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I care less about those praising me as Transport Minister – Amaechi

Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, says he cares less about those praising him as Transport Minister because same praise singers most times turn around to disparage you when you are no longer there. Excerpts: Unfavorable feedback from rail travelers. It depends on what time you are getting the feedback. Don’t forget that before this time, the feedback was ‘oh, it’s punctual, beautiful, the air-conditioners are working, the toilets are working, the service is efficient’. Then in the last one month, when pressure has come in, why won’t you complain if the service provided for 300 passengers going, 300 coming is now overran by over 2,000 passengers a day.

So the service you provided for 300 passengers is now overwhelmed by excess 1700 passengers. To solve that problem is to increase the service. And to increase service is to buy more locomotives, more coaches. That certainly would happen when you continue to have these pressures, but you can’t say when increased service would happen because it wasn’t budget for.

We didn’t at anytime say let’s increase the number of coaches because there will be increase in crime on the Abuja-Kaduna Road. So what you’ve done is that you’ve transferred passengers, including big men who use to drive their cars to Kaduna, to now use train. So that extra 1700 passengers will put pressure on the toilet system, catering, ticketing, and even on the locomotives and coaches. Maybe not on the locomotives because they can take any tonnage of cargo on it, but certainly on the coaches.

And this (insecurity on road) is temporary, and it requires temporary solution. If you then say ‘okay, let’s budget for 50 coaches, and say 10 locomotives’, and you put them there, transporting passengers now, on the day insecurity is resolved, it becomes wasted investment. You know the train operates according to fixed time. So if you want to be in Kaduna by 10am, you won’t want to take the train by 6.30am.

For every transport system you put in place, you must do traffic count. If the traffic count tells you this is the number of persons that can use this system at any point in time, you provide for that number of persons. We did that, we targeted it, and we were correct until that pressure came to bear on it. Once that pressure is resolved, it means you back to the target traffic count. We have a traffic count that says, prepare for SYZ number of coaches in so so number of years. We’ve not gotten to that number of years, and we are now under pressure.

Cost intensiveness of rail construction contracts

What the public should be saying is how to resolve the insecurity and there are so many thing to do to resolve it. You need to do community policing, you need regular policing and you need to fight poverty. Once you do that, the traffic will normalize. I can’t tell you the figures without having papers in my hand, but I know the Lagos-Ibadan will cost $1.6billion. That does not include the extra cost of things we didn’t prepare for, things we didn’t see in the valuation. To construct the Kaduna-Abuja cost us about $1billion. We have awarded a contract of $500,000.00 to buy locomotives; in fact rolling stuff for Lagos-Ibadan. I can’t remember how we spent on rolling stuff for the Abuja-Kano.

All the noise you hear people say we’ve spent $8.something, $7billion, it is not true. These are things we’ve borrowed. I don’t think we’ve spent more than $3billion so far.

Everybody knows rail transport is preferable, but it’s capital intensive. A trillion Naira is just about $2.7billion. That’s just about 200km of railway. So if you plan to do Lagos Ibadan and you are looking at $8.7billion, it will be between 3 and 4 trillion Naira. How much is the budget of the country, to just do between 1300 -1500 km of railway. That’s why I said we need between $35 and 45billion to do Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, Lagos to Calabar, and Abuja to Warri. Once you do these tracks, you’ve covered the country and solved the problem of transportation to a great extent.

What we are implementing now is current government’s 25-year strategic vision. That’s is the design. You can amend, do further studies, but that’s what we are implementing. What you have there is Lagos to Kano, which we are implanting. Part of it Kano to Maradi, in Niger Republic. We’ve expanded Port Harcourt to Maiduguri after a directive of the President that we must ensure presence in nearly all states’ capitals. Lagos to Kano, we have included Ekiti. It wasn’t in the initial 25-year-plan. We’ve now put a spur from Ogbomoso, I believe, to Ekiti.

Lagos to Calabar is from Lagos to Benin, passing through Ore. We’ve also added Akure to the initial plan. It wasn’t there before. Where you have massive inclusion is Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. Ordinarily we would have run it straight on. What we’ve done now is a spur, ether from Port Harcourt to Owerri, or a spur from Aba to Owerri. Owerri wasn’t part of it. Then we have Umuahia, that was part it, but a spur to Awka.

So, there are two design considerations on this. Either from Port Harcourt, passing through Ikwerre axis to Owerri, continue to Nnewi and then to Awka, Enugu, all standard guage. It’s a speed train, now we are doing 120km/h. Fleets are doing 350km/h, if you can pay, in four to five hours, you are in Kano.

Overlapping rail lines across borders

The Niger Republic route is part of the 25-year-design. If there money, that would run from Kano to Dutse, Kazaure to Daura, to Jibiya, to Marabi, a border town, to Niger Republic. Why is that necessary? If you complete Lagos to Kano, and you take that to Marabi, the implication is that, with our neighboring countries we don’t have to use our seaports for that fact you now have a transportation system that eliminates police checkpoints, no customs, immigrations. Once you’ve cleared your goods at the seaports, you are heading straight home.

We are not doing it into their country. You are providing it to a border town so that they can use your rail system; you are doing it so that they can come to export and import through your seaports and rail system. All you are doing is increase the competitiveness of your seaports.

Limit of Public Private partnership on Nigeria rail system

I have said this in the cabinet that ‘I challenge anyone to show me anywhere in the world where anybody has seen a private investor in the railway’. The people referred to as private investors in rail system are people who put money in operations, not in construction of rail tracks because it is highly capital intensive. I told you now what we are doing, and that the cabinet awarded last week a contract for Abuja to Warri. Abuja to Itakpe, Itakpe to Warri, from there to the deep sea port. We are building a new seaport in Warri

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