All is set for the Abuja Light Rail Project to commence operations as President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday commissioned the project 11 years after it was launched by the federal government in 2007.
The President Buhari commended the Chinese Government for its investment in Nigeria's economy. Speaking during the inauguration of the project at Abuja Metro Station, the president said the accomplishment of the project demonstrated his administration's commitment to addressing critical infrastructure needs in the country. He said the exercise also demonstrated the administration's determination to ensure prudence in the management of public resources and value for money considering the huge investments in the project in keeping with the ideals of its Change Agenda. Buhari remarked that transportation was the live wire of any city and expressed optimism that the commissioning of the project would boost the economy of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and enhance social life.
"I am aware that what we have on ground today are coaches meant to provide skeletal services as we await the main set of the rolling stock for full operations," he said, adding that he had been briefed on the outcome of the recent visit of the ministers of FCT and Finance visit to China during which agreements for the procurement of the main rolling stock were signed.
The president assured Nigerians of the federal government's continued support for all the negotiations toward the realisation of the Abuja Light Rail system.
He expressed gratitude to the government and people of China for their investment in Nigeria and to CCECC Ltd - the contracting firm - for the quality of work and timely delivery of the project.
"Let me place on record the Nigerian government's appreciation to the Government of China and the EXIM Bank of China for their support on this and many other projects currently being executed in the country.
"This gesture further cements the already existing cordial relations and developmental partnership between Nigeria and the People's Republic of China," he said. The president urged the FCT Administration, especially the management of the rail services, to ensure efficient operations, good customer service and maintenance culture. On his part, the FCT minister, Malam Musa Bello, stated that the Abuja Rail Mass Transit System was an integral part of the FCT Transportation Master Plan, designed primarily to transport large numbers of people and goods from satellite towns to the metropolitan public transport system and the different phases of the federal capital city.
The minister further revealed that the Abuja rail system was structured into six lots of phased development based on preferential demand and available financial resources, adding that it was planned for integration with the National Rail Network when eventually completed. Giving a breakdown of the structure, he said, "The Abuja rail is divided into six lots and with total length of 290km. The lots are: Lot 1: From Nnamdi Azikwe Expressway through the Transportation Centre (Metro Station) via Gwagwa to Kubwa; Lot 2: From Gwagwa via Transportation Centre (Metro Station) to Nyanya/Karu; Lot 3: From Transportation Centre via Idu Industrial Zone to Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport; Lot 4:From Kuje Satellite town to Karshi Satellite town with the remaining legs of the Transit way line 2; Lot 5:From Kubwa via Bwari to Suleja and Lot 6: From Airport via Kuje and Gwagwalada to Dobi."
The minister said the implementation of the project had been divided into phases, with phase 1 inaugurated by the president. According to him, the FCT Administration had concluded an infrastructure soft loan agreement with Exim Bank of China for the supply of the remaining coaches, including their maintenance for three years at a cost of $194 million. He said the bank would fund the project up to $157 million or 85 per cent of the total cost, while FCTA would bring in a counterpart fund of $37million (15 per cent). Bello said that the FCTA had since commenced work on phase II of the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project, which, according to him, would cover a distance of 32.54km from Nnamdi Azikwe Expressway at Garki Area I via the Transportation Centre to Gwagwa and from Bazango Station to Kubwa.
He noted that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2017 had approved the project for construction by CCECC at a cost of $1.3 billion.
"We hope that the minister of finance would consider putting this key project in the next borrowing plans, the minister of Budget and National Planning would agree to it, the National Assembly would approve it and that China - Exim Bank would fund it as a mark of goodwill for the cordial relationship between our two countries," he said.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that President Buhari was taken on a guided tour of the Abuja Rail Mass Transit and Abuja new International Terminal at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The FCT minister and minister of state for aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, led the tour at Idu Rail Station and Abuja airport.
The Abuja Rail Mass Transit is the first of its kind in Nigeria and West Africa.
