This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
The Federal Government recently reassured Nigerians that 156.65 kilometres, Lagos - Ibadan speed rail project will be completed by December 2018. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, on 3rd May 2018 made this clear during a meeting with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, contractors from CCECC (China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation) and other stakeholders.
“On today’s meeting, what we have achieved is that the December date for the Lagos - Ibadan standard gauge is non - negotiable. I am happy to say that both contractors and consultants have promised their commitments to meet the deadline. The challenges raised are surmountable and these are what we reviewed in the meeting” - Lai Mohammed.
A year ago
Yemi Osinbajo (then Acting President), on March 7, 2017, inaugurated the construction of Segment II of the Lagos - Ibadan Rail Project at the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) compound in Lagos state. This was in line with the Ministry of Transportation’s train route project to connect state capitals.
The project was awarded to CCECC at the cost of N458 billion. The idea was for the FG to deliver a fast and efficient rail service system between Lagos state and Ibadan (capital of Oyo state) by December the following year (2018).
What does the history book say?
The plan to construct the railway is not a new one, it was initiated first under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2006, he awarded the project to CCECC at $8.3 billion dollars but was unable to execute it due to lack of funds and the expiration of his second term in office.
In 2012, Goodluck Jonathan re-awarded the same project to the same contractor, with a plan to execute it in six phases. The first phase, which was the Abuja - Kaduna railway, although started by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan was completed by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Segment II, which connects Lagos to Ibadan is now under construction. Other segments, which will be constructed much later are Ibadan - Ilorin, Ilorin - Minna, Minna - Abuja and Kaduna - Kano.
Why are railways important?
Besides moving goods and people faster, expanding Nigeria’s rail service is useful because of its broad economic benefits. A dependable rail service could encourage less road use, which would significantly reduce pollution levels, and has the potential to transform the culture of entire cities.
One of the most attractive features of rail is its ability to move a large number of people at once, which is very instrumental in driving productivity. In fact, part of the aim of nationwide rail expansion is to provide additional jobs for the populace - it is projected to create up to 250,000 direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.
“One major aspect of this project is the generation of employment. At least 250,000 jobs will be created through this project. Many people will be employed (directly) for the construction of the railway project and it will bring a positive change to the economy of the people.” - Gbenga Ashafa, Chairman, Senate Committee on land transport.
For Lagos state, which has a high traffic cost from people stuck on its roads, another consequence of the rail project will be spending less on road repair. Across the country, 90% of passenger and freight travel in Nigeria already occurs via roads. It does not help when we consider that the major agriculture producing states (e.g. Benue) is a considerable distance from major consuming states (e.g. Lagos, Ogun).
“The railway network is also expected to facilitate movement of over 3.2 millions tonnes of cargo per annum” - Yemi Osibanjo.
Finally, this particular project will help facilitate the movement of goods between the two cities. Traders in Lagos, for example, can transport their products to Ibadan easily without having to worry about the cost of shipment/delivery. It is particularly beneficial for the agricultural sector as it provides a boost by creating a more convenient means of moving farm produce. In doing so it would also reduce the burden on highways and promote economic growth and regional integration.
The Federal Government seems very keen on completing the project which is a welcome development. Picking a cue from the completion of the Abuja - Kaduna rail line, it is likely that Nigerians will soon enjoy the benefit that comes with a similar railway project.