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Fed Govt awaits Russian firm’s nod on Lagos-Calabar rail line

From Faith Yahaya, Abuja

The Federal Government is awaiting a feedback from a Russian firm for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar rail line, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi said at the weekend.

An agreement on the construction of the Lagos-Calabar rail line was reached between the Federal and Russian government when President Muhammadu Buhari visited Russia in October last year.

The Federal Government approached the Russian firm to reduce the bill for the contract as a Chinese company had quoted $11.1 billion for the rail project.

Amaechi told reporters in Abuja at the weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the firm to partner with Nigeria.

The minister also expressed optimism that the bill of quantity that the Russian firm would present would be cheaper than what the Chinese are proposing.

Giving an update on the agreement reached between both countries, Amaechi said: “The company that is supposed to do the construction of Lagos-Calabar has not come forward. They have written, asking for some details and the ministry has supplied those details, but after that, they have done nothing.

He added: “I have directed the ministry’s director of railway to make further contact with them and ask them what is holding them because a Russian company came to the ministry and said they had the money to do the project, but I would prefer the one that both our president and the president of Russia agreed on, instead of talking to the new guys. But the new guys said they have their money.

Read Also: Osun: Lagos-Ibadan rail line repair stalls free train ride

“This will mean that we did not listen to the president of Russia who already directed the Russian railway to partner with us and construct the railway from Lagos-Calabar.

“We wrote as a follow-up and they asked that we should supply some details, which we have already forwarded to them but they have not replied and it is disturbing me because we don’t have enough time. There is no third term and the first year of the second term is counting. It means that we need them to quicken the pace of bureaucracy.”

On the likely cost of the project, the minister said: “We cannot determine now because they will have to obtain the bill of quantities and give us their price. It may be cheaper than what the Chinese are offering us. The Chinese bill is $11.1 billion. It came down from $11.9 to $11.1.”

The minister also hinted that the Ibadan-Kano rail will be ready before the expiration of President Buhari’s second term tenure in 2023.

Highlighting reasons for the delay in the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan line, Amaechi said: “It is not the fault of the contractors; it is the fault of the urban nature of Lagos. We have pipes. For instance, for the road to the seaport, we had to bring a company from Italy to identify the pipes, know those who owned them because the companies did not know their pipes.

“The next thing is, if we try to dig out the pipes, the power supply will stop in Lagos and there will be no fuel literally for the entire country, apart from those who go from Port Harcourt. So, we brought another company that was not part of the contract.

“We brought another company that came to find the solution on how to build on those pipes without causing damage because one of the problems with those pipes is that, once it is not properly done, the whole of Lagos will be gone. We have to put enough engineering to protect those pipes and oil that they carry so that we don’t have an explosion and all that took time.”

On the Ibadan-Kano line, the minister: “Once you leave Ibadan, the only place we will have a problem may probably be Kano, but from what we did, all our construction is outside Kano.

“In Lagos, all the lands are occupied. So, there was no way we would have done that. I don’t see us meeting those problems in other areas and that is why we are compelling them to promise that they will complete it in three years. The contract is six years, but we are saying the president must step out of the villa by commissioning the Ibadan to Kano.”

On the condition of the coaches and locomotives that were procured from China to ease passenger traffic along Abuja-Kaduna line, the minister said: “The coaches have arrived. The problem they are having is transportation because they have to transport them to Kaduna. I think before the end of February or the first week in March, they will get to Kaduna. We are expecting 10 for Lagos-Ibadan and 10 for Abuja-Kaduna.”

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