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I Never Knew Railway Transport Existed in Nigeria ~ Rotimi Amaechi

In a bizarre twist, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, On Tuesday announced that he never knew the railways as a means of transport efficiently existed in Nigeria.

 The minister who stated this when he and other officials of the ministry toured the facilities of the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) in Lagos, added that the government would concentrate on building standard gauge railway lines that would befit Nigeria status as a developing economy as well as compliment it.

Amaechi said: “In fact, I think we have a problem; most people don’t believe that the railway transport is functioning in Nigeria. I didn’t even know, until I started this tour, I never knew that the railway was functioning, it was even from his (MD’s) speech that I learnt that there are some coaches or services that go to Kano or Port Harcourt or elsewhere.”

 According to him, “The federal government will concentrate on standard gauge of the railways, because it is critical that Nigeria becomes one of the countries founded on standard gauge. The only time I had seen railways (trains) or the coaches was one or two days in Lagos, and I thought it started from the beginning of Lagos to the end of Lagos.

“So we need to make people become more aware that the narrow gauge is working, and that people can still use it to travel around that country. There was a joke somebody told me that it takes three days to reach Kano from Lagos on the narrow gauge, and when I asked the managing director of NRC, he said no, it takes one and half days; I said: ‘what’s the difference between three days and one and a half days?’ So that is why the government has to reemphasise on the need for the construction of the standard gauge to help boost the economy.”

 In his speech, the Managing Director of the NRC, Adeseyi Sijuwade, expressed appreciation on  the commitment and desire of the minister to effect positive change in the railway subsector, adding that the subsector had for years been in comatose but now back on track, and that with the minister’s desire to see it taken to another level, the railway transport is on it way to attaining greater heights.

In another development, Amaechi yesterday expressed ignorance of the multi-billion naira pipeline protection and waterways security contract awarded to ex-Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo.

Tompolo was one of the Niger Delta militants who accepted the Nigerian government’s amnesty in 2010.
Amaechi who made the denial while appearing before the Senate Committee on Marine Transport chaired by Senator Ahmed Rufai Sani, said he only heard about the contract through the newspapers, adding that he was yet to be properly briefed by officials of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the matter since his appointment as transport minister.

Amaechi added that he only knew about Global West Vessel Specialist Agency Limited, said to be owned by Tompolo when he visited the office of NIMASA recently.

“It was in the public that I knew that Tompolo had a contract. Even up till now, I have never been briefed about the contract. How did I know the company? I got to NIMASA and I saw a building that was looking very ugly. And I said for Christ’s sake, who are the people staying in this dirty place? And they said staff of Global West Company and they are Tompolo’s staff.

“Nobody ever mentioned that contract to me. That’s why I said give me information about all the contracts that you have awarded in NIMASA so that I know and the stage of payment.”

Global West had secured $103 million contract during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration alongside other similar multi-billion naira contracts.

The contract and others given to Global West and other companies linked to the ex-militant have been a subject of controversy since they were made public.

At the meeting, Amaechi who said he had to cut short his visit to agencies and parastatals in the maritime sector in Lagos to honour the committee’s invitation, said he was still studying the railway and aviation sectors and called for more time to furnish the committee with necessary information.

CREDIT: Thisdaylive