The joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Land Transport has expressed doubt over the December deadline for the delivery of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had last month said the December deadline was not negotiable.
However, addressing journalists on Thursday after an inspection of the project, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, stated that the contractor had asked for an extension of the timeline.
Ashafa said, “After all said and done, after the inspection today, I can say categorically that the December 2018 deadline won’t be a reality. This is understandable giving the quality of job that is being done.
“I have been told that the contractor handling the project, the China Civil Engineering Construction Company, had made a request that the deadline of the project be extended to around the middle of 2019.
“To me, if the Lagos to Abeokuta leg of the project is fully completed by February or March 2019, then it will be a laudable feat. Let’s not forget that this is a legacy project that all Nigerians should be proud of. The standard gauge is a step up from the narrow gauge, which Nigeria has been operating for years.”
He added, “I am very happy that the Lagos State Government headed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is working in tandem with the Federal Government on this project. At the Lagos end of the project, the state government is working closely with the Federal Government to ensure that all the problems there are resolved.
“As somebody that came from the Lagos East Senatorial zone, where we have export processing zones both on the Federal Government side and the Lagos State side, this standard gauge rail project will be of immense benefit to the export processing zones.
“We should not forget that the Apapa Port too is in Lagos, and will also benefit from this rail project.”
However, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr Fidet Okhiria, explained that the December 2018 deadline remained sacrosanct.
He said, “The contractor has been asking for extension, but we have not agreed. The December deadline remains unchanged.
“Although we know there are challenges in allocating the Abeokuta stations; they also have challenge with underground pipeline and gas pipeline within Lagos, but engineering solutions have been found. The cost of the solution is being worked out for now.”