The Minister of Transportation, Senator Said Ahmed Alkali, has come down hard in the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), the contractor handling the reconstruction of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri narrow gauge rail line.

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Describing the project as disappointing, he berated the contractor for using poor-quality material, expressing doubts about the contractor’s capacity to complete the project in record time.

The Minister made his feelings known while fielding questions from newsmen during an inspection visit to work sites in Port Harcourt and Kom Kom Community in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State on Friday.

Alkali expressed annoyance that the project which was stipulated for three years had only attained 45 per cent completion after 12 months.

He stated, “I’m here in Port Harcourt in continuation of my inspection visit of all the railway projects across the country.

“This inspection is starting from Lagos, where we moved to Kano to inspect Mararadi and then to Daura to inspect the transportation university.

“So we are in Port Harcourt to inspect the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri reconstruction and rehabilitation of the eastern narrow gauge.

“I am disappointed in what I have seen because this contract was signed for 36 months and it’s to cover over 2000km. So far event from Port Harcourt to Aba is around 47 per cent.”

Continuing, Alkali said, “Ideally it is supposed to cover 47 per cent of the entire 2000km which by now we should be around plateau or so, and yet we are still struggling to be in Abia before the end of the year.

“I am not happy, in fact, I am disappointed. They are using manual alignment to lay the rail tracks in this 21st century. In this era of technology, if you are not ready for something, don’t even start it.

“The funding was made for 18 per cent to be provided by the federal government while 85 per cent to be provided by CCECC  since the project kick-started the funding is only done with the federal government of 15 per cent. It shows how unserious the CCECC is in terms of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Project.”

On the next line of action, he said, “We have to go back to the ministry because whatsoever we do must be between the ambit of the law, whatsoever the law provides, I will make sure to enforce it.

“The project was signed last two years but the actual construction started last year, but even in a year’s time if you cannot cover Port Harcourt to Aba in 12 months, then how can you cover over 2000km in 36 months?

On the significance of the project, the minister said it will link the two seaports in Rivers State up to Maiduguri (Borno State) thereby enhancing regional trading.

He added “Cost of trading will be low, by the time we have started the passenger train. It will go a long way to cushion the effect of petrol subsidy withdrawal.”