President Muhammadu Buhari

The Federal Government has said it is targeting the completion of the extension of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail Line to connect Apapa and Tin Can Island Port Complexes for December 2018, barring any last minute change in the scheme of things.

This is part of the government’s long term solutions to the perennial gridlocks in Apapa, Lagos, which houses the nation’s two biggest cargo seaports, the Lagos and Tin Can Island Ports Complexes, both of which also account for over 70 per cent of the country’s imports and exports.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who made this disclosure while presenting the 2018 budget proposals to a joint session of the National Assembly, said that in addition to some road projects embarked upon under Public -Private Partnership PPP, arrangement, the government has also commenced the extension of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail Line to connect Apapa and Tin Can Port Complexes.

He said that the project, which is expected to be completed by December 2018, will significantly ease the congestion at the ports and enhance both export and import operations.

It was gathered that the Federal Ministry of Transport is already working with the private sector, which facilitates the repair of the Apapa Port narrow gauge Line which is currently being used to evacuate goods from the port, thereby easing congestion.

“The situation at the Apapa Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port is a top priority for this administration. The delays due to congestion and their adverse impact on business operations and costs is a key concern to our government. As I mentioned earlier, we are partnering with the private sector to fix the road. We shall do the right thing, we will not cut corners”.

“As we all know, sometimes doing the right thing takes time and requires sacrifices. I am therefore appealing to all stakeholders to work with us in ensuring we deliver a solution that we will all be proud of”, the President said.

While commenting on other rail projects across the country, he also disclosed that the Nigeria Railway Corporation NRC, recently took delivery of two additional locomotives and 10 standard gauge coaches for the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, which will be commissioned before the end of next month.

These, according to him, will be deployed for the new non-stop express service between the two cities that will only take one hour and fifteen minutes, which will further complement the existing service currently in place.

It was also gathered that the government has also kick-started the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line project, which has been on for over 17 years but abandoned at a certain point.

He also said: “We had to take some drastic measures but I am pleased to announce that work is ongoing and we expect to commission this service by September 2018. This service will start with seven standard gauge coaches.

“Certainly, the infrastructure requirement to reposition Nigeria for the future is huge and our resources are limited. Government, therefore, will pursue private partnerships to maximise available capital and developmental impact. In the next fiscal year, we will also establish seven tertiary health institutions across the country through partnership with our Sovereign Wealth Fund and other private sector investors”.

Recall that the port users have been undergoing through serious difficulties in accessing the seaports in Apapa due to the perennial gridlock occasioned by the poor state of the port access roads as well as total absence of truck terminals in and around the ports.

This development has left the trucks and tankers that lift containers and refined petroleum products to park on the various roads leading to the two biggest seaports in the country with the attendant gridlocks.