BY BEN AGANDE
ABUJA—The Federal Executive Council yesterday took a major step to ameliorate the transportation challenge in the country as it approved N1.334 billion for the commencement of work on new standard gauge railway lines.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, who briefed newsmen, alongside the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar and Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen said the contract is for feasibility studies of five fast train lines across the country.
He said the fast train lines are for Lagos-Osogbo-Abuja (615km), which could be covered within three hours with five stops; Lagos-Shagamu-Benin (300km); Ajaokuta- Obajana-Abuja (533km); Zaria-Sokoto- Illela (520km) and Benin-Onitsha-Aba (500km).
Maku noted that the proposed new standard gauge railway lines will create total job opportunities for 51 professionals and 115 non-professionals.
Giving an insight into the approval, Minister of Transport,Senator Umar, said some private investors have already signified interest in the projects as soon as feasibility studies are completed.
He said government is desirous to see the project to its conclusion end pointing out that “the idea is to partner with the private sector to develop the high speed train lines.
“There is going to be an international advertisement for investors to show interest. There is no question of fear that it’s going to be a white elephant project,” he said.
Other approval granted were for the construction of Manyam-Ushongo-Lessel-Kartyo-Oju-Agila-Ongba, an inter-state road linking Benue State with its South Eastern state neighbours on the Enugu-Abakaliki road.
The proposed road contract is awarded in favour of Messrs Tilley Gyado & Co, in the sum of N1,035,824,120.10, with a completion period of 14 months will facilitate access to markets, hospitals, schools and generally restore agro-economic and social activities within the host communities.
Other approval is for sustainable development of the Niger Delta region through the approval of three infrastructural projects in two states of the region.
The projects, expected to create about 100 jobs are Kira-Dere-Mogho road in Rivers, land reclamation/Shore protection at Ogbeinana town in Delta and Umuada Layout road in Asaba, in the sum of N6,844,935,130.82, with a completion period ranging between 19-104 weeks.
In the education sector, council approved contract for the printing and distribution of primaries three, four, five and six textbooks in English Language, Mathematics, Basic Science & Technology, Social Studies and Library Resources materials for JSS students in public schools nationwide.
The Minister of State for Education, Nyeson Wike, explained that the funding of the project will come from the 15% of the 2% Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), an intervention fund approved by Council in 2008.
The printing of the books is awarded in favour of Messrs Macmillan Publishers, HBN Publishers and Universal Press (UP), in the total sum of N6,976,725,939.00, with completion period of six weeks.
Meanwhile, The Federal Government yesterday expressed concern over dire consequence of the incident of flood in the country.
Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Mailafia, Government noted that the natural disaster is a potential threat to food security in he country.
According to her Kogi State has the most devastating impact of the flood while seven other states are seriously impacted.
Malaifia noted that in the estimation of the government, over 5,000 farmlands were washed away by the ravaging flood across the country adding that the high number of affected farmland has the potential of threatening food security in the country.
“The consequences (of the flood) is that there are huge loses of farmlands, there are likely threat to food security, we are likely going to have challenges that have to do with the health of the people in some areas.
“The flooding we are experiencing in the country do not in any way fall into what you can term man made.
“This is a natural phenomenon that cuts across the globe. With the technology in places like the United States, they still had the flooding there, in China and even our neighbour Niger with an arid land.
“For anyone to think that government has not done well or that there was something that we needed to do that we have not done is a little bit awesome because there is a limit to which you can fight nature.
“Where you have in a country where well over 5,000 farmlands washed away, then there is cause for attention. It is of national interest. So all what we are saying is that it is a national emergency. It calls for sober reflection,” she said.
On the Kogi flood which has rendered the Lokoja-Abuja Road impassable, she said three contractors: Julius Berger, Dantata and Sawoe as well as RCC had been mobilised to site.
She assured stakeholders that the alternative route being constructed for motorists would be ready on Thursday (today).
On the criticism that the government team only did aerial assessment of the impact of the flood, Mailafia argued that there was no way the chopper used for the assessment could land in a state like Plateau because of the magnitude of the flood.
“Some people said why did we fly? We could not have landed on water and there was a limit to where we could drive,” she explained.
The minister also warned other states to be prepared because while the water will be finding its way into the Atlantic Ocean, it would pass through some states of the federation.
She said in a couple of days, the team would also be visiting some other states on the same matter.