WE are seriously perturbed by the lamentations of the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, who was recently on one of his monthly inspection tours of the Lagos-Ibadan section of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge railway project.
He complained bitterly that the project being constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC, was suffering intolerable delays. The project, which is billed to go into full operation by April this year, ought to be completed this month but work had slowed down on the ten railway stations along the route.
According to him: "The delay is becoming an embarrassment and I think we need to meet with the CCECC... The speed has reduced drastically at this time, we need to meet with the management of the CCECC".
Avoidable contract delay is one of the greatest reasons that Nigeria is far behind in infrastructural development. Delay is often linked to corruption, ineptitude, lack of timely fund releases to contractors and policy inconsistency linked to regime changes.
The Lagos-Kano standard gauge railway has no reason whatsoever to suffer from delays because the most important cause of such - regular fund release - has been tackled.
The fund has been secured from China. The monthly inspections by the ministerial team mean the Federal Government is hands-on with this project.
Moreover, the Chinese who are spearheading this contract have proved, even in the African continent, that they have the technological capacity to deliver such projects in astonishingly record times and at much lower costs than what we experience in Nigeria.
For instance, the 780-kilometre Ethiopia - Djibouti railway project was conceived in 2007, flagged off in 2011 and completed in 2017 at the cost of $4bn borrowed from China.
In our own case, the Lagos - Kano railway project was conceived during the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime, but serious work on the Lagos - Ibadan section only became visible under the current regime with Hon. Amaechi in charge of its implementation.
Almost five years on, we are still talking about the completion of the 156 kilometres-long Lagos - Ibadan section. One wonders when the rest of the sections from Ibadan through Abuja to Kano will be completed at this pace of work. Why can't we work to rebuild our battered country the way others do?
Delay usually results in inflation of contract costs. Since we are doing this contract mainly with Chinese debt, the delay will mean an increase in the size of indebtedness by the time it is eventually completed.
We call on Minister Amaechi to get to the bottom of the delay and make sure it never happens again.