Sahara Reporters, New York | November 23, 2020

Nigerians had expressed outrage after Amaechi during his ministry’s budget defence said he requested an additional $650m for additional works on the Lagos-Ibadan and the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge.

Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, has said that additional funds are not needed to complete the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line.

Nigerians had expressed outrage after Amaechi during his ministry’s budget defence said he requested an additional  $650m for additional works on the Lagos-Ibadan and the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge.

Backtracking on his initial position, he said there was no need for extra money as the $650m had already been previously approved.

He said, “I was merely reporting to the senators that the entire Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge was at the cost of $1.6bn and that we have had to request for another $650m for additional works at both the Lagos-Ibadan and the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge.

“The approval had since been obtained and the funds released long ago and we have since used it for the same purpose. We do not need any extra funds to complete this project and we are saying to Nigerians that we do not need any fresh money to complete the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge.

“What the CCECC has always been using as an excuse was the COVID-19 but this excuse could not be tenable because they have been back at work now in the last four months and no one has been sick on site. So we are urging them to increase the tempo of work as the government is determined to hand this over to Nigerians in January.

“I have asked that the malfunctioning equipment be pulled out and the CCECC and the NRC engineers are looking at whether it is something that could be repaired or replaced. The only challenge is that until that is done, we may have to scale down our services on that line.”

Comment:

The mismanagement of misinformation!!

Did the media misrepresent his recent representation at NASS that $650m more was required? 

So when was this significant cost overrun approved and who approved it? The same NASS that’s looking askance or bemused and vacant? 

$650m is not chicken change. Its about N3 trillion! That’s about the FG’s capital budget in a year and nearly 30% of the entire annual budget! To approve such requires a supplementary  budget. Did it get one or was any virement done? NASS would have known.

The same Lagos-Ibadan railway project that the FMT denied in a blazing advertorial in July 2019 claiming it had not overrun its budget of  $1.6bn? Evidently, it had overrun and significantly so. The Cable had probably called it right.

The reporting of railway project progress clearly needs to be better managed. The Minister’s briefings are repeatedly neither comprehensive nor cogent. Misleading may now be inserted among the descriptions? We now know for  a fact that Lagos-Ibadan is costing about 40% more with the entire burden apparently on the FG. The question is, why is no one taking the rap for this monumental poor performance and for the  previous misleading of the public ? Because this  is Nigeria?

Someone needs to explain how such a project has overrun and by so much. Many schools could be rehabilitated and run for that sum. Hospitals equipped. Policemen hired. Lecturers have been on strike perennially.   Why? Money, and we have N3 trn to burn just like that? 

As for commissioning in January 2021, shouldn’t we take this date as we did his previous dates – i.e. with a pinch of salt? Mind you he said commissioning not completion. So when will completion be or is this about to become an open sore like many uncompleted projects that dot the landscape? Year in year out, money will be appropriated and yet, no end in sight? 

The scope of work left to be done has not been fully disclosed but is believed to be significant. There may be about 5 years of work ahead and significant disruption to traffic in Lagos if we are to realise the full scope of Lagos-Ibadan for which we have paid the full price and perhaps N2 trn more.

The Lagos-Ibadan alignment is too important for failure. It conveys the economic lifeblood of the nation. It needs to be delivered lock, stock and barrel, with bells and whistles too seeing as we are spending so much for a bog standard railway. China is already receiving  the next generation of high speed trains from Bombardier. Meanwhile, we are talking choo-choo train.

The Lagos-Ibadan railway is a difficult project by any measure and the Minister needs to be recognized for his zeal but he appears to  fall increasingly short in matching his  words with outcomes.

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