China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) pace had been bogged by several factors, which the Federal Government and the affected states were working hard to tackle. The fear is that the rain may throw spanner in the works and hinder the delivery of the $1.5 billion project billed for December.
In the last eight months, the minister of transportation had been harping on the need to fast- track the project and that this was the only way to minimize the negative impact of the rain on it. He urged CCECC to complete the civil engineering works before the rain began.
For him, the rain remained the only obstacle to the project because of where it is sited. It crisscrosses streams, creeks, swamps, rivers and rivulets around Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states and this would be difficult to access during the season.
“My greatest worry,” Amaechi said during last month’s monitoring of the project, “is that the Southwest is a tropical belt with unpredictable rainy pattern. If we cannot get over 80 percent of the project done before the rain, it may affect our delivery as little or no civil works could go on during the rainy season”.
The minister wished that the rain, like last year’s, might start in May. But nature again proved its unpredictability as it came three months earlier than meteorological predictions when it started few days after the visit.
“This means that the contractor must plan with the rain in mind. But how far has work gone? Not far”, by Amaechi’s assessment.
At several spots in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states, Amaechi frowned at the slow pace of work.Thrice, the minister demanded explanations why work was not going on. He made the same demand too at DK 42, Kajola in Ogun State.
Amaechi believed that all things being equal, much ground should be covered before June when the rain is expected to be at its peak. Though quick to remind Nigerians that the project was originally pencilled for completion in 36 months, Amaechi insisted the Presidential order is to deliver it within 18 months, which terminates in December. He is neither envisaging any shift, nor willing to allow any delivery extension beyond next January.
Yet, with nine months to go, civil works, according to a source, who, preferred anonymity, is just about 50 percent completed between Ogun and Oyo, where the bulk of the work lies, and still slightly above that in Lagos.
Though CCECC moved to site last June, track-laying ought to have started by last December. Unable to meet that deadline, Amaechi had alerted Nigerians of another shift to April. This, he justified by the huge challenge of securing the project’s right of way.
According to Amaechi, with much of the civil works completed, track laying on the spectrum would be an icing on the cake.
Besides the rain, some impediments have continued to affect realisation of the speed train. Among these are a web of oil and gas pipelines, belonging to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), encroaching on the right of way of the project.
Firms accused of delaying the project are the Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation Coy Ltd. (NGPTC), Nigerian Pipeline & Storage Coy Ltd., (NP&SC), a subsidiary of NNPC and Gaslink (Axxela Group), a private partner managing NNPC’s gas pipeline and the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).
Most of the pipelines, according to sources, require outright or partial relocation. This is yet to be done. According to sources, eight of the pipelines on the project’s right of way, especially around Apapa, belonged to Gaslink, while crossing the rail line also at Apapa are another eight pipelines belonging to MOMAN.
While negotiations are said to be ongoing on the relocation of these pipelines, other impediments, especially in Lagos, include the relocation of some Army barracks and ancillary military facilities, especially the Nigerian Army 81 Base Ordinance Corps, at Ebute-Metta, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) staff quarters/private estate at Ebute Metta, relocation of Lagos State Water Corporation water mains supply, at DK 21 (Iju waterworks), the relocation of Apapa/Ijora bridge and some power lines.
Within Lagos alone, the speed train project is slated to consume two flyover bridges at Yaba and Costain, eight narrow gauge station buildings, eight NRC police stations and other ancillary facilities, such as living quarters which must be removed.There are also the problems of acquiring more land to pave way for the relocation of the narrow gauge.
CCECC’s Project Coordinator Mr. Leo Yin at briefings identified inaccessibility of the site, failure to establish an acquired right of way, as well as delays in the removal of public utilities as factors that may affect the firm’s ability to deliver. Though the challenges are huge in Lagos, similar issues dog the pace of work in Oyo and Ogun states.
Last week, in Oyo State, several communities went into a rage, protesting what they called “CCECC’s insensitivity to the disruption to their power supply and means of livelihood.
They alleged that the relocation of some high tension cables on the right of way of the project within their communities three weeks ago had brought them hardship. Besides the electricity, they also want the contractor to stop the blasting of rocks within the area with dynamite, as this poses danger to dwellers in the densely populated surrounding towns and villages.
CCECC’s Public Relations Consultant Mr Abdulrauf Akinwoye, however, denied that contractor was insensitive. He said CCECC would ensure that the problems would be addressed. Akinwoye commented that CCECC officials met with the heads of the communities last Wednesday.
He said: “CCECC regretted the disruption to the lives of the people. We want to assure them that the contractor is determined to ensure that it reduces the negative impact of the project on the people.”
Yin said land transactions, especially along the Ibadan corridor, had not been firmed up. This, he said, had impeded the pace of work.
Similar problems were also encountered in Ogun State. Besides the Ijoko flyover Bridge for which an alternative is yet to be provided, over 1,004 houses, almost the entire Workers Estate behind MKO Abiola Trade Fair Centre, faces demolition as it is on the rail line’s right of way.
Noting that the Federal Government would spend a whooping N2.8 billion in compensation, the Amaechi-led committee advised a shift in the right of the way.
According to the work plan, by January, CCECC should have completed 60 bridge piles, 10 culverts and the substructures of the super major bridges at DK 55, DK59, and DK 128 in Ogun, as well as the completion of the second loop and construction of the temporary line between 23+ 400 at DK 25, all these were still hanging.
To ensure no further delays that could impact the delivery deadline, the minister set up a multi-sectoral inter-ministerial committee headed by the NRC Chairman Alhaji Usman Abubakar with a mandate to ensure that everyone is “on the same page to secure the project’s right of way”.
This means the impediments will either be relocated or removed to ensure that work goes on. However, with nine months to go, Amaechi remained convinced that this is achievable.
“Every other thing could impede the progress and delivery of the work, its not money,” Amaechi said, alluding to the fact that the Buhari government had paid its counterpart funding of the Lagos-Ibadan speed train rail project.
Can the Chinese perform any magic in nine months? Amaechi believes they can, do you?