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‘Delivering Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line without fixing steel complex unfortunate’

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Whereas the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr  Fidet Okheria, has disclosed that “In two weeks’ time, we want to ride on the train from Itakpe-Ajaokuta to Warri. This will enable us to assess what they have done and to know when the full operation will be inaugurated,” analysts argue that the readiness leaves much to be desired so far, the Ajaokuta Steel complex remains moribund.

Even though the scheme is coming more than three decades after the commencement of construction on a 276-kilometre standard gauge rail line linking Warri in Delta State to Ajaokuta, Kogi State, a public affairs analyst, Chris Omole decried that “What would have made sense in the entire efforts to deliver the rail line is that if there was corresponding drive by the same government in bringing the steel complex back to life.

“No matter what, the government would have used the money it invested in delivering the rail line to reviving the Steel complex hence experts say it only needs far less than what was used to construct the rail. I say this because, I cannot see the target traffic upon which government relied to vote much energy to the delivery of the rail scheme.

“Like I said earlier, if you ask me, I will tell you that government has clearly misplaced priority in funding that rail scheme at a time the same government is crying for money.

Only few weeks ago, a delegation of the National Assembly led by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara was in Ajaokuta to see the extent of job done and made it clear that the lawmakers have been detailed that what the complex needs to come on stream is very little compared to the dangers posed in selling the national asset.

It would be recalled that the immediate past minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi had plotted to sell off the scheme before public outcries forced him to hang on the plan.

Business Hilights gathered that the original plan for the rail was in anticipation of coming on stream of the Steel complex.

The project, otherwise called the central railway line, was initially planned to be delivered in five years, but was stalled for decades due to paucity of funds.

The rail line from Warri, passing through Itakpe, Ajaokuta, Agbor and Ore, with six stations along the route, was conceived to carry steel products and raw materials from the Delta Steel Company, Aladja, but was abandoned after about 254 kilometres had been done.

The project was reactivated in 2009 with the Federal Government agreeing to pay N33bn for the design and completion of the remaining 22 kilometres.

The contract was awarded to Team Nigeria and Julius Berger, and was meant to be delivered in March 2013. The contract sum also covered the sidings of the Ajaokuta-Warri rail line up to Delta Steel Aladja, and construction of six stations with the rehabilitation of the completed portion of the line. Again no provision was reportedly made this in that year’s budget.

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