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Minister laments inadequate manpower slowing down Lagos-Ibadan rail project

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Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said the sharp drop in manpower of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation attached to Nigerian railway projects due to COVID-19 is slowing down the pace of work on the new Lagos-Ibadan rail line.
He, however, expressed optimism that the project would be ready in record time, especially for the end of the year trips.
Amaechi spoke with journalists at Moniya Railway Station, Ibadan, during a routine inspection tour of the new rail line that took off from Ebute Meta Railway Complex, Lagos.
The minister was accompanied by the Ben Akabueze, Director General Budget Office of the Federation; Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Fidet Okhiria; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr Magdalene Ajani, among others.
The minister said he had advised the contractor handling the project, CCECC, to hire more workers and ensure they follow all safety protocols for coronavirus for adequate protection.
It was learnt that not some of the Chinese working on the project that travelled back to China before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had not returned to the country.
It was also learnt that the 10,000 contract workers handling different aspects of the project before the pandemic had been cut down to about 3,000.
Amaechi said, “We’ve told the contractors on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project to engage more workers across all stations for prompt completion.”
He added that a Nigerian team would meet with the CCECC managers on Tuesday to discuss measures to accelerate work on the project.
“On all other projects, including Ibadan-Kano, due to the slow pace of work on the Lagos -Ibadan, we have said that we will not commence work on any other contract until we have a comprehensive programme of work so that we see when you start, when you finish and the facilities that you need,” Amaechi said.
The minister debunked a report that his ministry was seeking over $650 million loan to complete ongoing work on the Lagos-Ibadan and Warri-Itakpe rail lines, noting that the funds sought for the projects had long been approved.
“I read somewhere that we are looking for additional $650 million for the expansion works on the Lagos-Ibadan and Itakpe-Warri corridors. This is not true.

“We said we would be needing $1.6 billion and that was long ago. The money has since been approved. It is not as if we are looking for additional funds for these projects. It is important that I clarify that.”
The minister also visited the signal control building for the new line being constructed in Lagos, apart from railway stations between Lagos and Ibadan to assess the level of work done.

Railway

New Lagos-Ibadan rail link to Apapa port ready by month end – Minister

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The Federal Government has announced that it will actualise the linking of Lagos-Ibadan standard guage rail line to the Apapa port by the end of this month.

Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, disclosed this in Lagos on Monday, noting that a Customs building housing a radio-active scanner had been obstructing the complete extension of the rail track to the port quay.

She spoke while addressing journalists after an inspection of the affected building at the APM Terminals in the Apapa port.

She said, “By the end of this month, we want to ensure that the removal of this Customs facility which is on the rail track is resolved. The goal is to have this track operational by the end of this month.”

Senator Saraki explained that in the interim, a diversionary line is being constructed while experts’ advice was being sought on the demolition of the Customs scanner building.

Senator Saraki said, “We are here to look at the issues affecting activities to connect the rail to the Apapa seaport.

“As you can see, the construction of this standard gauge has been ongoing for more than two years and I came here to inspect the activities.

“We want to ensure that before the end of next month, the activities here have improved.”

She also said, “Although this building looks big, it is actually a minor issue that will be resolved by the time the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) seat together to discuss it.”

When asked why the delay over the removal of the Customs scanner building, Saraki said, “Inside the Customs building are radio-active scanners that can be injurious to human health and well-being. So, it is not a building that can just be demolished like any other property.”

“It is a radioactive facility. It has a scanner and we have to ensure that the demolition is done safely by experts.”

At the Tin-Can Island Port, the minister inspected some failed berths and collapsing quays at the Five Star Logistics Terminal and Tin-Can Island Container Terminal (TICT), and revealed that efforts would be geared to repair them without disturbing port operations.

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Chinese begin training of Nigerians ahead of new Lagos-Ibadan railway handover

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China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC) has commenced the process of handing over the operation of the newly inaugurated Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway to Nigerians.

The CCECC has organised a one-month training for the NRC workers.

About 167 NRC workers and those of the Federal Ministry of Transportation participated in the training.

The 157-kilometre standard gauge commenced full commercial operation in June 2021 after it was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari.  It is currently being operated largely by the Chinese with a few NRC workers understudying them.

The training is part of the sustainability plan after the handover of the operation to the NRC  as contained in the agreement the Federal Government signed with the Chinese firm.

The workers, it was learnt, were trained in various aspects of the railway operations such the sub-grade and structures, permanent way and introduction to various equipment, stations and communication, signaling and power supply system.

The Deputy Managing Director of CCECC, Xia Lijun, stated that the training was part of the processes to be observed preparatory to the final handover of the entire Lagos-Ibadan railway system.

He stated that there was no doubt that the participants have gained wealth of experiences from the training programme.

Lijun emphasised that the experience garnered so far would make the operation of the dedicated railway highly functional and meet up with the purpose for which the project was designed.

He enjoined all the trainees to be highly focused with full confidence in administering the knowledge already gained from the comprehensive training programme in both theory and practical processes.

Managing Director of NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, said the training was the first of its kind in the history of railway modernization which started a long time ago.

He stated that the knowledge garnered would help in improving the infrastructure the government is handing over to the NRC.

Speaking on behalf of the trainees, Mrs. Kemi P. Ogbonna, District Superintendent Western District, said the training had exposed them to the rudiments of running and maintaining a new railway such as the new Lagos Ibadan standard gauge

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Abducted Abuja-Kaduna train passengers not yet released – Relatives

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Relatives of abducted Abuja-Kaduna train passengers have dismissed as false, reports on social media about the release of the passengers.

A statement issued on Thursday in Kaduna by leaders of the “Relatives of AK9” Group, Dr AbdulFatai Jimoh and Dr Ba’aba Muhammad, said, “The news circulating in the social media on the purported release of AK9 Abuja-Kaduna Train abducted passengers is totally false and the general public should please disregard it.”
Scores of passengers were abducted on March 28, when bandits attacked the train close to Kaduna.
Eight of the train passengers were killed during the attack.

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