By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja, April 22, 2021 The National Economic Council (NEC) says it has received an update on Federal Government’s interventions in rail infrastructure development.
Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State briefed State House correspondents after the virtual NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Umahi said that the progress and achievement on railway infrastructure was presented by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
“Council was informed on where the railway development was stalled in the 60s until 1986 when the Federal Government commenced the construction of 326 kilometre standard gauge, which is a 1435 metre rail line phase 1 from Itakpe in Ajeokuta to Warri.
“Furthermore, rail infrastructure development halted until the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board and brought to reality the rail modernisation plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria by commencing the implementation of 1367km Lagos-Kano Rail lines.
“The outcome of the present Federal Government intervention includes that they completed and made operational the 186km Abuja-Kaduna, a standard gauge rail line, started by President Goodluck Jonathan; it is fully operational now; president Buhari completed it and it is in operation now.’’
According to him, the present administration also commenced the 185.5km Lagos-Ibadan new double standard gauge rail lines, which is in progress.
He said the project commenced in 2016 and was almost completed.
“The present administration also completed and made operational 302 Itakpe to Ajeokuta Standard Gauge Rail Line and connected Apapa Ports by rail while part of Warri Port has been concessioned.
“The programme for rail infrastructure in Nigeria is a 25-year Strategic Vision; under this vision the Federal Government in its determination to revive and modernise the railway system in line with the 25-year strategic vision, adopted a systematic dual approach.
“This entails the rehabilitation of the existing narrow gauge lines simultaneously with the development of Standard Gauge lines.
“The Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Railway Corporation are vigorously following this vision in developing its short and medium term plans.’’
He said, however, that there were challenges in the 25-year strategic plan.
Umahi listed the challenges as finance, inadequate funding, operational challenge, insufficient locomotives, coaches and wagons leading to congestion.
Other challenges, he said, were obsolete machinery over the years and workshop equipment, access to only two seaports and none to airports, lack of capacity to recover encroached premises and rental debts from government organisations.
“Security is also part of it, which includes porosity of rail corridors and railway crossings, vulnerability of outdoor signaling and telecommunication installations to vandalism.
“Of course, there are also legal and legislative impediments.
“The Railway Act of 1955 does not encourage PPP unfortunately. Council welcomed the presentation and looked forward to further collaboration with the federal government on this beautiful venture,’’ he said.
On his part, Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara said that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made a presentation on the National Aviation Infrastructure Development Plan.
He said that NEC resolved that the minister should make available copies of the presentations to states so that council would have a fuller understanding.