The announcement of a N5 billion contract for the rehabilitation of Abuja rail mass transit (ARMT) system by federal capital territory administration (FCTA) has raised questions by a UK-based Nigerian railway consultant.
Recall that Olusade Adesola, permanent secretary, FCTA, told NAN on Friday that the aim was to restore the vital rail transportation infrastructure, which he described as the “life blood of Abuja.”
He said the project would be executed by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd (CCECC) within 12 months.
But in his comments on his LinkedIn page, Rowland Ataguba wrote: “This is all quite intriguing. It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place or the devil and the deep blue sea. If you don’t fix the vandalised infrastructure then it is likely to run down some more and probably be vandalised some more. And if you don’t run a commercial metro service, the infrastructure cannot self preserve as you would have spent all this money only to spend even more guarding it.
“Now I am just wondering when this N5bn contract was procured. Sounds very much like it was single sourced. Was FEC approval obtained? When was that done as there has been no FEC for months now?
“Now, I am presuming this N5bn contract has to do with Lots 1A and 3, the only sections of the project that the infrastructure has been built so far. When reference is made to this project, you would be forgiven for thinking it is the whole whereas we are at less than 20% of the total infrastructure. When will Lots 1B, 2, 4,5 & 6 be built? Do they know? Importantly, where is Transportation Centre which is the hub of the system? And more importantly who is operating the metro or are we just wedded to awarding contracts to build white elephants? Where is the Abuja Transit Authority?
“Finally, whatever happened to the provision for 5 year maintenance built into the contract with the Chinese. Sounds like we are rehabilitating a metro that never ran after building the infrastructure with $1bn without any clarity of how we are going to run it in the long run. I pray for the life of me that the Chinese are not having a laugh at our expense.”
According to Adesola, the Abuja light rail will play a crucial role in easing transportation challenges and enhancing mobility for residents.
He explained that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the temporary shutdown of the rail system as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus, but Ataguba said, in his own opinion, “The Covid story is just a ruse if you beg my pardon. There was never a meaningful service on the alignment. Neither is there any evidence of a capacity to operate a metro service.”
Adesola added that during the period of inactivity, hoodlums vandalised essential equipment of the rail system which was a “serious setback”.
The permanent secretary said that contracts for the provision of security for the ARMT system have been awarded.
“We are taking stringent measures to safeguard this valuable asset,” he said.
“We will not allow the actions of a few vandals to undermine the progress and potential of this essential public service.
“We will leave no stone unturned in restoring the Abuja Light Rail System to its former glory and ensuring it surpasses its previous performance.”
Adesola explained that the rehabilitation would involve the repair and replacement of damaged equipment, upgrading of facilities, and implementing modern security measures to protect against future threats.
He assured residents that the process would be expedited without compromising quality.
On his part, Wang Xixue, managing director, CCECC, said the rehabilitation of the vandalised components of the ARMT system was critical to the development of the transportation system in the FCTA.
“As a socially responsible company, we are concerned about the development of the public transport system in FCTA and within Nigeria,” he said.
“We will maintain close cooperation with relevant stakeholders, to contribute to the development of an advanced public railway transport system.”