Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi

Nigeria’s Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi Monday in Abuja raised doubts over the timeframe for the completion of Apapa Port rail project due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that has stalled the project.

The Federal Government had last year projected that the project, which is part of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge project, would be completed by end of May, 2020, which had been delayed by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus across many countries of the world including Nigeria.

The Minister, who was present for the first time at the daily media briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, disclosed that the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge project was almost completed up to the Ebute-Mette end of the project, however regretted that the contractors have not been able to lay the tracks that lead to Apapa Ports.

It was also gathered that a minimum of 1,000 workers are needed to lay the rail tracks and to ensure its timely completion, but for now, only 10 workers are made to report for work on daily basis in compliance with the physical distancing protocol to forestall the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The Minister however assured that the government through the ministry would continue to do its best in terms of ensuring that the project was completed as soon as possible with a view to ensuring hitch-free movement of cargo in and out of the seaports.

The Lagos-Ibadan rail line which covers whole nine yards, with a mega station at Ebute Metta to Apapa both in Lagos with a large chunk of the rail line covering Ibadan, Oyo State, is being handled by Chinese Civil Engineering & Construction Corporation CCECC, the government’s technical and financial partners.

Stakeholders have expressed worries that the delay being experienced in delivering the project and the planned deployment of coaches and wagons on the corridor to ease passenger and cargo movement and reduce the perennial gridlock in Apapa implies that the planned deployment of the coaches and wagons earmarked for the axis would be delayed also.

Available statistics show that a total of 44 units of coaches and locomotives are being acquired by the government out of which 29 are standard and 15 executive respectively; with additional 16 diesels multiple units (DMUs) already shipped coaches and wagons already in country.

Recall that the $1.53 billion rail contract was awarded in 2012 to the CCECC for the construction of the Lagos–Ibadan segment (156 km) of the standard gauge railway to be completed by 2016. The project has however faced delays, which were initially accociated with funding and later other logistics and now the coronavirus.

This is the first segment of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail project, under construction of standard gauge railway across Nigeria which is yet to takeoff due to paucity of funds. The rail runs from the Atlantic Ocean Port of Lagos to Kano, near the Niger border. It will run parallel to the British-built narrow gauge line, which has a lower design capacity, which in addition to being obsolete, has deteriorated so much, having been constructed several decades ago.