Early this month, Vice president Yemi Osinbajo, who was then acting president performed the ground breaking of the Lagos – Ibadan rail project that is to run from Apapa port in Lagos to Ibadan. This project is the second segment of the planned six segments Lagos to Kano standard gauge rail track. The first of which is the Abuja – Kaduna 187km rail line that was launched in July 2016. Others are the Kaduna – Kano, Ibadan – Ilorin, Minna – Abuja and Ilorin – Minna.
This rail project line will have about eight stations located at Apapa, Ebube-Metta, intermediate stations at Agege, Kajola, Papalanto, Abeokuta, Omi-Adion, a padding station with technical operation.
From a transport expert’s point of view, the $1.488b rail project is the most important segment of the Lagos – Kano standard gauge line, which has been neglected for too long. This position is affirmed by the fact that unlike the Abuja – Kaduna line that focuses mainly on passengers, this will focus on freight and passenger travel, passing through Apapa, which houses Nigeria’s two busiest seaports (the Lagos Port complex (LPC) popularly called Apapa port and the Tin can Island port complex (TCIPC) both of which are about 6km apart.
This rail project will also facilitate the revamping of the Ibadan Dry inland port. This Inland port will handle freight bound for part of the West and Northern axis of the country. This will in turn reduce the pressure on the Apapa area, which houses these ports as freights bound for the Southeast and South-South will be cleared there.
The project will also ease the movement of passengers along the Lagos – Ibadan expressway that has always needed a form of construction or the other because of the high volume of traffic the road handles. The rail project will also aid the industrial zone between Lagos and Ogun state by easing the transportation of raw materials, as well as, finished goods, a plus for the drive in the usage and consumption of locally made products.
The vice president in the ceremony also informed Nigerians that this rail project would be completed in December 2018, stating that the Federal Government has provided her N72billion counterpart funds for the project, which is about 15% of the project cost. The remaining 85% will be funded by a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China part of the renegotiations that took place during president Buhari’s trip to China last year. The project was awarded to the Chinese firm China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). Like the saying goes, “No free lunch in china”. But many Nigerians would not seem to care about the contractor rather the completion of the project at the promised time is what matters.
There are those, however, who still nurse reservations regarding the sincerity of the Federal Government to complete this project within the stipulated 21 months. Those in this camp hold the Opinion that the first segment of the Lagos-Kano Standard gauge rail line, which is the 187-kilometre Abuja Kaduna segment, took ten years and four civilian presidents to complete. My appeal to these persons is to give ‘Change’ a chance and hope that we will reap what other African nations like Djibouti and Ethiopia are benefiting from a productive relationship with the Chinese.