any Country is for economic purposes.
Hear him, “Nigerians believe that we should be able to finish the rail projects today, but you see, the money is just not there, and they are politicising the railway. Railway is not built for political purposes, they are built purely for economic reasons and it doesn’t have the capacity to pay back whoever that invests in it. That is why government is the only institution that constructs rail. It is capital intensive and the turnover is not as rapid as what any businessman would want it to be”, he stressed.