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FG: The race to link Lagos-Ibadan rail to Apapa ports

The Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line in the last one year of its commissioning by President Muhammadu Buhari has conveyed no fewer than 140,000 passengers,…

The Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line in the last one year of its commissioning by President Muhammadu Buhari has conveyed no fewer than 140,000 passengers, according to a report from the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC), the contractor handling the project.

At an average of N2,500 per passenger, that is just N350m (about $833,000 at 420/$), which might not even be enough to cover the cost of operation.

The CCECC Project Manager, Mr. Xia Lijun, at a recent meeting with lawmakers said, “Yes passenger services have commenced with over 140,000 conveyed in the last one year. Yes the passenger service is important but to make profit, you need freight.”

Daily Trust reports that one year after the commissioning, freight services on the routes have failed to commence because track laying inside the Apapa port terminals have stalled over an impediment.

Despite several meetings and visits by the former Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to the port, the issue has remained unresolved.

However, it appears the federal government is now determined to address the impediment which is the customs building inside the APM Terminal which has stalled the linkage of the line to the port quay.

This is why the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Rukayyat Saraki, on Monday paid an inspection visit to the port, alongside officials of CCECC, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Managing Director, Engr. Fidet Okhiria and other officials of the ministry to find a lasting solution to the issue.

Daily Trust reports that Saraki, who has been part of the project since her appointment as the minister, has expressed the determination of the federal government to commence freight services from Apapa Port. This is why she took time to take a tour of the port, walking round all the various terminals in Apapa and Tin-Can in a bid to resolve the lingering challenge mitigating against the commencement of freight service on the Lagos-Ibadan railway.

It was learnt that since she took over after the resignation of the former minister, she has taken full control of the activities in the ministry in order to leave no stone unturned in the determination of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to deliver an enduring transportation sector for Nigeria in which railway is an integral part.

The Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line was originally designed from Ibadan to Ebute-Metta, Lagos but it was extended to Apapa ports to decongest the port community on one hand and on another to get value for the huge investments on the project.

Speaking with newsmen, she 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. 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.

“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) sit together to discuss it.

“It has been agreed that the building is going to be demolished, but the fact is that it is a radioactive facility. It is a scanner, and we have to ensure that the demolition is done safely.”

Analysts, however, said the current determination of the ministry under Saraki is what is required to actualise the goal of fast-tracking freight services on this rail as the line would remain underutilised without linking it to the ports. 

 

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