DISPLACEMENT GOAL STATION ON THE LAGOS-CALABAR RAILWAY
Tony Iyare writes Lagos-Calabar rail likely to be scrapped, yet again
Sometimes one gets lost over the growing double talk and different tunes on the proposed 1,400 kilometer Lagos-Calabar railway line or what has become the shifting goal post of such a vital project.
At the University of Calabar’s 34th convening conference in March 2021, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi revealed that the federal government will sign a loan agreement for the start of the project and before the end of the l year, entrepreneurs would come to the site.
Mr Amaechi also confidently told the nation in July this year that a London bank had agreed to finance the project. According to a report by thenewsguru.com, an online publication, Amaechi said that âLondon-based Standard Chartered Bank is offering to finance the Lagos-Calabar coastal railway with $ 11 billion of the $ 14.4 billion. dollars needed to build the project.
âThe railway line will pass through Calabar, Uyo, Aba, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Ughelli, Warri, Sapele, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Ore, Ijebu Ode, Sagamu and Lagos! Â», Declared the Minister.
But between the recent interview he gave to THISDAY and the defense of the Ministry of Transport’s budget in the National Assembly, we are now told that the government is still looking for money to finance the Lagos-Calabar railway or what is otherwise known as the West-East Coast Railway. line, a new project that will link the western and eastern parts of the country.
Listen to Amaechi in THISDAY interview posted on November 1:
âI’m looking for money to do Lagos-Calabar, which covers my region, South-South; it’s not there, $ 11.1 billion. We have seen movements of cash; they told us they would give us $ 300 million to start while we were looking for $ 1.65 billion. Suppose we finished the $ 300 million and they say they have no money, what will you do? But so far they haven’t given us any money, that’s why I said I saw, because once you put the pen on paper, they’ll raise the first $ 300 million for us to start construction.
Perhaps one of the most important projects to be undertaken since the country’s independence, the Lagos-Calabar railway line involves the construction of a total of 1,402 kilometers of railway line in addition to railway platforms, 22 stations including ancillary facilities, administrative space, and level crossings. Other work includes the installation of security systems, electrical systems, lighting and signaling systems, as well as the laying of tracks and power lines.
The first phase will take place between Calabar and Port Harcourt, while the second phase will take place between Port Harcourt and Lagos via Onitsha.
Considering the nature of this road as one of the busiest in the country, it is possible that it even exceeds the 11 million tonnes of goods envisaged to be transported by the Lagos-Kano railway line. It will not only provide an alternative outlet for the massive movement of passengers and goods, but will reduce the weight and carnage caused by heavy trucks on highways such as Lagos-Ibadan, Benin-Shagamu, Benin-Onitsha, Benin-Warri, East-West and many others. This will surely prolong the life of these vital roads. It should also engender a massive industrialization of the towns crossed by the railway and generate thousands of jobs.
Since it will connect the Obudu Cattle Ranch, it offers the opportunity to revive our tourism industry as it could be extended in the future to connect both the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba state and the reserve. of Yankari Games in Bauchi State. So it’s really not a project that should get bogged down in violin sticks.
At the beginning of August 2021, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the draft award of the contract for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar railway. Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, who briefed the media, said: âAnd then another memo that was approved today was the ratification of the president’s approval for the award of a contract for the Lagos-Calabar coastal gauge “.
He revealed that the project was an old project that was inherited by the current administration. Mohammed said under the old administration approval was given but nothing was done. âToday the council gave its approval to start the Lagos-Calabar coastal railway. This particular road is very important because after the Lagos-Kano road, this Lagos-Calabar coastal road will in fact connect all the coastal towns of the country.
âIn fact, the route of the proposed route is as follows; it will go from Lagos to Sagamu, Sagamu to Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Ode to Ore, Ore to Benin City, Benin-City to Sapele, Sapele to Warri, Warri to Yenagoa, Yenagoa to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt to Aba, Aba to Uyo, Uyo to Calabar, Calabar to Akamkpa to Ikom, Obudu Ranch with branches from Benin-City to Agbor, Ogwashi-ukwu, Asaba, Onitsha and Onitsha Bridge then Port Harcourt to Onne Deep Sea Port.
âThis particular route is very important, especially for our coastal economy; the cost of the project is $ 11.17 billion, ” he said. According to him, the project should be completed in six years.
I really don’t want to share the cynicism of those who say the project went into voicemail. In fact, one of my most respected friends said, “Don’t worry about Amaechi, this government will not touch this project.” Skeptics may indeed be right because time is running out for the expected revolutionary event.
If nothing happens this year, it is doubtful that the project will be hit even with a long spoon in 2022 when dramatis personae in government will be greatly distracted by the policy of 2023. Buhari government’s hesitant stance on this project arouses also doubts as to whether he is really determined to make it through. You can almost glean his sleek antics in what has become the cocktail of shifting goalposts on the matter.
First, we were told that an American firm was interested in financing the project. After President Buhari returned from his trip to Russia, the presidency told the nation that Russia had decided to undertake the project. Development, we have been informed, was one of the agreements reached at a meeting between President Buhari and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Finally, it was the tale of the London bank of Amaechi in the moonlight. From the history of the Bank of London, we are now told that the government is still seeking funds for the Lagos-Calabar railway. At every turn, the story of the project keeps changing.
However, the Buhari administration is perhaps not alone in this shady approach to the project. In July 2014, under the Jonathan administration, the Lagos-Calabar railway line project received the necessary approvals from the Federal Executive Council (FEC). In November of the same year, the Federal Ministry of Transport signed an agreement for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar railway line with China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd. (CRCC). In February 2016, the Export-Import Bank (Exim) of China, one of the three institutional banks in China licensed to implement state policies in industry, foreign trade, economy and foreign aid to other developing countries, and provide financial support policies to promote the export of Chinese products and services, agreed to finance part of the project. Unfortunately, in September 2017, the CRCC expressed its reluctance to fund the project.
Similar to this is the Abuja-Itakpe railway line whose contract worth 3.9 billion naira was reportedly awarded to CRCC on PPP in October 2019. Amaechi told us in November 2020 that work on the project would begin in October 2019. 2021. But Amaechi now sings another tune.
“The centerline is even the worst, the Chinese company said they want to do PPP, we signed and got the contract to be signed, now they said no, we should convert it to a contract. I said no “I won’t. Instead of converting it to a contract, I will cancel it. We will advertise it and I won’t let you bid.”
âYou misled us. When you ask for P3s, everyone I have met in the world has told me that there has been nowhere since the inception of the world that they have seen P3s in railways. And they said there can always be a first time. Now they have gone for the money and cannot find the money. They say we should move on to a contract, but I won’t and I will go back to the cabinet to ask for the cancellation, âhe said TODAY.