President Buhari and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Minister for Works, Power, and Housing, Tunde Fashola achieved a major campaign promise by administration.
It was a mere 50-minute ride, yet it was historic in many ways. The first standard guage rail line between Lagos, Nigeria’s business headquarters, and Ibadan in the heart of the Southwest was test run. The 36-kilometre journey was the result of a project that began in June 2017. Leading the group of select passengers was Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi. The 150km per hour speed will be realised early next year when the job is completed. It is comfortable inside the rail car.
The minister had, during his routine visit on December 4, insisted he must ride a rail car on the tracks by December 18. With him on the 36-kilometre journey were members of the House Committee on Land Transportation, led by its chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin, officials of the ministries of Transportation and Works, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and representatives of the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), as well as a consortium of engineers and consultants. Amaechi said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) would ride on the track in the first week of January, next year. He dedicated the success of the project to the media, who according to him, kept a tab on the project since it started in June 2017.
The minister commended the contractor for bringing the project to fruition within 18 months. He challenged local engineers to rise to salvage the nation from foreign domination. Amaechi said: “While praising the Chinese for their engineering prowess which has turned a rain forest into an emerging city, our engineers must see this as a challenge and save Nigeria from the clutches of foreign domination in the area of construction.
“This project is nearing completion. Right now, work has advanced and we are six kilometres away from Abeokuta. The contractors have assured me that we would be able to ride from Iju in Lagos, to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital by the first week of January, 2019. The idea is to bring the vice president and some ministers to join in the ride.” He said that once the track is flagged off, the route would be opened for passenger traffic, while efforts would be doubled to ensure that the standard gauge be taken to Ibadan. He said work would begin on the construction of stations immediately the project gets to Ibadan.
The minister said: “I directed that they should stop work on the stations and concentrate on the tracks. They should thereafter return to the project once the tracks have been laid to Ibadan. “If the train gets to Ibadan by January, the government would continue to run free train ride from Iju to Ibadan, whether or not election is on, in line with presidential directive.
“We will start putting passengers as we test the tracks and they can stop anywhere they want to stop on the corridor up to Ibadan.” He disclosed that the NRC would mobilise locomotives and coaches from the Abuja-Kaduna line, while the government awaits the delivery of the coaches from China. Amaechi said the government already anticipates heavy traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Standard gauge, a fact he said was responsible for requests by his ministry for the purchase of more locomotives and coaches to service the corridor. Jibrin told reporters that the Transportation minister deserve commendation from the Federal Government on behalf of Nigerians for the extent of work achieved within the short period of time.
The lawmaker, who expressed excitement at the speed and pace of the project, wondered why the project has been under-reported, promising to personally make his impression known to President Muhammadu Buhari. Jibrin said his committee was happy to have acceded to the minister’s invitation to witness the test run of the tracks. “We want to assure the ministry and Nigerians that we would continue to support this project and do everything within our powers to ensure it comes to fruition,” Jibrin said. Project coordinator Leo Yin said the CCECC had been working round the clock on the track.
“Since November, we have been working more at night, to ensure we meet the demands of the government,” Yin said. He disclosed that the Chinese firm already employed over 9,000 workers among whom are engineers, and artisans on the project. The minister stopped the tour at Odeda, Section III, Ogun State, where he went into a closed door session with the technical committee that went far into the evening.