Nigerians may wonder what is next after the construction and inauguration of the world class Lagos-Ibadan Standard Guage rail line by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The project which was constructed on paper, has become a reality on ground for the whole world to behold from June 10, 2021.
The project was borne out of the driving force, determination, commitment of the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who saw the need for an alternative mode of transportation in the country.
He saw the need for a safer, cheaper rail for freight purposes, and thus reducing the use of trucks on the road with its attendance reduction of lifespan of the roads.
This project also came to limelight because of the significant commitment and dedication by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
The Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge rail line was completed after 41 site inspections with minimum of 520 hours of tour for 4 years, including series of technical meetings.
It would be recalled that the 157km Lagos-Ibadan rail project was awarded in 2017 to the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC ) at the sum of 1.6billion dollars with a three years completion agreement; it is the first phase of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge project.
The project has a massive civil work composition comprising 81 extra-large, medium and small size bridges; 207 culverts and 708 32-meter beams.
The terms of completion couldn’t be met due to numerous challenges at the Lagos axis ranging from bridges located on the right of way, underground pipes which needed to be removed and rechanneled.
As at May 8, two bridges were marked for demolition; the Jibowu and Costain bridges which was rebuilt immediately and the Army Barracks on the track route was also relocated
Other challenges were within the cities of Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan where compensation were paid to remove water pipes, gas pipes, houses and electric cables.
With the help of Lagos State Water Corporation, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, among others those challenges were resolved before the laying of tracks was completed in 2018.
As at May 8, 2018, 60 per cent of the work was done with workers laying about 1.2 killometers tracks per day so as to meet up with the 3 years targets.
The line was extended to link Apapa port from the Mobolaji Johnson Station, Ebute-Metta Station, and extends southward to Apapa port, with a total length of 6.5km which was completed on January 25, 2020 to improve freight businesses on the route.
The project pace slowed down in 2020 due to the rapid spread of Covid-19. In spite of that, the minister ensured that workers remained on site to continue the project. Then in January 2021 over 60 construction staff were infected with the virus which stalled the initial date of inauguration.
“The plan was to open the rail project in the first week of January, unfortunately the contractor had to stop work due to upsurge in the number of workers who had been infected with the virus. The project will be opened when the infection rate has greatly reduced.
“As far as we are concerned, we need to learn how to live with COVID. I really congratulate those that achieved that feat, we were to inaugurate first week in January. We had to stop those doing minor completion work because of the rise in COVID-19 transmission. But you can see the kind of sacrifice everybody is making to get the rail to function,” Amaechi said.
In the same Jan. 2021, the fare for Lagos-Ibadan train services was announced as N3,000 per economy seat, N5,000 for business class and N6,000 for first class while the route was inaugurated in June.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the inauguration, said that rail transportation is a potent driver of the economy and has led his administration to accord it the priority it deserves.
“The commencement of construction activities on the Kano – Kaduna Segment of the Lagos – Kano Railway Modernization project at the proposed site of the Kano Railway Station, Kano which is also adjacent to the Dala Inland Dry Port.
“The take-off of construction activities on this segment of the Lagos – Kano vividly represents the commitment of this administration in the revival of Nigerian Railway system, to reduce the deficiency in our transportation infrastructure and drive effective and more efficient transportation of passengers and freight within the country.
“The ground breaking ceremony for Kano – Kaduna segment of the Lagos – Kano railway modernisation project signifies an important milestone of the construction of the third segment, having completed and commenced commercial operation on the first segment Abuja – Kaduna and recently the second segment Lagos – Ibadan.
“This project is crucial to the establishment of a supply chain in railway transport within its corridor, Kano – Kaduna – Abuja, as it links the major commercial cities of Kano and Kaduna to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“Upon completion, Kaduna – Kano railway project is to link the Lagos – Ibadan Railway project via Abuja, Minna, Ilorin, Oshogbo, Ibadan to Lagos on one end, and Maradi in Niger Republic on the other.”
Also speaking on the next phase, Amaechi said that Ibadan-Kano which is the remaining segment would transverse Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Niger, Abuja, Kaduna and Kano and has been divided into three segments: Kaduna-Kano, Ibadan-Minna and Minna-Abuja.
He said the project would allow the citizenry to transverse with ease, between Abuja and Kano via Kaduna.
He added that it would eventually link Kano-Maradi as well as link the seaports in Lagos to Maradi, providing access to the landlocked Niger Republic.
The next phase of the project is the Kano-Kaduna rail is 1.2billion dollars, which Amaechi said would be funded from the budget.
He pointed out that it would improve the standard of living, employment and trade, stating that in the long run it would decongest Lagos ports and increase the viability of inland ports of Ibadan, Kaduna and Kano.
” Succinctly speaking, having delivered Abuja – Kaduna and Lagos – Ibadan Railway Project the remaining stretch of Ibadan – Kano which traverses Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Niger, Abuja, Kaduna and Kano has been, segmented as follows:
“Kaduna – Kano segment, Ibadan – Minna Segment, Minna – Abuja Segment
” The scope of the railway project involves a 203km double track standard gauge railway from Kano to Kaduna.
“The railway along this route traverses the major cities of Kaduna, Zaria and Kano with three railway stations both for passenger and freight services at Rigachukun, Zaria and Kano with varying capacities and categories.
“This project will link the Federal Capital, Abuja with the Commercial city of Kano and also link the ongoing Kano – Maradi project. The outstanding addendum, Ibadan – Abuja, will link the Sea Ports in Lagos to Maradi, Niger Republic.
“This I believe will greatly boost trade between the two countries and foster economic development. This railway line, will present an opportunity for Nigerians to traverse between Abuja and Kano via Kaduna with relative ease.
“The project will no doubt improve the standard of living of citizens within its corridor, create employment and promote trade.
“In the long term the railway will help decongest the Lagos Port Complex and increase its efficiency as well as further increase the viability of the Inland Dry Ports located in Ibadan, Kaduna and Kano.