KANO – MARDI RAILWAY: Sen. Alkali, NASS Committee on Land Transport inspect Project

… NASS pledges commitment to ensure to ensure timely completion of the rail projects.

Oru Leonard 

The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Senator Said Ahmed Alkali along with some members of both the Senate and House of Representatives on Land Transportation, which is also concerned with overseeing railway modernization in the country, were on inspection visit today to enable the law makers see first hand and appreciate the developments and challenges involved in extending rail services to Kano and then to Maradi in Niger Republic.

Senator Alkali while speaking with the legislators before the commencement of the inspection visit emphasised the importance of carrying the law makers along, noting that the contractors involved in the project, Messrs CCECC and Mota Engil have not been able to source the loans to help the country to implement, hence the Government has been using budgetary provisions to fund its counterpart requirement.

There was a trip from Zawaciki to Markafi to inspect the track laying as well as track laying base – Beam Plant and Sleeper Production Workshop.

Speaking after a brief presentation by CCECC for Project and Pending Issues, the Minister said funding issues have stalled progress.

He said: “The President is desirous in ensuring that these projects are completed and being put into use because transportation is an enabler of economic growth and a gateway to the nation’s economy. It is, of course, one of the eight priority areas of the present administration.

“The president has directed the Vice president to engage President Xi in a bilateral discussion on the financing of Ibadan-Abuja and Kaduna-Kano rail projects. So far, Kaduna-Kano has been released. We are just trying to cascade the final stage for the drawdown of the loan so that they will have the financing. That of Ibadan to Abuja is also under very serious engagement with the Chinese government”.

The minister also hinted that the Ministry is working with security agencies to deploy surveillance and ensure that rail infrastructures are not vandalized.

He said: “The Ministry and the Nigerian Railway Corporation are working hard to ensure that these vandals do not destroy our properties. We are deploying so many major surveillances in conjunction with the security agencies to ensure that these properties are not allowed to be vandalized.”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Sen. Adamu Aliero in the vein condemned the vandalization and sale of public infrastructure by vandals and vendors.

He said the Senate was considering legislation that would criminalize the act and make the death penalty the punishment for anyone found guilty.

Aliero said: “On the issue of vandalization, it is very unfortunate that it is not only the rail line that has been vandalized. As you rightly know, power installations, oil and gas installations, and bridges have been vandalized. The National Assembly is thinking of coming up with very strong legislation that will make it criminal. If possible, for any vendor caught sabotaging public infrastructure, the punishment should attract the death penalty. Probably if that happens, it will go a long way in reducing vandalization drastically”.

He pledged the commitment of the National Assembly to ensure the timely completion of the rail projects.

“We took a ride from Kano to Makarfi and we are impressed with what we have seen so far. We have seen a lot of dedication by the ministry and also by the contractor in trying to deliver the project in time. We understand that the deadline given to them is 2025 or 2026.

“We are hoping that by 2025 if they sustain the tempo, they will be able to deliver. There are other challenges connected with the project, particularly the funding arrangement, which we intend to discuss with the Debt Management Office (DMO), the Minister of Finance, the Attorney General of the Federation, and also the Minister of Transportation because we have oversight on railways and we will do whatever is seemingly possible to ensure that this project is completed in time. We will lobby our colleagues in the National Assembly to ensure that this project does not suffer from inadequate funding.”

Also speaking,a member of the committee in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Blessing Onuh said the National Assembly may review the existing rail contract to include an anti-theft mechanism due to the spate of vandalization.

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