About 15 different railway projects have been pencilled down for completion between now and 2015.
FG to invest N1.6tn in railway
The projects, built into the Transformation Agenda of the current administration, will gulp N1.61tn.
According to a document on the 2013 capital projects of key federal ministries obtained by our correspondent on Friday, 13 of the projects will receive attention this year at a total cost of N44.35bn.
A detailed analysis of the development projects by the Centre for Social Justice, however, indicated a difference of over 50 per cent between what was proposed in the Transformation Agenda for railway in 2013 and the amount prepared for the transport mode in this year’s budget.
The railway investment, it was learnt, would involve the construction of new rail lines across the country and rehabilitation of the existing narrow gauge lines.
Money was also voted for some railway projects last year, including the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Kano rail track.
Top on the list of projects in this year’s budget is the construction of new Lagos-Ibadan rail line on standard gauge at a cost of N8.6bn. A sum of N229.5bn was approved for this stretch of rail line under the Transformation Agenda.
The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, had last year announced that the project was set to commence and gave the contract sum as $1.5bn. The plan is to take the new line to Kano on a standard gauge double line.
The government also provided N3.56bn in this year’s budget for the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line. A total sum of N243bn was voted for the project under the Transformation Agenda.
Although the old Lagos-Kano rail line was recently inaugurated after its rehabilitation, it received N1.4bn vote in the 2013 budget.
The breakdown shows the maintenance of Lagos-Jebba end and Jebba-Kano end will attract N700m each.
The rehabilitation of another old rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, also got N1.2bn this year.
Finally, the Ajaokuta-Warri rail line should be ready this year with a provision of N4.1bn for its completion and the rehabilitation of the earlier constructed stretch.
About 22 kilometres from Ovu to Warri, which had remained uncompleted for a long time, received N7.6bn for under the Transformation Agenda.
The feasibility studies for the preparation of tender documents on East-West rail line attracted N195bn. A total of N200m was provided in last year’s budget to commence the studies.
The government had, earlier in the year reopened the old Lagos-Kano line, after its rehabilitation by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and Costain West Africa Plc. A total of N12.2bn was earmarked for the project.
Other listed projects include the rehabilitation of the narrow gauge Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line, an ongoing project, which received a vote of N67bn.
The Federal Government approved N225bn for the construction of a rail line from Aba to Ajaokuta, linking Enugu, Asaba and Agbor.
It will commit an initial N48bn to the construction of the 360-kilometre rail line from Ajaokuta to Abuja through Jakura and Baro, according to the document.
Similarly, the government allocated N5bn for the commencement of the East-West rail line construction, which will link Lagos to Calabar.
Another long stretch of rail line, spanning 650 kilometres, also received N97bn. It is a standard gauge line to cover Lagos, Ife, Ilesha, Owo, Benin, Onitsha and Enugu.
About N50.9bn will be spent to construct a 604-kilometre rail line linking Zaria-Kaura Namoda-Sokoto and Ilela.
The Abuja mass transit trains Lot 1 & 2, which are ongoing projects, have N85.7bn; while the construction of the Abuja light rail will get N66.3bn.
Six stations, currently being constructed between Itakpe and Warri, are to receive N475.7bn.
But the Centre for Social Justice, said of the sum of N98.2bn projected in the Transformation Agenda for railway investment in 2013, only N44,353,673,724 was budgeted for the transport mode in the budget.
This, it noted, showed “a funding gap of about N53.9bn and, therefore, demonstrates huge inconsistency between the Transformation Agenda projections and budgetary proposals.”
It also gave two examples of the performance pattern of government in railway project execution.
It stated, “The rehabilitation of the rail track from Lagos to Jebba commenced in October 2009 and was expected to end in October 2010 at a cost of N12.29bn. There was a time overrun but despite the new completion time of July 2011, as at September 2011, only 90 per cent of the rehabilitation had been completed.”
It recalled that N1.09bn was allocated to the project in the 2011 budget; N626.69m was released but only N195.47m was utilised as at the end of the third quarter of 2011.
“That it was listed in the 2013 budget suggests that it will not be completed in 2012. The impact of inadequate releases and poor utilisation of released funds on this project, as in others, informs poor implementation leading to time and likely cost overruns, which unduly inflates the cost of projects.”
Similarly, CSJ recalled that the Jebba-Kano track rehabilitation commenced in December 2009 and was expected to end in February 2012.
It said, “N7.6bn has been committed to the project since inception and had N2bn allocation in 2011 budget with N1.6bn released as at end of the third quarter of 2011, achieving only 67 per cent level of completion.
“A time overrun is noticed in this project, which was supposed to have ended in February 2012 but still receiving budgetary allocation in 2013.”
Meanwhile, congestion is now being witnessed as more people turn to train, following the return of some mass transit trains and the Lagos-Kano train.
Director of Operation, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr. Niyi Alli, said two sets of BMU diesel train had been ordered to argument the existing ones.
He told our correspondent on Friday that each of the trains coming with a locomotive, four to six coaches and other equipment available in a modern train, would be delivered this year.
The new trains, he said, would be added to the mass transit trains to ease the congestion.
Alli also said that apart from massive rehabilitation of its grounded coaches, the NRC would mobilise all its coaches in the eastern region to the West-North operation.
The corporation had earlier received 25 new locomotives from the General Electric.
Ekhator Ehi is a teacher, a reporter/journalist and a political commentator born in Edo State