Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
IBADAN:With just 12 out of 156 kilometres of tracks laid so far on the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, and with no stations on ground yet, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, is insisting that the line will be completed and commissioned by December 2018.
The $1.6 billion project, has a completion agreement of three years, but the Federal government is asking the contractors to deliver earlier than the agreed deadline and the work according to the Minister, is 60 per cent completed already.
Citing rainfall as the major challenge by the contractors, Amaechi,however, asked that they work round the clock, Monday through Sunday, to ensure that the December completion deadline is met.
Briefing newsman on Monday in Ibadan, the Minister noted that work is progressing, but it is being hindered by the persistent rainfalls, which he said is slowing down earth work.
According to him, “You will agree with us that we are progressing. We felt that they have slowed down but their argument is that there is no way they could have done earth work when the rainy season is on.
“If you go by the original agreement, then this work will take three years and we told them it must be done in one year. They have agreed to work day and night including Sundays and all they asked us to do, is a letter to them to that effect so that they can show it to the union and with the letter, they will get the union to know that the federal ministry of transport is insisting that they must work every day” he explained.
Giving update on the tracks laid, he stated that 12 kilometres have so far been laid, and 90 percent of earth work has been done from Iju to Abeokuta.
“They have done 90 percent of earth work from Iju up to Abeokuta, what is remaining is 10 per cent and they think that in two weeks after the rain stops, they can finish the 10 per cent and they believe that by the end of September, they should have finished all the bridges from Iju to Abeokuta but that still doesn’t solve our problem because that is not the contract.
“The contract is Ebute Metta to Ibadan. We are pushing them that even if you complete that in September, you still need to complete from Abeokuta to Ibadan and from Iju to Ebute Metta” he said.
Insisting that the stations are his major concern, he said, “It’s not the construction that is my problem, my problem is the stations. If you had been observant, you will see that there are no stations on the way, it’s just now they started Ebute Metta. They may complete the tracks without the stations but that does not also mean we should commission.
“Yes you have completed the tracks, we can run the train but where will the passengers engage with the train? There must be a station. We have discussed it, they will commence and I hope they complete it before December” he remarked.
While reassuring on the December completion deadline, he asked Nigerians to wait. “All we are saying, is that we are pushing for one year to be completed. In China, they agreed with us that they construct 1000 kilometres per year and this is just 156 kilometres so they should deliver this, wait until December”.
Speaking further on why the stations are not yet in place, he explained that, “there was relocation problems in Abeokuta,in Agbado and Agege we had problems with the community, they were not ready to contribute more land but now they have agreed, so they are going to move in. In Ebute Metta, the problem was having to move the occupants of the railway property and all that we have all done; so now construction will commence.
“For me, it is not the tracks that is the problem, I just hope they will complete all the stations before end of December” Amaechi reiterated.
On securing the tracks, he urged the construction company to put anti-theft mechanisms in place to avoid stealing of the tracks and other rail facilities.
The Lagos-Ibadan rail line has four sections running from Kajola(section I) to Papalanto (section II),to Odeda (section III) and Omiadio/Ologunerun (section IV).