... Project To Provide 100,000 Jobs
On his part, the secretary of FCT Transportation Secretariat, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, disclosed that the rail system would provide 100,000 direct or indirect jobs for the residents of Abuja.
Opeifa, who stated this yesterday on the sidelines of the commissioning ceremony of the rail project, added that every effort was being made by the administration to ensure that the rail system is affordable to most residents in line with international best practices, adding that most countries subsidise the cost of transportation for their citizens.
He maintained that the administration would make the 12 rail stations of the rail attractive to users in order to earn more money, especially for those living around the stations.
The transportation secretary maintained that there is adequate security system in the rail, with cameras around the stations and in the coaches, in addition a railway police force equipped with adequate intelligence and surveillance systems.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the Abuja rail mass transit system, which is in the original Abuja master plan, was conceived in 1977 with the intention to form the spine of the public transport system in the FCT.
Stop Claiming Our Project, PDP Tells PMB, APC
Meanwhile, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday accused President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for attempting to claim credit for the Abuja Light Rail Project.
The party said Nigerians are aware that the project was conceptualised, initiated and propelled by the PDP.
In a statement by the national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said President Buhari's showboating and rush to commission the rail project, without giving credit to the PDP even when his administration contributed nothing to the project, underscored his desperation to claim credit for achievements made by others.
"It is crystal clear that President Buhari cannot comprehend the design, scope and utility projection of the rail project, resulting in his hollow speech at the photo-op commissioning ceremony.
"Is it not unfortunate that, after three years in office, President Buhari cannot boast of any development project conceptualised and executed by his administration in any part of the country, resulting in his numerous face-saving stunts, including commissioning projects executed by others, amongst them, a bus stop in Lagos and a borehole in Jigawa State.
"The PDP usually watches with amusement whenever President Buhari and the APC seek to claim credit for our achievements in various sectors. However, while we understand their predicament of having nothing in their scorecard ahead of the 2019 general elections, we state that poaching the achievements of others cannot help them in anyway," it said.
The PDP urged Nigerians not to despair, but to vote out the current administration in the 2019 general elections for poor governance.
New Abuja Airport Terminal To Be Ready By October
Meanwhile, the new airport terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, will be ready for operations by October 2018. This was revealed when President Muhammadu Buhari inspected the level of work done at the new terminal yesterday. The president was taken on a tour of the facilities by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika. The building being constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is expected to the completed by August and be put into use by October 2018. On the impact of the rail on the aviation sector, Sirika said, "It will make things easy and it will be seamless. People will come from the light rail and straight into the aircraft and vice versa; it will make transportation more efficient and that is the whole essence of transportation by air. "It will also allow people to connect to their businesses and work places in much faster time than before. It will reduce the pressure on our roads, ease traffic congestion on all the arteries that lead to airports around the world. So Abuja would be a classical example of multi-modern integration and transportation which eases things and makes them better."
Speaking while inspecting the new terminal yesterday, the managing director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Engr Saleh Dunoma, said all arrangements are being put in place to ensure that the terminal icompleted by August and put into use by October. On some of the challenges faced by the contractors, he said: "On the water and power supply, we have started the process of connecting the power system. During the last visit by the minister of the FCT, he instructed that the airport should be connected to the city main water supply system. "Government has given approval for an independent power supply for the airport, so all these works are coming on, and by October they will all be functional and that is when we will start using the terminal building." Dunoma also allayed the fear that the relocation of control tower would affect the commencement date. He said, "The relocation of control tower and fire station has nothing to do with the terminal building, but those issues are going to be handled in the next stage of the items of work that we need to carry out; however, that will not stop us from using the terminal building." He expressed satisfaction with the quality of work done, adding that the train station would be linked to the existing terminal for seamless movement of passengers. Dunoma further noted that the Abuja and Port Harcourt airport terminals buildings were at the same level, adding that special focus was given to Abuja because of the volume of traffic in Abuja. "You can see there is congestion here and there and if we must ease up operations, we must complete this project. We are also working hard to put old facilities in order so that by the time we start operations here everything would be renewed," he said.