The long-awaited Abuja Light Rail Mass Transit Project was commissioned last week amidst jubilation and accolades. CALEB ONWE reports
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday commissioned the Abuja Light Rail project. The event was indeed a further step towards realising the aspirations of the founding fathers of Abuja. In its over 30 years of existence as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja has been adjudged to be one of the fastest growing cities of the world, in terms of infrastructural development and population.
But there has been some obvious disconnect, due to the absence of a full complement of transportation system that could make movement seamless round the city. In July 2016, the Federal Government took the first step by the inauguration of the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge railway train service. However, the actual journey to realizing the aspirations to connecting the Federal Capital Territory to the metro-rail started during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
The contract for the project was awarded on May 25, 2007. It was to be jointly financed by the Federal Capital Territory Administration and the China EXIM Bank, which provided a counterpart funding for the project. The contract was also awarded to a Chinese construction company, CCECC Nigeria Ltd and work commenced two years later, precisely on May, 28, 2009.
The project, which was originally designed as a 60.67km rail track was later revised in a contract augmentation to 45.245km while the contract sum was scaled down from $841,645,898 to $823,540,545.87 in accordance with the contract augmentation. Minister of the FCT, Mallam Mohammed Bello, disclosed that the initial project completion period was 48 months but it was later shifted to December, 2015. Bello said that by the time the current administration inherited the project in 2015, it was at 54 per cent completion. “On assumption of office, the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration ensured that the contractor accelerated efforts towards completing the project, and the target has been met according to plan. “There are several factors that led to the decision to embark on this historic project in the Federal Capital Territory.
Apart from the fact that the rail project will bring Abuja, Nigeria’s capital at par with other major cities across the world in terms of infrastructural development, it will serve as a connecting link between the Abuja capital city and the surrounding satellite towns and communities when fully completed. In other words, it will integrate the entire Federal Capital Territory, as well as provide easy access to visitors from across the country.
“One significant feature of the new Abuja rail system is the modernity of its facilities which are all ultramodern edifices with provisions for modern shopping centres and eateries comparable to the ones in Europe and America. “Other benefits accruing from the Abuja rail mass transit project include providing FCT residents with efficient, safe and orderly transportation system. It will also reduce travel times for the residents as well as provide them with an environmentalfriendly transportation system while also enhancing social, political and economic activities between the satellite towns and the Federal Capital City”
Benefits of the project
Inside Abuja learnt that apart from upgrading the status of FCT , the light rail project was designed to improve transportation, reduce traffic congestions in the city, especially with the daily influx of visitors from within and outside Nigeria, and as well as boost the tourism attractions of the burgeoning expected capital city of Africa.
The completed phase one which comprises twelve (12) stations namely: the Abuja Metro, Stadium, Kukwaba I & II, Wupa, Idu, Bassanjiwa, Airport, Gwagwa Dei-Dei, Kagini and Gbazango, traversing the railline corridor, have been identified as a relief for residents living within the corridors to seamlessly cruise to the city centre for work and other activities of the day, without the stress of vehicular traffic.
Travellers and visitors who are coming to the city centre from the popular Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, can also take advantage of the Airport station, from where the train would convey them to the metro station, strategically located beside the Abuja world trade centre edifice. When the remaining phases, which are expected to connect the Nyanya-Karshi and other satellite towns, the current traffic lock jam being experienced by commuters along the Nyanya-Karu-AYA road would have been resolved. Inside Abuja also gathered that another pronounced benefits accruable from the project, is its capacity to create about 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Stakeholders are expecting the earliest arrival of the remaining coaches and other components of the rail transportation system, so that full commercial operations could start in the routes already completed. Inside Abuja has also gathered that there are moves ongoing for the allocation of spaces in the train stations for the specified businesses according to the blueprint of the design.
While transparency is urged as a guiding principles for allocating the spaces, stakeholders have also expressed the desire for a water-tight security in and around the trains and the stations. The FCT Minister, while assuring that government would remain committed to the sustainability of the standard, also affirmed his resolve to meet the expectations of the public on the light rail system.
The facilities so far delivered and commissioned includes the three coaches and one locomotive which were procured for the test run of the project. The ultra-modern coaches have a total capacity of 390 passengers with each coach having a carrying capacity of 130 persons. Some of the other features of the project are the construction of 45.245 kilometre length of double track rail line with a standard gauge of 1435mm. The project also boasts of culverts and four frame bridges. In addition, there are 13 railway bridges, seven pedestrian overpass, one rolling stock depot and 15 flyover bridges on roads.
Inside Abuja’s checks revealed that the contractor, CCECC Nigeria Ltd. will manage the operation of the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project for three years, after which the whole system would be transferred to a company to be established by the FCTA.
Stakeholders are expecting the relevant authorities to shun chauvinistic tendencies and ensure transparency and integrity in the process of the transfer in order to get capable and competent team that would promote sustainability and profitability. Another challenge that stakeholders fear may delay the execution of the remaining phases of the project is legal battle from those who own properties along the rail corridors, as well as the fund for compensating those on the right of way of the project. President of Nigeria Union in South Africa (NUSA), Mr Adetola Olubajo, commended President Buhari’s government for the completion of the light rail project. Olubajo, in a statement made available to the newsmen in Abuja, said that the project would benefit Nigerians living in Abuja as it would ease traffic congestions on busy routes. “We celebrate the President for his commitment to improve infrastructural facilities regardless of numerous challenges facing our country now.
“I have seen for myself the ongoing massive infrastructural development in Nigeria during my travelling to different states this period. “Though a lot still needed to be done, we need to applaud steps in the right direction and encourage this administration to do more,” he said. Olubajo said that the opposition should put genuine pressure on the present government to keep them on their toes to extend the rail development to other cities like Lagos because of its peculiar traffic challenges. “We believe that if Lagos has good railway facilities coupled with the one embarked upon by state government, both land and water transport systems, life would be made easier.
“Also, economic activities will improve and more foreign investment will be seen in Lagos and neighbouring states. Most importantly, the standard of living of our people will improve as there will be more job opportunities and more government revenue,” he said.
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