In a bid to complete the construction/rehabilitation works of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line on scheduled, the Federal Government has directed the Contractors handling the construction/rehabilitation works on the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line to complete their works by June 2018 and also ensure commencement of commercial operations immediately.
The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Abraka’s Delta State location of the rail line at the end of an inspection tour embarked upon to ascertain the level of work done by the Contractors handling various works on the Rail line on Monday 7th August, 2017.
The tour kick-started from the junction of the East-West Corridor of the Rail line which connects Ajaokuta-Warri and from Benin and Onitsha in Owa Oyibu Community, Agbor, Delta State.
Amaechi said “we have a directive from the Federal Government that we must complete the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line and it was put in this year budget”.
The Minister noted that as at December 2016, Julius Berger and other Contractors handling the rehabilitation works on the Rail line were mobilized to site to commence work stating that the contract had two phases in which the first phase was awarded in 1987. “if this contract was completed between the time it was awarded Nigeria would have been the first Country in Africa to have a Standard Gauge”. He argued that “this contract depends on who you are talking to, some would say 30 years while others would say 34 years but whatever year it is, we need to get this place functioning and the directive of the Federal Government is that we should start and our target is that by June 2018, commercial activities would resume”.
According to the Minister, the total cost of the project may be difficult to ascertain due to the fact that the Federal Government is yet to award the Itakpe-Ajaokuta end of the rail line which is extremely bad as a result of the activities of Vandals on the rail facilities. He further explained that if the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approves the proposal, the project would be awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to rehabilitate the Rail line and build Stations and ensure that the project is completed before June 2018. “Julius Berger was handling the project before but they said they cannot continue because they had been demobilised and taken all their equipment back to Germany and they can’t start bringing their equipment back again because it would cost us more than to take a Contractor who is in Nigeria and has all the equipment and that can fix it because Standard Gauge is the same everywhere and for that reason Julius Berger opted out. So we have contacted CCEC and it is going through Due Process and waiting for approval by the Cabinet”, he stated.
He said that the Rail line which is otherwise known as the Central Line and being the Economic Belt of the Country will traverse Kogi State, part of Edo State and Delta State and will be extended from Itakpe to Abuja depending on availability of funds in order to do freight and passenger services when finally completed.
Meanwhile, the Minister noted that Julius Berger Nig Ltd would complete other civil projects it has started including the perimeter fencing of the project’s area to prevent thieves and those who would want to cause damage by vandalising the Rail line facilities.
He added that 14 bridges out of 99 expected to be constructed across the Standard Gauge Rail line have since been completed and this would reduce or avoid incidences of the Railway which will be running at a speed of 120 to 150 km/per hour to have contact with human beings who would want to cross the Rail track.
However, apparently not satisfied with the level of Infrastructural maintenance work at the Railway Staff Quarters Estate located at Owa Oyibu Community, Agbor, Delta State by the Railway Property Management Corporation Limited (A Subsidiary of the Nigeria Railway Corporation) coupled with the overgrown weeds which covered virtually the entire estate yard, the Minister ordered the Company’s management to henceforth hands-off the management of the Estate and allow Julius Berger to manage the Estate for now.
The Estate which consists of 432 blocks of different types of Bungalows ranging from 1-Bedroom to 4-Bedroom flats in each camp has Water: Borehole and Treatment Plant with 450, 000 litres over head tower water tank, Police Station, Power Station, Hospital, Schools amongst other modern infrastructure facilities in the Estate were poorly managed by the Company.