Kasim Sumaina, Sunday Okobi and Oluchi Chibuzor | 19 March 2019
The federal government has directed the company in charge of the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), to immediately return to site to complete the Abeokuta-Ibadan section of the project before May, 2019.
The government, through the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, gave the directive during the monthly inspection tour of the project at Ologueru, Ibadan, Oyo State, recently.
Amaechi, while speaking to journalists shortly after the inspection of the project, said: “We are ordering the company to return to site now that elections were over.
“They said because of the elections, most of them left the country and they are just returning, so they will need increase the speed of their as they have resumed.
“It is company procedure for them to leave if there is any where they are doing jobs and there are elections. So, they will like to go back to their country and come back after elections.”
On the completion of the entire project, Amaechi said: “Don’t forget that these are phased projects and we decided to start from Ebute Metta which is phase one of the project to Ibadan.
“The phase two is a completely new contract which is from Ebute Metta to Apapa sea port. It wasn’t there before; it was just recently awarded by this government. So, let them finish from Ebute Metta to Ibadan then we can continue from Ebute Metta to Apapa.”
Speaking further, the minister said: “The most important update on the project now is that they should go back to site. There are places that you can see they are doing civil works and we are pushing now that they must complete civil works before the rains and they have promised that by the time we come on the 28th of March, they would have gone far with these civil works.
“Some areas they will complete to what they call MC1 level before they lay the tracks.
“They’ve promised that by March 28, they should be able to get to Kilometre 95 in track laying. We are pushing so that by the first to second week in April, they should be very very close to Ibadan with track laying.”
Amaechi revealed that, “equipment has always been an issue, because it is about gangs. Some gangs don’t have enough equipment.
“If you see kilometres 75 to kilometres 120, you will see that there are gaps and these are the gaps we want them to fill so that we can get to Kilometre 95 and they promised that we can get to Kilometres 95 with track laying but they can’t guarantee up to Kilometer 120.
“But what is important is that if they get to Kilometres 120 with the formation, then we can be sure that before the first week in April we should be able to get there with track laying as 120 to Ibadan is barely 36 kilometres,” he said.
Continuing, he noted that, “there were a lot of new things we didn’t foresee but we met them in the course of construction, and we will go to cabinet meeting to seek approval.”
On the suspension of the three-month free train ride to passengers on the completed section of the Lagos-Abeokuta axis, Amaechi apologised to Nigerians, noting that “it was suspended by the Chinese when they left, and the excuse they gave was that they cannot allow it run because of safety
“Since they have not completed the second line which you have seen that they have nearly completed the second line from nearly Iju to Abeokuta and after that I will insist that they resume because we promised Nigerians and I want to apologise to Nigerians that they had to stop when they left the country because of elections. I didn’t envisage and now I think they should go back to site,” he said.
The shifting sands of time as the goalpost shifts yet again.
Now HMT clarifies that it is the Abeokuta – Ibadan section track only that he hopes will complete by May 2019.
Meanwhile, recall that the entire contract was to be completed by Dec 2018, then Feb 2019, and in Feb 2019 md NRC claimed it would now be completed by 29 May 2019. Nothing could be further from the reality. Even Mr P does not believe they can complete before the end of the year.
Now, HMT says the Ebute Metta- Apapa section which has not been touched yet is not part of his expectation for May 2019. This of course is a new twist. It’s not a separate contract afterall.
The section of Iju–Ebute-metta-Apapa is where the major complexities arise due to buried services of gas pipelines, water pipes, power lines and equipment etc and serious ROW encroachments such as the Costain and Jibowu road bridges which must be demolished and reconstructed and 15 road over rail flyovers to be constructed while the congested roads in the heart of Lagos are in use.. While the distance involved in this section is only about 20km, the work involved is so logistically challenging, that it would certainly challenge even the best organized of teams.
This confirms to my mind that this project is unlikely to complete before end 2020.
What is also evident is that there is no credible contract programme as they appear to be just winging it. That may be why their forecast completion dates have no correlation with the actualite. Otherwise, how will a contractor shut down site without notification of the client for an event (elections) that was entirely foreseen?
Also notice the absence of credible stats for assessing progress such as overall % completion. All previous briefings have also omitted this important detail. Why? Could it be because such detail will give the game away on the Estimated Time to Completion?
Costs are also escalating as the budget has already been overshot and they are heading for FEC to ask for more money already.
Meanwhile, no one is even talking about the operating plan yet and what progress has been made in procuring the rolling stock, preparing crews and building capacity. These remain a critical success factor and the main reason the NRC consistently under performs as it lacks the wherewithal to provide effective train services. The earlier, the FG concedes to concession the operation of these new standard gauge lines to the private sector, the safer these multi trillion naira investments will be