…As Lai Mohammed Clarifies on How FG spends China Loans
By Ignatius Ushie
The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has issued a five-month ultimatum to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), handling the ongoing extension of the Lagos-Ibadan railway projects extension to ensure its completion.
Ameachi gave the directive last weekend at the New Apapa Dockyard station following the resumption of inspection of ongoing projects along the Lagos-Ibadan corridor.
Accompanied by the Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, the Minister urged the contractors to work tirelessly as no excuse for failure would be accepted, adding that the level of work done at both the Agege and Agbado sub-stations must comply with the stated quality and delivered on time.
According to him, “You have from now till January 1st, 2021 to deliver this project. By the time we come here again, we would like to see everything almost done,” Amaechi charged the contractors.
The Information Minister who was happy with the progress of work done tasked those in the habit of asking the federal government to justify its spending to visit the sites of ongoing projects to see things for themselves.
According to him, “Those who are asking where we are burning the money can now see where the money is. We made a promise to Nigerians and this is one of the manifestations of what we have been able to do.
I think it is important to inform Nigerians that there is nothing wrong with borrowing. What is important is the use the money borrowed is used for.
We borrowed to fund capital projects, not a recurrent expenditure,” he said even as he made a light joke of the luxury available in the newly procured eight coaches deployed for the Lagos/Ibadan axis.
“There is a difference between the train that brought us from Apapa and this one that is taking us to Ibadan,” he added, shortly after the two Ministers and members of their respective entourage took a ride in the newly acquired coaches from Agege to Ibadan.
Contrary to the criticism against the Federal Government’s new request for infrastructure loan from China, Lai Mohammed said that the ongoing work at various stations on the 158km rail line from Lagos to Ibadan is enough proof that the loan was not taken for services and recurrent expenditure but for infrastructure building.
He added that the inspection with a team of journalists drawn from all segments of the media was scheduled to bring to limelight the extent of work so far accomplished on the multi-million dollar project and to appeal for the cooperation and support of all Nigerians.
“There is no better way to answer as to what we have done with the money we borrowed. You have seen first hand yourself the stations, people at work.” Mohammed said
Responding to questions from journalists at the end of the exercise, Amaechi clarified misinformation making the rounds that he was against the probe of the loans taken to fund railway projects, saying he only drew the attention of lawmakers to the difficulty in securing loans if same turn object of scrutiny.
“We have no problem with the project, we only want the National Assembly to stop investigation on the new loan, not investigation on corruption on the project. What we are saying is that they should allow us get a loan for Ibadan-Kano rail line which is about $500m.
For the Lagos-Ibadan project, we still have about $1.6m left in the $200m loan requested for this project,” he said.
Affirming the completion date, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Engr. Fidet Okhiria added: “We will start operation from the middle of September from Yaba to Ibadan, while other constructions continue.
“We already have 24 coaches and 36 additions. We are expecting to have 16 trips per day,” he stated.