14 July 2018

Comment:

Interesting and curious.

It’s remarkable because the Interim phase agreement covers the western line (Lagos-Kano) only, so not sure why the MD is referring to Port Harcourt-Maiduguri (Eastern line)here. He also refers to GE track engineers whereas they are actually from Power China unless he is using the GE name generically for the Suppliers. Indeed the GE component of this interim phase scope is only about 14% in value with Transnet supplying locos and wagons(42%) and Power China for track rehab(44%). More worried that he talks about paying for the wagons as if he has no confidence that the final concession negotiations will succeed. He also talks about knowledge transfer from the Suppliers to the NRC which should actually be the reverse as  during the interim period, it is the Suppliers that need to learn as much as they can about the NRC operating environment. Knowledge transfer to the NRC/local human resources will only really come to play during the main concession period when the Suppliers are fully in charge and are running a functional railway business.

You must also remember that the narrow gauge infrastructure was under rehabilitation by CCECC in 1996, for about $500m. In 2009-2011, new track rehab contracts were awarded for nearly $700m with some $200m expended on locos and new equipment. Yet in 2018, another spate of rehabilitation of the same track is about to commence. Don’t it half sound like a gravy train? In between, there has been no tangible railway operation of note on the narrow gauge network. Meanwhile in each passing year, the NRC expends significant sums in the name of diesel for locos, spares and track maintenance and of course wages and salaries for its staff. All from the federal budget. These are aside from the standard gauge contract for $8.3bn which was awarded in 2006 and the Abuja LRMT contract for $800m in 2007.

Now a few weeks ago, the NRC announced that it was commencing the haulage of petroleum products that week from Lagos to the hinterland. Furthermore and in the wake of a recent petroleum tanker accident in Lagos, it loudly beseeched oil marketers to switch from road to rail. It would however appear that the track is in a state of disrepair and unavailable for any meaningful haulage, moreso as it is known that the corridor in the Lagos axis is currently a major construction site for the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge line. No doubt memories of the Oando experience still lingers with the oil marketers. So in a nutshell, the signals coming out of the NRC are at best mixed and confusing. Not much having changed.

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