The Minister of Transportion, Rotimi Amaechi, on Thursday said the federal government would spend an aggregate of N120 billion for its two new standard (guage) railway tracks to be constructed on the Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar rail corridors from its 2016 budget.
Making the disclosure after a train ride on the completed 186-kilometre Abuja-Kaduna railway project, from Idu terminus at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Amaechi said the N60 billion apiece on both corridors will be for new standard gauge, adding that the narrow gauge on those corridors are already functioning. He said: “We have N120 billion on the 2016 projects. As you are aware of the dire financial situation, and putting into cognizance that President Muhammadu Buhari has taken all the rail projects as priority, out of this, N60 billion is for the Lagos-Kano standard gauge as the narrow gauge is working already.”
According to him, government is spending N60 billion apiece as part of its counterpart contributions, while the Chinese Exim bank will offset the balance payment for the project as part of their obligation. He added that the two fresh projects are however not contractual. Amaechi said: “In fact, when I was at the National Assembly, they wanted to know if the new projects were on contract terms, I told them no.” He said the federal government was currently implementing the projects that it met on the ground. “We didn’t intend to cancel or bring in our own ideas to what we met in the office. The Lagos-Kano narrow gauge that was awarded by former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Lagos-Calabar by President Goodluck Jonathan are still very good, so we had no option than to fly with them,” he said.
While expressing delight at the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna railway which was constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), with over $1billion, the minister said: “The essence of taking this tour is to assess whether we are ready for commercial activities.
“By March this year, we would test run the rail services and it should be free for those who will run on it between March and April. By May, we expect that President Buhari, will commence the commercial activities on this rail. And by that way, those who want to go to Kaduna by rail can actual use our rail services route. “That will be the activity on this rail for this year. This rail is design to start from here (Idu) to Kaduna. But since some areas are not ready, we will continue to pick passengers from here (Idu), until they are ready then we would disengage the temporary facilities.” However, Amaechi said government would give N362 million as compensation to the owners of a Catholic hospital along the Kubwa which has been a clog to effective movement of the rail because of its proximity to the rail track. The minister added: “The Abuja-Kaduna rail is 100 percent complete and that is why we said we are ready to roll out railway operations. I have to make sure that both the government and Daughters of Charity Catholic hospital are amicably settled. “We have agreed to pay them N362 million for that plot of land. The only difference that happened today (yesterday) was that we have asked CCECC to do Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with a 200KVA generator while the N362 million will be used to get another building because of the patients at the hospital.
“We have also just asked CCECC to make provision for lift in all the platforms so that the disabled can access the trains and coaches. The coaches are coming at the end of this month.” On the need to train Nigerians on railway technology, he said: “I have told CCECC that if they have to build the Lagos-Calabar standard gauge, they have to build a Railway University where Nigerians will be trained so that the Chinese technology is not just dumped on us. “The Chinese must have to transfer their technology, expertise and skills to us, and that is why they must build the university for the country on the Lagos-Calabar corridor. This is part of the amendment that we are making on facilities that have to be included, which will manufacture coaches and wagons in the country like they do in South Africa.” “The total value of the 186 km between Abuja-Kaduna is over $1billion, it was initially over $800 million, our cultural background affects construction in Nigeria, and because of some form of human activities and animals crossing on the track, there will be fencing from Abuja to Kaduna which cost about $100 million and other extra works which brought it to over $1 billion.”