The minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed disclosed this on Thursday during a tour of the project from Airport terminal to Idu Sub Station to Abuja metro station at the Central Business District. The tour was a continuation of the nationwide tour of federal government projects across the country, which started in May this year with the Lagos –Ibadan standard gauge rail, which is the first leg of the Lagos- Kano standard gauge rail way. This was followed by inspection of the erosion and flood control project in Osogbo Osun state; the dualization of Ogbomosho-Osogbo road project ; the Enugu-PH express way and second Niger bridge, among others.
The minister also stated that the federal government has set up N199 billion Infrastructure Development Fund to address the challenge of infrastructure deficit in the country. According to the minister, government is also working to improve other sea ports in the country to decongest the notorious Apapa port. ‘‘We have just concluded a part of the Abuja Light rail project. Commercial operations have started. We have placed order for 48 coaches, which we are expecting to arrive soon to compliment the three coaches now in operation.
‘‘This government has shown the political will, commitment to change the infrastructural decay it met on ground. One thing this government has been able to succeed in doing is setting up Infrastructure Development Fund, IDF. This is adequate provisions made by government to avoid the mistake of the past, where critical projects were starved of funds due to lack of adequate provisions. We are also working to improve other sea ports in the country. ‘‘The important thing for this administration is to continue with what we met on ground. We could have abandoned all the projects we met. But we said no. our philosophy is to build an enduring infrastructure legacy that will outlive this generation,” he stated. On the affordability of the service, Alh. Mohammed said, ‘‘what we are doing is to test run the system. No fee is being charged for the next couple of months until we perfect the system. ‘‘Today, we are subsidizing passengers’ movements on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line by 50 percent. The idea is to create the enabling environment. We do not run it because we want to recoup the money spent but because we know it is a tool for growth. ‘‘I can assure you that whenever we start full commercial operation, it will be cheaper compared to any other form of transportation by road, air and water. It also going to be more efficient, safer and more effective.’’ Speaking on the project, the FCT Secretary for Transport, Mr. kayoed Opeifa said government has commenced full commercial operation on the project. Of the six lots in the whole project, he said only two have been completed, while work is about to commence in lot 1B, while the remaining lots would be run on public private partnership for efficiency. The 45 kilometer rail project comprises 13 bridges; 15 flyovers; training school; office; Lounge; parking bay; Operation Control Centre, four 460 KVA generators; food court, meeting rooms ; 21 buildings; survelance, signal and control centre among others. On local content, the Chief Resident Engineer of the project, Engr. Anthony Agbakoba said the project has more than 95% local content, comprising about 120 Chinese expatriates and 5000-10000 Nigerians since the commencement of the project in 2009. He said the $823 million project is meant to offer Nigerians and Abuja residents in particular, a seamless rail transportation system, the first of its kind in Nigeria and the whole of West African sub-region. He explained that the present administration took over the project at 56% in 2015 before the recent completion and commissioning of Lot 1 A and Lot 3 last week in just 18 months after eight years of delay by the previous administration. ‘‘We intend to build capacity of Nigerians. A lot of people have been trained abroad. From what we have seen, Nigerians can make things work. beyond, the 5000-10000 so far employed, the facility in we have in place can employ over 100,000 people when completed.’’ According to him, the routes that are now running are: Abuja metro-Kukwaba 1; national park-Kukwaba (Ring Road 11); Wupa-Bassanjiwa (Airport east);-Idu- Airport, while Gbazango-Kagini (Jibi)-Dei Dei-Gwagwa-Idu routes are yet to commence operation.‘We are laying foundation for enduring infrastructure for generations unborn. This has left the opposition to resort to hate speech and fake news. We have joined the League of Nations in smart rail transportation,’’ he said. As part of its commitment to close the infrastructure gap in the country, the minister stated that federal government had set up N199 billion Infrastructure Development Fund for special intervention. The fund, according to him, would be used to fund critical infrastructure across the country without necessarily relying on the annual budgetary provisions.