The Federal Government has sent over 150 children to Chinese universities to study railway engineering, Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, said at the National Assembly on Monday.
Mr Amaechi appeared before the National Assembly’s joint committee marine transport for the budget defence session of the sector.
He spoke on maintenance and sustainability of trains in Nigeria. He also harped on the need to teach Nigerians how to build and fix a train when it breaks down.
“On maintenance and sustainability, if you check the picture of my trip to China, you will see some black men with the Chinese. I told them they learned from America and you copied the Americans in producing your coaches, because when I went there, they were teaching them leadership and managing resources.
“I told them, let’s not manage, tell us how you built these trains so that when it breaks down, we don’t have to make a telephone call for you to come down and fix it. So we have agreed to design a curriculum and train all these people out there.
“Secondly, we have sent over 150 persons, children, to two universities in China, funded by the Chinese government to go and read railway engineering. We hope that in four years they will graduate. Those who will do masters and PhD will do that. We are establishing a transportation university in Daura. We are making sure that we have manpower to take over from the Chinese. We are trying to localise railway technology,” he said.
The minister said one thing always considered about railway is safety. He said if the number of coaches is increased, casualties will be high in terms of accidents.
“The first thing we address about railway is safety because once it happens, a lot of persons will die. Each coach for now contains 87 persons, if we multiply it by 10 coaches, imagine the amount of persons that will die. No driver will move if there is a safety problem. It is the same thing with our tracks. We watch our tracks.
“Someone told me that he saw on social media that they shot at the train. I didn’t reply because that is not true. There are air force planes following the train as it is going. There is a police vehicle on the side. There are policemen in the vehicle and when anything happens, they report to the minister even when there is a stop.”
The minister also said the ministry ”got below 70 per cent of the capital expenditure for 2019”.
“The total capital appropriation for marine transport sector of the ministry for 2019 is N411.5 million out of which N259.4 million representing 63.03 per cent has been released to date and the entire amount has been utilized as at 16th October, 2019.
“In addition. the sum of N508.8 million was appropriated for overhead expenditure for the entire ministry (which comprised the present ministry of transportation and aviation) out of which N190.8 million (37.50 per cent) was released. The sum of N185.2 million (97.07 per cent) of the released amount was expended as at 9th October, 2019 by both ministries,” he explained.
He also said the ministry is proposing a total capital budget of N748.3 million and overhead of N358.8 million in the 2020 budget.
This, he said, is to “make significant progress and consolidate the gains and achievements recorded in supervisory functions of the ministry in the immediate past years.”
He said the ministry will focus on the sustainability of the gains achieved in the sub-sector, in terms of port infrastructural development, maritime administration, human capacity building, security and safety at the waters and effective technical regulation of the sector.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the committee, Danjuma Goje, said the marine sector plays a pivotal role in the prosperity and development of the nation’s economy.
He assured that the committee will continuously engage the agencies to ”ensure tangible implementation of approved budgets as well as identify their challenges that requires legislative support.”