By Dirisu Yakubu – Lagos
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, has urged local contractors to show capacity to play big rail construction projects going in the country to earn the contracts they crave.
The Minister stated this in Lagos while responding to agitation from local contractors on why they were not often considered for the award of rail contract.
According to the Minister, “a contractor must have at least five years experience and genuine evidence of work done to be awarded a contract”.
He continued: “We are not using our local contractors because they are not qualified. If you want to participate, build capacity. We can’t give you a life-threatening contract if we don’t trust your capacity
“We said five years experience but a contractor in Nigeria will take a photograph of another man’s job as his own.
“How many Nigerians have done project management in railway? Yet they are applying. I am not against them applying but we don’t want them to go give the job to other contractors. show us you have the capacity and equipment and we will choose you.”
However, the minister noted that Nigerians would henceforth handle the maintenance of rail because some of them have acquired the knowledge hence “the contract between the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC and the China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC for rail maintenance will not be renewed.”
Responding to concerns raised on poor renumeration of NRC workers, the minister promised to work with stakeholders to ensure an upward review of their earnings.
“Nigerian Railway Corporation has for about 10 to 15 years, not had salary increment and we all need all hands on deck to change it.
“I don’t have the power to do so. Only the President and the Salaries and Wages Commission have the power but, I will join them in the fight to see that there is an improvement. I am prepared to work with them if the law permits,” he pledged.
The minister speaking with journalists envisaged a decrease in Lagos-Ibadan road traffic as he disclosed that 42,000 passengers travelled by Rail in the month of June.
On why the construction of the Port-Harcourt/Maiduguri was yet to commence, Amaechi had this to say: “We have paid the contractors some money and we are ready but we have to really wait until the public procurement department, the Federal Executive Council and the supervising engineers give us approval.
“If the supervisory engineers are not in place to take off the drawings, you can’t construct, and that’s the problem we have with the Kano-Maradi rail line.
He also decried the poor maintenance of rail infrastructure saying, “the spare parts are not available.
“The President has just approved for the purchase of new spare parts but it’s not that easy.
“We have to make advertisements for people to apply within and outside the country.
“Thereafter, we take them to the public procurement department for approval and that will take you some time. It’s not about competent engineers but the availability of spare parts.”