Alkali expresses displeasure over slow pace of work at Port Harcourt-Aba narrow gauge rail rehabilitation

Oru Leonard 

The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Senator Said Ahmed Alkali in the company of his Permanent Secretary, Olufemi Oloruntola; his Director, Railway Transport Services, Engineer Zirra Finbar; the Director of Legal Services, Barrister Pius Oteh as well as the Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation visited the Eastern District Terminus in Port Barcourt, Rivers State to inspect the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt-Aba narrow gauge today, Friday, 29th March, 2024 but with the expectation that the rehabilitation work was nearing completion to link the two Ports of Port Harcourt and Onne to make cargo movements from the Ports to Aba possible, the minister was disappointed and expressed his displeasure that the rehabilitation work has not met with the desired scheduled pace.

Alkali who was earlier briefed that the work was almost completed remarked that this visit is the second he made to the site of the project but was not impressed that the rehabilitation has not been sufficiently done as to meet with the expectation of Nigerians who would have been served by railway moving cargoes from the Ports of Port Harcourt and Onne.

The transportation minister chided the contractor handling the project, Messrs CECC for the lapse, and charged for expedited action so that the project can be completed on time for commissioning and use.

The Minister observed that the project is presently being funded with the 13% counterpart funding from the Federal Government of Nigeria to show commitment and to persuade the Contractor to expedite actions in helping to source more funding to make completion of the project, commissioning and use, not to exceed April, 2024.

From the Eastern District Terminus where he expected to have seen very substantial completion of narrow gauge rail rehabilitation that has linked the Ports and make cargo movements possible, Alkali proceeded to Obingbo which is a boundary between Rivers and Abia States where while he along with his team observed the movement of an NRC Locomotive on the rehabilitated section of rail line, obviously heading towards Aba. Around the same time, the minister observed that there wasn’t enough security put in place to prevent vandalism of the rehabilitated tracks and rail slippers. He also stated that this is not good enough. There and then, Alkali tasked his team and the CECC team to come up with measures that could be put in place to forestall vandalism of the rail infrastructure as the Government could not be increasing rail infrastructure while vandals would be stealing and going off with them.

Senator Alkali who obviously converted the public holiday of Good Friday, 29 March 2024 into a working holiday despite observing Ramadan fast later took off to Isiagu, Ebonyi State, to see the process and pace of manufacturing of rail slippers. He stated that he has hoped to see works ongoing at the CECC rail slipper production yard at Isiagu. That he didn’t see this done may just have to do with the public holiday.

The Honourable Minister was expected to round off his engagement to the Eastern District of the Nigerian Railway Corporation with a one-on-one meeting with the Governor of Enugu State, H.E. Peter Mba, which will centre on the development of railway projects and infrastructure in the Eastern Corridor.

(FMOT Press)

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