- The Itakpe/Warri rail line is ready for use
- An excited Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi announced this on Saturday, July 18 after inspecting the project
- The minister of transportation says the project will be commissioned by the president
Nigeria's minister of transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on Saturday, July 18 announced that the Itakpe/Warri rail line has been completed and is ready for commissioning.
Amaechi, widely regarded as the best minister in the Buhari administration, says plans are already in place to ensure the project is commissioned soon by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The 55-year old minister had led journalists, transport ministry officials, senior officials of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) and other stakeholders on an inspection of the site.
“We are planning for the president to perform virtual commissioning of this project. The contractors have since concluded their jobs and left the site, the only contractor left is the CCECC, and they will soon leave as well and hand over to NRC,” he announced.
An excited Amaechi heaped praises on the contractors - China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and Julius Berger Nigeria Plc for what he says is a job well done.
“I am satisfied with the job done by CCECC, the team and Julius Berger. The contractors must be commended for a good job delivery,” the minister said.
Historical background of Warri/Itakpe rail line
The project was started by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. It was abandoned after 254 kilometres out of 276 kilometres had been built. It was designed to be a cargo rail line transporting steel from Ajaokuta Steel Company to the Warri Port.
Subsequent governments after Babangida regime abandoned the facility as the Ajaokuta Steel Company had gone moribund.
In 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan reactivated the project and then decided to convert it to a passenger rail with an extension to Abuja and a spur to Onitsha connecting the coastal rail or to connect Calabar to Onitsha to Lagos rail line.
In 2017, President Buhari reactivated the project at a cost of about N70billion to include 12 additional stations. The project will now continue to Abuja at a contract sum of N1.3 trillion to be 90% financed by the Chinese Exim Bank.
Concerns about maintenance culture
The minister stated that the poor maintenance culture by Nigerians and management of public facilities has led to decay of infrastructure critical to national development.
He urged the NRC to ensure that he facilities in Itakpe-Warri rail corridor and similar railway projects are properly maintained.
His words: “The issue is maintenance. I don't want to come here in the next 4, 5 years and it looks worn down.
“You have seen the facilities, they look good. But, typical of us, I hope we don't come back and regret it.
“I think we should learn to maintain the infrastructures that we build.”
Economic benefits of the project
Responding to a question by Legit.ng's correspondent about the economic viability of the project, Amaechi reiterated that the facility is originally meant to be a cargo rail line and focus will given to it on that aspect.
He assured that cargo operations would commence immediately, as soon as discussions were concluded between Dangote and Bua Cement.
He also revealed that the Ajaokuta Steel Company and other manufacturers around that rail corridor are also expected to move their goods via the train.
Operational activities have since picked up at the Warri Port, Warri, following the sustenance of peace in surrounding communities in the area.
The dredging of the Excravos Bar to the port also ensured activities had started picking up at the port since the dredging was completed.
Commencement of rail services amid COVID-19
Amaechi, a former Rivers state house of assembly speaker and governor, says the Kaduna-Abuja rail line will commence operations soon.
The minister went on to give explicit details on the guidelines for passengers to adhere to as the services become open to members of the public.
His words: “We are going to abide by the guidelines of the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force. Every passenger, no matter how highly placed, must obey the rules.
“The next thing is everyone will come with their own sanitizer and a minimum of 90% alcohol. The next thing is you must come with a facemask. No face mask, no entry.
“We’ll also abide by the committee’s directive of three-metre distance. The price of Kaduna-Abuja will double. Each coach takes 88 passengers, we will reduce it to 40. But we need to talk to the president before we do that.
“We will also increase the number of policemen for the enforcement of law and order in all the coaches.”
Update on Lagos-Ibadan rail line and Ibadan-Kano rail line
The minister acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had slowed down the delivery of both projects.
He, however, said the situation would not deter him from performing and delivering on his assignments.
He said: “It is difficult to deal with timelines now. We were determined to complete the Lagos-Ibadan railway by May.
“CCECC needs 1,000 workers at Ebute Metta train station, but now they are using only 10. If you can't get those number of workers.”
Recall that President Buhari had approved the naming of the railway complex in Agbor, the operational hub of Itakpe-Warri rail line, after his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.