Abuja light rail: A viable project set for actualization
BY IBRAHIM SARKIN YAKI –
Abuja, the Federal Capital City in recent years has witnessed an upsurge in population; this is also evident from the overwhelming increase in vehicles on most highways in the FCC which has made commuting a rather harrowing experience based on the high level of traffic gridlock.
It is based on this disturbing development that the current FCT Administration has purposelydecided to unbridle the much needed multi-modal form of transportation; an unhindered Abuja Light Rail that is sure to handle the issue of traffic gridlock and will also be effective, fast and provide a cheaper/affordable means of transportation.
The Abuja Light Rail project has reached it’s final implementation take-off stage;Senator Bala Mohammed made this assertion in Beijing, China where he went to represent the Administration at the signing ceremony of the agreement for the $500M loan that is needed to bring the light rail project to conclusion; he further expressed absolute delight when he stated that “today marks a major milestone in the history of the provision of infrastructure in the FCT”. And certainly the ability to finally access the loan will symbolize the transformation of the FCT. The Minister added that “the Abuja light rail is of major significance to us due to the manner it will be used to effectively move residents from the outskirts to the center of the Federal Capital City and vice versa;invariably, augmenting the socio-economic standing for the residents of the FCT by increasing their financial power and decreasing the city’s population upsurge.
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala signed the MoU agreement of the $500M loan that will be provided by the Chinese Exim Bank. The signing of the agreement between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Chinese Exim bank has set in motion an unimpeded protraction of the Abuja Light Rail project; she also averred that it is in interest of both countries to cooperate with each other. China is the largest country in the world and 2nd biggest economy in the world, while Nigeria is the largest in Africa and 2nd biggest economy on the continent. It is more evident than ever as stated by Dr Okonjo-Iweala during their trip to China earlier in the year when it was made clear that the Abuja Light Rail Project is exceedingly needed by not just the FCT but by Nigeria as a whole; the project remains a priority that is topmost to the President, FCT Administration and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory.
The Vice president of the Exim bank Mr. Sun Ping while welcoming the Nigerian delegationsaid that”China and Nigeria have had a protracted upended relationship and they have always treated each other like brothers”. He further explained that the Exim bank is owned by the government of China which intends to further strengthen economic cooperation with Nigeria.
Obviously, Senator Bala Mohammed has reaffirmed his administration’s willingness to do everything necessary to ensure that the Abuja Light Rail projected is completed within the transformation period of President Goodluck Jonathan. This is predicated on the fact that all impediments that had militated against the Multi-Billion-Naira Rail project were shoved aside.
The recent trip to China by the Nigerian delegation to consolidate and sign the final loan agreement with the Chinese NEXIM Bank is coming on the heels of the formal signing of the amended variation of the scope of agreement between the current FCT Administration and the Chinese Firm (CCECC) handling the project; the Abuja Light Rail project began in 2006 with plans to finance it through a $500 Million loan from Chinese Nexim Bank in addition to funding from the Federal Government and the FCT Administration. The Project really commenced in 2009 as a result of paucity of funds.
Basically, the lack of securing the $500 Million as ideated has had a rather adverse effect which has made the former completion date of 2013 unrealistic, but the FCT Administration and the Federal Government had to kick start the project and have so far spent over N22 Billion with a 20 per cent completion.
The Abuja Light Rail has been revised and thus having a variation of scope; Senator Bala’s administration has been able to hasten the process by ensuring that it got a certificate of no objection from the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPE) as well as the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The phasing of the project is a welcome idea, so that each individual phase can be monitored towards ensuring that it meets the set date of completion and to also ensure that the current FCT Administration conveniently place the train and couches on the rail tracks in Abuja before may 2015.
The Abuja Rail Project must without doubt be exceptionally prioritized by the FCT Administration in such a manner that regular emphasis must be given to it, regular visits must be paid to the sites to ascertain the level of work done at every point in time until the project is completed; it is essential to know what has been done, the current stage of the project and where the project is meant to be at specific periods of time. This is one project that remains very dear to the Federal Government, and efforts must be geared towards ensuring that it is delivered at the expiration of the contractual timeline. As it is now we have 2015 as the date of completion and handing over and that date must be sacrosanct, ensuring that nothing delays that date.
FCT residents must see the Abuja light rail project as theirs specifically bearing in mind the massive employment and commercial opportunities it will bring, and continue to support Senator Bala Mohammed’s developmental strategies and projects with a vision of enhancing their living standards.
Ibrahim wrote in from 17 Bar Beach Tower Victoria Island, Lagos State.
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