The Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation Mr. Fidet Okhiria has dispelled rumours of alleged overpricing or misappropriation of funds in the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan railway line. He also dismissed the claims of those comparing the cost of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line to the cost of a supposed rail track construction in Ghana.
There had been stories of a supposed $2biillon contract for the construction of a 414km railway line in Ghana, to the same Chinese company, CCECC that is constructing the Lagos-Ibadan railway line. Some have been comparing the cost to that of the Nigeria Lagos-Ibadan rail project and have been criticizing and making allegations against the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
However, the Nigeria Railway boss, Ikhiria, has dismissed and debunked the ‘fictitious’ allegations. He said the government of Ghana does not have any contract with CCECC for the construction of any rail line. He went further to challenge anyone who claims otherwise to produce the contract or any document for everyone to see.
He noted that a delegation from Ghana, some months ago, were in Nigeria to understudy the railway system in Nigeria and said that there is no basis for comparing the Lagos-Ibadan rail project that is almost completed to a non-existing Ghana rail contract with CCECC.
Answering questions during a live TV programme on Channels Television, Tuesday, the Nigeria railway boss explained that although he cannot speak for Ghana, he’s aware that there is no contract between the Government of Ghana and CCECC for rail construction in Ghana, but he can however show evidence of the quality and quantity of rail work being done here and its costs.
“I won’t mind sponsoring us to Ghana, lets see if there’s any rail track CCECC is doing. Luckily, Uganda came, Ghana came to understudy us about two months ago. People just say things and write things without any basis or foundation, without cross-checking or any evidence to back their claims. I challenge them to show us the contract that was awarded to CCECC to construct rail lines in Ghana, that they, the rumour peddlers, are now comparing to the cost of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line? Ghana is still discussing on to go about their rail projects. They(Ghana) came here, their Minister came, our Minister was there and I was there too and we took them on a train ride to Ibadan.
“But here in Nigeria, quality work is being done. I can take you by rail from Idu to Ibadan on standard gauge, I can take you from Abuja to Lagos, I can take you from Itakpe to Warri. You can come to Ebute Metta to see the kind of stations we’re building.”
Asked if it’s more complex to build rails in Nigeria than Ghana, Okhiria said, “it depends on the terrain and where you’re laying your tracks and the specifications. It’s even more complex to build here (Lagos) than in Kano. It is even more complex to build if you are passing developed areas than when we’re passing through the bushes or virgin land. There’s a place that took them(CCECC) time to blast the stones. So they put all those costs into consideration. But I don’t know Ghana’s routes, I don’t know their topography. But the point is that the rumour-mongers are comparing something(Lagos-Ibadan rail project) with nothing because there is no such rail contract in Ghana as it’s been peddle by the mischief makers.”
Responding on why the change from $1.488 billion to $1.5 billion for the project, the Nigerian Railway boss said, “Don’t forget, in any contract there’s a part called contingency. When you talk about 1.488 billion dollars, that is from Ebute Metta to Ibadan. But when this administration came in, the Minister (Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi) said we must get to the seaport, it won’t make sense terminating the rail, without reaching or entering the seaport. So, that element of over 25 kilometres from Ebute Metta junction, a place popularly called Alagomeji to the port and within the port is going to take more because we have to link all terminals. So, that’s an additional addendum we added, which is about nine million dollars.”
He also mentioned another expense, which, according to him, can also be sourced from contingency. “Between 2006 (when Lagos-Ibadan rail project was first commissioned by then President Obasanjo) and now, people had built on them (proposed rail lines) like some parts in Abeokuta, compensation had to be paid. Those are elements that may come through contingency or any other sub-head.”
Okhiria also explained that the contract not only covers rails but includes other necessities. “We are getting rails, we’re getting stations, we’re getting signaling and Communication.
“As for the contract, thank God I was in railway then. They came (the Chinese Company CCECC), spent about two years sourcing, I was even part of that, they left and came back with the costing explaining for example ‘from here to here it will cost us this…then we arrived at a total sum. There are about nine bridges. If you go to Costain,(in Lagos) there’s a bridge that is going to give way because another one has been placed,” Okhiria stated.