Kasim Sumaina and Sunday Okobi
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, at the weekend tasked the contractors and engineers handling the Lagos-Ibadan railway project to as a matter of urgency assess the impacts of the project on host communities.
This is even as he stated that the 157-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge project was coming to an end, though did not state the exact date, adding that there has been huge improvement on the stations, from what he saw in his previous visit.
Amaechi gave the directive while briefing journalists shortly after the monthly inspection tour at Moniya station in Ibadan, Oyo State.
While charging the engineers to take a village-by-village study to see what impact the rail project must have caused to the communities, vis-a-vis the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), said: "It is unfair not to listen to the communities, after they have given their support to the government.
"We are being unfair to these communities because they gave us all the cooperation we wanted. If these communities have been good to us, why do we want to visit them with what was not there before we came?"
He further noted that the communities have written to him severally over lack of adequate overhead crossing and underpasses, as well as erosion caused by the project, but nothing has been done to their complaints.
"These communities will write, when they write, I will vet it to the permanent secretary of the ministry, and the permanent secretary will vet it to the Director of Rail, and I wouldn't hear about it again.
"The engineers should take a village-by-village study to see what impact the rail line must have caused to that communities," the minister added.
Speaking also, the Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fidet Okhiria, said arrangements are being made for communities to have pedestrian crossing-overhead or underpasses-adding that they will be done gradually as all the roads cannot be closed at once to avoid gridlock.
Okhiria noted that the narrow gauge is being vandalised especially in the Middle Belt-Benue and Nasarawa State-noting also that vandals are also taking things in Apapa but not as rampant as what is being done in the East and Middle Belt.
The Chairman of the Board of NRC, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa, in his remark, said in the course of the project, the management of NRC sat with Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and agreed on areas where overhead crossing and bridges would be constructed.
Musa stress that they agreed that some bridges and overhead crossing would be constructed by the federal government, while others will be done by the state governments.
According to him, "For instance, we constructed new two-line bridges at Costain in Lagos and brought down the old ones to enable us have access. The people are still asking for more; but they will be considered based on merit and the finances available on the ground as it is not every request that can be met."