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Monday, July 22, 2024

Lagos – Calabar coastal highway /rail line: More confusion and strategic dissonance!

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By Rowland Ataguba

This coastal rail alignment in this report (https://sunnewsonline.com/lagos-calabar-highway-rail-component-to-gulp-11-174bn/?trk=feed-detail_main-feed-card_feed-article-content) is inland and is consistent with the contract awarded to CCECC in 2014 for which we have been unable to secure funding in nearly 10 years. It covers a distance of about 1,700km. It is quite a different alignment from that of the 700km coastal highway which we were told would have a railway in the middle.

Clearly the coastal railway contract with the Chinese has not been revoked though is in default as we haven’t been able to fund it. So if you have a highway for $12bn and a railway for $12bn, that’s $24bn total! Wow!! How will it be funded?

The report talks about government counterpart funding of $500m which is about 5% of the contract for the railway and a Chinese loan of $1.8bn. That’s a total of $2.3bn! Can this be for real? What about the balance of over $9bn?!

Or are they talking about the funding of the Eastern line rehabilitation which is about $3bn? The Chinese have not approved any loans to us for railway since the Lagos-Ibadan drawdowns in 2019 and there’s been a long queue of railway loan requests agregating $25bn in all. Will that change?

The omens dont look good but we live in renewed hope.

Furthermore, Ministry of Works is now in charge of building the coastal railway line?! Come again? What experience do they have? Even their track record on road building which is what they know, is hardly sterling.

They’ve been on Abuja – Lokoja – Benin road forever, Is it the East-West road or Enugu-Port Harcourt road or Abuja-Kaduna- Kano road that they have done well on? Well, the Ministry of Mines and Power awarded the Ajaokuta-Warri rail line in about 1981. It took nearly 30 years to complete and not until it was transferred to the Ministry of Transportation.

The Lagos-Kano standard gauge project was originally domiciled in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. It ended up being transferred to the Ministrt of Transportation.

Further down the road will be questions as to who will operate the line? A private operator will ask about its commercial viability for concessioning or will require a sizeable pso. If its the NRC, then look no further than its long history of underperformance.

Do we ever learn or we just keep doing things the same way and expecting a different result? Worryingly, what is coming out of the Min. of Transportation and Min. of Works of the same government is not in sync. Is this symptomatic of departmental rivalry or something more cynical?

We have so many outstanding infrastructure contracts, thousands of them, that have not progressed for years because of lack of funds but can suddenly find money for these massive commitments? From where and how?

I am still scratching my head because things are just not adding up and the more we see, the less we understand.

Ataguba, an expert on railway matters, posted this on LinkedIn page.

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