The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said the need for new approvals is responsible for the slow pace of work on the new Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway line.
Mr Amaechi said this on Friday evening while briefing journalists after the inspection of the project.
He inspected the project in the company of the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria and Chairman, Board of Directors, NRC, Ibrahim Al-Hassan-Musa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the inspection was coming barely 48 hours after the inauguration of the new Federal Executive Council by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Amaechi commenced the inspection at 8:50 a.m. by visiting Costain area where a bridge is being constructed and later moved to inspect the overpass at Asade level crossing at Agege.
The minister also inspected construction works at the 10 stations along the 156-kilometre rail line corridor which included Apapa, Kajola, Papalanto, Abeokuta and Omi Adio, among others.
Mr Amaechi, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the level of work done in most of the sites visited and advised the contractor, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), to speed up work on the project before his next visit on September 23.
The minister said that the slow down of work was too visible at the Lagos end of the project, saying it was due to lack of approval of extra works that were needed to be done.
“They (contractors) cannot commence work until they get those approvals. We will go to the cabinet quickly and get those approvals so that they can continue with their construction,” he said.
He also cited delays in payment as another reason for the slow down, saying that the contractors were waiting for a minister to approve their payments.
“Our appeal is that they should please hurry up and get into the seaports so that we can evacuate the goods at the seaports, we should at least be able to reduce what people refer to as Apapa gridlock.”
The minister denied giving December as the deadline to deliver the project, saying that he only wished that the project would be completed by December this year.
“If the contractors have been given money earlier and secure those approvals, the pace of work would have increased and my wish would have been a reality.
“What we are saying is that they (contractors) need approvals from the cabinet and luckily that cabinet is in place now for the President to approve.
“We will request for those approvals for the extra work they need to put in place. Once we get those approvals, the speed will increase,” he added.
The minister assured Nigerians that very soon, train services would begin to run from Lagos to Ibadan, stressing that the project was nearing completion.
“We also agreed with them (contractors) to have between September and October, two major groundbreaking ceremonies, one is the University at Daura, the University of Transportation which we think it is going to be in September and then a groundbreaking ceremony at Kajola.
“We are insisting that they (contractors) cannot continue to manufacture coaches, locomotive and wagons in China and be giving to us.
“So, as part of one of the benefits we get out of the contract we have given them, they will build a factory in Kajola by October where they will begin to manufacture wagons for now.
“From then, they will progress from wagons to locomotive and coaches and Nigerians will understudy them.”
On the loan for the Ibadan-Kano rail project, Mr Amaechi said that the Federal Government was ready and only waiting for the Chinese to approve the loan.
“If the loan is approved, we will commence construction. Certainly, it is desirable, the president is eager for the project. We need to construct that of Ibadan to Kano,” he said.
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