By Chijioke Okoronkwo
The National Economic Council (NEC) says it has received an update on federal government interventions in rail infrastructure development.
Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi briefed State House correspondents after the virtual NEC meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Umahi said that the progress and achievements in railway infrastructure were presented by the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi.
“The Council was informed of the cessation of railway development in the 1960s until 1986, when the federal government began the construction of a standard gauge of 326 kilometers, or a railway line of 1435 Phase 1 meters from Itakpe to Ajeokuta to Warri.
“In addition, the development of railway infrastructure came to a standstill until the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari rallied and brought the Federal Government of Nigeria’s railway modernization plan to fruition by starting the implementation of 1,367 km of Lagos-Kano railway lines.
“The result of the current federal government intervention includes that they have completed and made operational the 186 km Abuja-Kaduna, a standard gauge railway line, started by President Goodluck Jonathan; it is now fully operational; President Buhari completed it and it is functioning now. ”
According to him, the current administration has also started the 185.5 km Lagos-Ibadan of new double standard gauge railway lines, which are underway.
He said the project started in 2016 and was nearing completion.
“The current administration has also completed and made operational the 302 Itakpe to Ajeokuta Standard Gauge Rail Line and connected the ports of Apapa by rail while part of the port of Warri has been conceded.
“The rail infrastructure program in Nigeria is a 25 year strategic vision; As part of this vision, the federal government, in its desire to relaunch and modernize the rail system in accordance with the 25-year strategic vision, has adopted a systematic dual approach.
“This involves the rehabilitation of existing narrow gauge lines at the same time as the development of standard gauge lines.
“The Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Railways Company are vigorously following this vision in developing their short and medium term plans. ”
He said, however, that the 25-year strategic plan presented challenges.
Umahi listed the challenges like funding, insufficient funding, operational challenge, insufficient locomotives, coaches and wagons leading to congestion.
Other challenges, he said, included machinery and workshop equipment obsolete over the years, access to only two seaports and none at airports, lack of capacity to recover encroached premises and rental debts from government organizations.
“Safety is also part of it, which includes the porosity of rail corridors and level crossings, the vulnerability of exterior signaling and telecommunications installations to vandalism.
“Of course, there are also legal and legislative obstacles.
“The 1955 Railway Act unfortunately does not encourage PPPs. The Council welcomed the presentation and looked forward to continued collaboration with the federal government on this great undertaking, ” he said.
For his part, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara said that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had made a presentation on the national aviation infrastructure development plan.
He said the NEC decided that the minister should make copies of the presentations available to states so that the board has a better understanding. (NOPE)
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