The Nigerian government has announced that it will be taking delivery of 20 locomotives from GE under the narrow gauge concession agreement on May 29th, the date Nigeria will mark its democracy day and 2nd year anniversary of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi announced this on Tuesday in Lagos, while speaking at an advocacy roundtable at the Intercontinental Hotel, organised by the Nigerian British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), with the theme “The Role of Concessions in Fixing the Transportation Sector.”
“GE had agreed to give us 100 locomotives free of charge for now, but unfortunately there are no tracks for the 100 to ply, so they are going to give us 20 by May 29,” he said.
The minister noted that government’s concrete policy drive pinpointed the railway project as a developmental project that would deliver immense benefits to the people and the country as well.
Under the present administration of President Buhari, the Nigerian railway has received unprecedented attention, resulting in the revival of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and attendant discipline instilled in the workforce.
Amaechi disclosed that the concession was awarded to GE by government to overhaul the narrow gauge at no cost to the government.
“When I resumed as minister I went to NRC and met the place in a dying state, there were no records, no documentation; all the equipment were obsolete and even the engineers I met there were under-employed with basically no work to do, so I embarked on driving the standard gauge which is up and running now and I instilled discipline in the workforce, before awarding the concession to GE to fix the narrow gauge,” he said.
According to the minister, GE under the concession agreement will establish a Transportation University in the country to train indigenous transportation engineers.
“One of the conditions we gave them was to build a Transportation University and they agreed,” he said.
The minister further disclosed that government has returned to site at the Itape-Warri railway line which will also be put under concession in the near future.
The track will be built from warri to Abuja and is critical for the smooth operations of the Ajaokuta ore and Aladja steel mills, which are receiving government’s attention as well, the minister hinted.
“The good thing about concession is that it saves the government a lot of finance which is put to use in other areas of development to create more jobs,” the minister said.
Commenting as a panelist, Mr. Eyo Ekpo, Executive Business Development Transportation, GE International Operations (Nig) Ltd, noted that political will has to be firmly behind every effort of government.
He added that next to political will is process which takes a lot of time, but can be best managed by planning ahead of time instead choosing to cut corners.
“We prefer to go through a process that produces outcomes that are ultimately sustainable. There is political will, there is process and there is a plan all put together by the government and if you combine that with what the GE consortium is bringing to the table what you’ll expect is an outcome that is actually credible and sustainable, one that will be to the benefit of Nigerians. We are long overdue for the resuscitation and expansion of our rail infrastructure along the value-chain across the country.
“The government set out objectives for the rail construction, it wasn’t just about completing a railway line, there was also the other bit which is set up local manufacturing capacity both for locomotives and wagons within the country, the second is the training of human resources which is not just a university but post-graduate training and GE is fully and firmly committed to it in writing,” Ekpo said.