The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said that the new Lagos-Ibadan rail line will be fully ready for formal inauguration and commence full operation in June (next month).
He said about 90 per cent of the project being handled by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) was ready, adding that the remaining work should be completed in two-three weeks.
Amaechi, who spoke in Ibadan, Oyo State on Saturday after a train ride from Lagos on an inspection of the line, also ordered the arrest of buyers of vandalised rail track facilities and other equipment.
He said he would need to obtain the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to give the actual date of the inauguration of the line currently on skeletal service/trial run.
He said, “I hope the office of the President will approve the commissioning of this project in June. We will communicate the actual date in the next one or two weeks but certainly, I think it is in June.
“We are not 100 per cent ready for commissioning but we are 89 to 90 per cent ready for commissioning and we are hoping that by the next three weeks we will be ready and by then, they will give us a date from the office of the president. One thing is that by the time they give us a date, we will be ready for commissioning.”
The minister also said an e-ticketing platform would be deployed to the Lagos-Ibadan rail in order to manage the envisaged passenger traffic.
“I have directed the MD of NRC to advertise for the e-ticketing and we hope the traffic that we will witness on this axis will be managed with that platform,” he said.
On how the project would be maintained after completion, Amaechi said, “There is maintenance plan between us and the CCECC within the next three to five years. And by then, I would have left government but for me and within the period I am serving as Minister, there is an agreement between us and the CCECC for the purpose of maintenance.”
The Minister, while commenting on the stealing and vandalization of rail track, said the vandals and buyers of such stolen items must be prosecuted.
He said, “I don’t know why some Nigerians are the way they are. I have told the Managing Director of NRC to arrest the buyers of the equipment. It is not enough to arrest the vandals.
“It is likened to those who said why should the National Assembly punish those who pay ransom. That law was first passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly when I was the Speaker and the reason is that when there is no demand, there will be no supply.
“If we don’t pay ransom, they will be tired and they will stop. The same way, if they don’t buy those metals, nobody will steal them.
“Also, we must approach the judiciary to have court that can dispense justice readily so that people are sent to jail early enough to deter others and we will also encourage our governors to create jobs.”