Ghana Minister for Transport and Railway Development, Hon. Joe Ghartey and Members of his Country Parliament paid a visit to Nigeria to share experience in the rail sector.
The Ghanaian delegation joined the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Nigerian Senate Committee Members on Land Transport on the inspection tour of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway Project to ascertain the level of progress of work.
The Hon. Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi explained that his Ghanaian counterpart, Hon. Joe Ghartey and members of Ghana Parliament were in the Country to see what the Nigerian Government is doing to reposition the Rail Sector and how they could facilitate and replicate same in their Country as Ghana Government is proposing a 100 kilometre rail project due to commence in a few months from now.
“They are here because in two to three months they are starting a 100 kilometre railway project in their Country. Here in Lagos-Ibadan, it is a 156 kilometre Railway Project So; they want to see what we are doing, how we are supervising the contractors and the quality of work we are doing because it is the same contractor that is handling their project”.
Amaechi revealed this on Friday immediately after the inspection tour of the project at Ibadan axis, the Oyo State Capital.
He assured that the project would continue simultaneously with the construction of stations and communications systems along the corridor and would not in any way be abandoned as it would be given all the attention required until it is completed. He stressed that there is nothing that would make the government to abandon the project. Hear him “why are you bothering about abandoning when you know that the funding comes from China EXIM Bank and we (Nigeria) have finished paying our own money? So, why will it be abandoned? he queried.
“First of all, we won the elections and I thought we should see it from that angle. Having won the elections, it means that the same government will work hard to finish the project. Even if you change the Minister, the project will continue”.
Hon. Ghartey who was overwhelmed by the massive construction work going on at the Lagos-Ibadan Railway Project, commended the Hon. Minister for the success achieved so far on the rail project.
Ghartey informed that he emulated the passion and high Spirit demonstrated by Amaechi in handling the affairs of this massive construction work and would exhibit same in the proposed construction of a 100 kilometre rail project in Ghana expected to commence soon.
He said, “The enthusiasm I see in Nigeria Transportation Minister is infectious. Amaechi has provided the leadership which has pushed the contractors working”.
“For me, the biggest takeaway, I will work hard myself and I am very impressed by what he has done. But I told him, I will work harder and I have told him, I will beat his record because he has managed to achieve in record time and I’ll invite him to Ghana and all of you too”.
However, Rotimi Amaechi has identified inadequate capital as a major challenge delaying linking major cities in the Country with rail connectivity. He noted that funding was a huge set back to some of the projects already awarded by the Federal Government that are yet to commence, stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that all State capitals must be connected with rail.
The Minister pleaded with Nigerians to be patient with the present Aministration as the Government is determined to achieve the desired results in the rail sector.
” I am emotionally attached to the Lagos-Calabar rail project because I am from the South-South, and it is unfortunate that we have not gotten money to do that project. The directive of the President is that we should do everything possible to get the interconnectivity of the entire country by rail.”.
“And to do that Nigerians need to be patient with us because we need about thirty six or forty billion Dollars to get that interconnectivity. It is unfortunate that we had the money in the past but never used it to construct the rail. Those who are criticizing President Muhammadu Buhari today didn’t remember that there was a point in time when we had money to do the interconnectivity but they squandered the money by way of corruption”.
“The challenges we face today in the rail sector are huge and we are trying to meet up with these challenges. Nigerians must realise that these challenges can only be resolved by availability of funds and those funds which are essential elements in the implementation of these projects are not readily available ” he explained.
On his part, Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa who led other members of the Committee said, “The synergy between the Senate Committee on Land Transport and the Ministry of Transportation is such that will benefit the average Nigerians and we have seen that in the progress of work that has been made since the last time we came here in February”.
“We came through Agbado to Abeokuta which was about 60 kilometres last February. This time around we were able to take a train ride through the track to about 90 kilometre, which is a difference of about 30 kilometres within eight weeks, that is the effect of oversight on this inspection, and you could see added value being exhibited in terms of properties that are springing up here and there along the Rail corridor” he said.
“And when you look at the indirect benefits by way of commerce and trade, it is endless. This is a project that cannot fail. The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi has done very well in driving this project”. He maintained.