Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi has expressed his dissatisfaction with the pace of work on the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.
It was the first time the minister would be hard since he began his monthly supervision of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) contractor handling the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge line.
He said by now, he expected that the contractor would have commenced track laying, but has been assured by the engineers that rails could be laid in a month.
The minister also affirmed that the Jibowu and Costain bridges in Lagos State would be demolished, adding that he had a tour of the impediments with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Monday, where decisions were reached to pull the two bridges down.
He asserted that the December 2018 date for the $1.5 billion rail project remains sacrosanct.
The minister said: “I am telling them that I am not satisfied with the pace at which they are going.
“I am a layman, the Chairman and the MD are engineers. But as a layman, I think by now they should have started laying tracks in some areas and that I have not seen even though the MD said in one months the tracks can be laid.
“I want to see that we are ready to lay the tracks.”
The minister added that President Muhammadu Buhari would commission two locomotives and 10 coaches before Christmas.
On some of the challenges affecting the completion of the project, the minister said: “There is no way you can do construction without challenges in different forms and kinds and you have to address them.
“The challenges are not even here in Ogun, they are worse in Lagos. We are dealing with water, drainage, gas, power and the military. The only thing we are dealing with here is just gas and a few power transmission lines and we can manage it.”
On the demolition of Jibowu and Costain bridges, he said: “I was on a tour with Governor of Lagos Akinwunmi Ambode and we have agreed that the two bridges will come down.
He, however, expressed optimism that the project would be delivered by December next year.
Amaechi said: “Be rest assured that we are chasing the Chinese to finish in December 2018. Don’t forget the contract is three years and that is their argument but our own argument is that we need it before 2019 January.
On the commissioning of more coaches and locomotives, Amaechi said: “Two locomotives and ten coaches came into the country and the President will be commissioning it this December.
“We want to make sure that those travelling from Abuja to Kaduna are able to use the new coaches.”
Amaechi said track laying on the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge line will begin in April 2018.
Speaking after the project’s steering committee meeting, which included management of the ministry, governments of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo, with the contractor, Amaechi said the delays was as a result of the challenges the contractor met on site.
By the earlier schedule, CCECC ought to begin track laying in December.
He said: “I have been assured that once the track laying starts, it would not stop until December, to enable Mr. President inaugurate it by January 2019.”
He restated commitment to the December 2018 deadline, saying the pace of work is encouraging.