FG links delay in Lagos-Ibadan rail commissioning to Covid-19 spike
...Scores of project staff numbering 60 infected
The spread in coronavirus infections reported in various states across the country in the past two weeks has been linked to the delay in commissioning the nearly completed 156.7 kilometers Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project valued at $1.5 billion.
Minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi made this known as guest of the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, and breakfast programme morning show on Monday while reviewing the performance of the ministry in the past few years and the outlook for 2021.
Amaechi disclosed that many of the staff on project site numbering about 60 has been infected by the dreaded virus, though without any recorded cases of death among the infected.
According to the transportation minister, “As far as we are concerned, we need to learn how to live with Covid-19. I really want to congratulate those that achieve this feat. We were to inaugurate it in the first week of January, but were forced to stop doing minor completion because of the rise in coronavirus transmission”.
In his words, “The timeline for the inauguration is dependent on the outcome and impact of Covid-19. If it stops today, we will need additional two weeks. It may not even need to stop completely. If it reduces drastically, we will be happy to go ahead and commission. This was our expectation but unfortunately, it shot up. So, everybody has to wait and watch what is going on and make sure we keep safe and alive. I pray that nobody will die, but you can see the kind of sacrifice everybody is making to get the rail to function”.
He also added that save for minor installations here and there, the Lagos-Ibadan route is ready for commissioning in line with the January 2021 deadline given to the contractors handling the mega project.
The minister stated that, so far, over 96 per cent of the work has been carried out. What is remaining is minor issue here and there on the stations, not on the bridges.
‘’We can run and people are using it. The only thing is that, we are not allowing them to use the stations, so that they don’t destroy anything. We have furniture left to fix. A lot of the bridges, either overpass or underpass have been completed,” he stressed even as he lamented the craving for the creation of more bypasses by sundry communities whose settlements are close to the rail line.
Amaechi lamented that, the problem with Nigerians is that, a lot of people create their own bypasses, instead of walking up or down to the bridge. Every village wants you to create one for them which means you have to end up building these bypasses not only for communities but for individuals. But all you need to do is just to walk to the bridge. The reason many people die on our highways is because they don’t want to use pedestrian bridges,” he added.
He also warned those that are in the habit of flouting safety measures put in place to checkmate the spread of the virus, adding that the ministry may be compelled to suspend movement of passengers on any route found to be culpable.
Reeling out the riot act to the train passengers, the minister said, “If the Lagos-Ibadan passengers flout the Covid-19 protocols, we will stop the train services. Don’t forget that we convey about 4,000 passengers in a day on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line. Now, imagine that about 20 persons have coronavirus. They can transmit same to the entire 4,000 passengers. If we take 2,000 to Abuja and 2,000 to Kaduna, the rate of transmission will be very high. We can’t continue that way. The same is applicable to Lagos. For us, we insist that everybody must obey the protocols. Wear your mask throughout the journey till you step down,” he advised.