Traffic congestion which is beginning to surge in the nation’s capital, Abuja would likely linger for some time as expansion of the Light Rail Project intended to provide solution seems a mission impossible in the nearest future .
China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), which is handling the project, said the projection of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) that 10 additional stations will be built to open phase II of the Light Rail is not obtainable because much work is not yet done.
Traffic congestion in Abuja is now so heightened that most times it takes an upward of two hours to move from the City Centre to densely populated areas like Kubwa, Apo and Nyanya, especially during rush hours like in the mornings when residents are going to work, and at close of work.
Ordinarily, movement to and fro the City Centre to those areas should take between 15 and 30 minutes if there was an alternative means of transportation like the rail system.
The Abuja Light Rail is mainly intended to reduce the traffic congestion and offer an enhanced travel experience to the commuters in the FCT.
But speaking to BDSUNDAY, an official of CCECC who did not want to be named in print doubted the expansion of the project as it was not certain whether FCTA has even paid its 15percent of the counterpart fund for the supply of the additional coaches.
The source was however, certain that three additional coaches would be delivered this year, noting that unless the rail lines or lots are extended, the available line cannot accommodate the remaining 48 coaches.
“This year alone, from the projections of the FCT Minister, 10 additional stations will be built but if you ask me I don’t see much work being done and that naturally will bring us to the question of funding.
“When you come to financing you see what Amaechi is doing in Lagos-Ibadan, he talks with confidence, you people must finish it before October. He talks like that because the Ministry has taken care of its commitment.
“If actually they (FCT) pay their counterpart fund because if you look at most projects going on in Nigeria, they are financed by Chinese Exim Bank. The question is: has FCT been able to secure its part of the deal?
“Counterpart funding is based on your ability to fulfil your own part of the deal. Chinese Exim Bank is ready to give you money but that small 15percent that you are supposed to add to it before you can access the loan is not there. Somebody is willing to give you 85percent, bring 15percent you don’t have it because it is big money when you convert to Nigerian currency,” the CCECC official said.
When contacted, a Director in the FCTA Transportation Secretariat, in charge of the projects, declined comments but admitted that funding was the problem. A consultant on the project recently said it would take about $7 million to carry out engineering works for the lot 2 to be completed.
Kayode Opeifa, a former Secretary of the FCTA Transportation Secretariat, confirmed that the project could provide residents with a transportation system for mass movement of people and goods between satellite towns and the FCT, reduce travel times and provide residents with an environmental friendly transportation.
Opeifa added that when completed, the Abuja Railway Project will, “link people in the satellite towns to the city, promote tourism and improve quality of life and it would be tourist delight”.
Awarded in 2007, the project is divided into Six (6) Lots and with total length of 290 kilometres, comprising: Lot 1A & 3 with a total length of 45.3 kilometres which starts at ldu lndustrial Zone via Gwagwa-Diedie and terminates at Gbazango Station in Kubwa (18km).
Lot 2 is from Gwagwa via Transportation Centre (Metro Station) to Nyanya/Karu while Lot3, from Transportation Centre via ldu lndustrial Zone to Nnamdi Azikiwe international Airport.
Lot 4 is rom Kuje Satellite town to Karshi Satellite town with the remaining legs of the Transit way line 2; Lot 5 from Kubwa via Bwari to Suleja; and Lot 6 from Airport via Kuje and Gwagwalada to Dobi.
Phase 1 of the Abuja Light Rail consisting of Lot 1A & 3 with a total length of 45.3 kilometres was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2018 with three coaches conveying people from the Metro Station in the Central Business District (CBD) to the Nnadi Azikiwe International Airport with a brief stop-over at Idu interchange for passengers going to Kaduna.
However, since the project was inaugurated, there has been no expansion even as the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello had told the President and Nigerians that phase II had commended.
The Minister had said: “I am pleased to inform Mr. President and distinguished guests that the FCTA is working on phase ll of the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project to cover a distance of 32.54km from Nnamdi Azikwe Expressway at Garki Area 1 via the transportation Centre to Gwagwa and from Bazango Station to Kubwa”.
He disclosed that the FCTA had taken delivery of 3 coaches for initial take-off while the 48 were being expected as the Administration had concluded an infrastructure soft loan agreement with Exim Bank of China for the supply of the remaining coaches.
The supply and maintenance of the 48 coaches and their maintenance for three years cost US $194,008,602.43 out of which the China Exim Bank was to fund the project to the tune of US$157,001,049.89 (85percent), while the FCTA was bring a counterpart fund of US$37,007 (15percent).
Towards the end of last year, Bello said by the middle of 2020, more coaches under construction would arrive and 10 additional stations would become operational on the Lot 1A & 3.
This was last week corroborated by the FCTA Transport Secretariat Secretary, Alice Achu that the delivery of first set of Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) will be taken in the first quarter of 2020 to boost the regular operation of Rail Services covering Kubwa, Idu, Air Port and Metro Stations.
Achu said arrangements have been concluded for the “procurement of Transaction Advisor for the supply of Rolling Stock and Operation of Abuja Rail Lots 1A and 3
“Completion of Abuja Rail Mass Transit Phase 2 Addendum- 1 and supply of Rolling Stock and Depot Equipment including 3 year maintenance.
“Commencement of Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project Addendum 2, construction of Lot 1B (26.7775 km) and the remaining part of Lot 1A (5.76 km) and exclusive bus lane”.
James Kwen, Abuja