The federal government Thursday explained the different challenges that slowed down the pace of the Lagos-Ibadan rail construction awarded at a whopping sum of $1.5 billion, saying a lot of gas and water installations in Lagos axis constituted a major challenge.
Despite the challenges, the federal government equally directed the contractor handling it, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to commence work on the Lagos wing of the rail project.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, explained the challenges Thursday at a session with journalists after a meeting with the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, at the State House, Alausa.
The meeting was attended by the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr. Fidet Okhiria; Chairman, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Rivers State, Mr. Davies Ikanya; Lagos State Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, Mr. Ade Akinsanya; and his transportation counterpart, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, among others.
Speaking at the session, the minister first identified the relocation of public utilities as a major challenge that compelled the construction company to stop working on the Lagos wing of the $1.5 billion rail project.
He said: “In Lagos, we have a lot of oil pipes and water pipes that should be relocated. Beyond gas pipes, we have some bridges we must either build or demolish. When we said we would demolish Costain, everybody screamed.
“We had to call the Governor of Lagos State to assist us. He took us there and promised to pay the compensation. He did not say we should not demolish. I like the Lagos State Government. They are used to building the bridges that had been there for 40 years.”
The minister also explained the challenges with some communities along Abeokuta-Ibadan axis, which he said, would require payment of some compensation to the families and individuals that allowed the federal government to use their land.
He acknowledged that the federal government “is going to pay them some compensation, though not much. Lagos is also making some contribution. That is why we came here to see that there is win-win situation”.
“Governor Ambode has been very cooperative. He has been cooperating from the beginning to date. We therefore decided that CCECC should move back to Lagos. The construction should commence in Lagos so that the Lagos-Ibadan railway will be completed by December.
“We are heading to Apapa. When we go to Apapa, we discovered the station there is too small. However, we do not need to acquire property because almost all the property at the place belongs to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). So, we are going to expand the Apapa Station.
“We are going to have a mall within the station. There are two major stations in Lagos. We have one Ebute-Meta. We are looking for an investor for it because it will have hotel and mall. We have the same plan for the Apapa Station. The third station is in Abeokuta while the last one is in Ibadan.
“There are two types of rail we are having here. First, we have narrow gauge. We are meeting on it today in Lagos. The narrow gauge is on. Second, we have standard gauge. Both of them empty into Apapa seaport,” he explained.
After the meeting, Ambode recalled the traffic congestion that had become a major hallmark of Apapa Central Business District, which compelled the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to visit Lagos twice within one week.
He, however, commended the Federal Executive Council “for approving the Tin Can-Apapa-Oshodi expressway up to the tollgate. It was approved on Wednesday. That is in continuation of finding permanent solution to what is happening in Apapa”.
The governor noted that the rail construction “will commence next week. It is actually from Apapa to Ibadan. That means we have a two-pronged approach to cart away cargoes from Lagos to other parts of the country”.
“As a result, a lot of construction work will start from Apapa axis. We collaborate with the federal government to reduce the suffering of Lagos residents. I am happy that we came out of this meeting stronger. We will make sure that this particular rail project is delivered between six and 12 months,” he said