By Dirisu Yakubu
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has attributed the delay in the commissioning of the Lagos-Ibadan standard-gauge railway line to the increase in the number of coronavirus infections witnessed in many states of the federation in the last two weeks.
Amaechi revealed this by reviewing the Ministry’s performance in recent years and prospects for 2021 as a guest of the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, breakfast show, Monday morning show.
According to him, dozens of employees at the project site, numbering around 60, have been infected by the dreaded virus, and yet he noted that, to the glory of God, none of them have died, saying: “I pray for no one dies, but you can see the kind of sacrifice everyone is making to make the rail work. “
He said: “As far as we are concerned, we have to learn to live with COVID-19. I really want to congratulate those who accomplished this feat. We were going to open it in the first week of January. We had to stop completing minor jobs due to the increase in transmission of COVID-19. “
According to him, “The schedule for the inauguration depends on the COVID-19. If it stops today, we will need an additional two weeks. You may not even need to come to a complete stop. If it drops drastically, we’ll be happy to go ahead and take care of it. This was our expectation but, unfortunately, it skyrocketed. So everyone has to wait and watch what is happening and make sure that we stay safe and alive. “
The minister also read the riot act to those who insisted on disobeying the security measures implemented to checkmate the spread of the virus, adding that the ministry would not hesitate to stop the movement of passengers on any route deemed guilty.
“If the Lagos-Ibadan passengers disobey the COVID protocols, we will stop the train (services). Don’t forget that we carry about 4,000 passengers in one day on the Abuja-Kaduna railway line. Now, imagine that about 20 people have coronavirus. They can transmit the same to all 4,000 passengers. If we bring 2000 to Abuja and 2000 to Kaduna, the transmission rate will be very high. We can’t continue like that. The same applies to Lagos. For us, we insist that everyone must obey the protocols. Wear your mask for the entire trip until you quit, ”he advised.
He also added that, save for minor installations here and there, the Lagos-Ibadan route is ready for commissioning in line with the January 2021 deadline given to the contractors managing the mega project.
“We have done more than 96 percent of the work. What remains is a minor problem here and there at stations, not bridges. We can run and people are using it. The only thing is that we are not allowing them to use the stations, so they do not destroy anything. We have furniture to fix. Many of the bridges, whether overpasses or underground, have been completed ”, he emphasized even while lamenting the desire to create more bypass by various communities whose settlements are close to the railway line.
“The problem with Nigerians is that many people create their own detours, instead of walking up or down to the bridge. Every town wants you to create one for them, which means you must end up building these detours not just for communities but for individuals as well. But all you need to do is walk to the bridge. The reason so many people die on our roads is because they don’t want to use pedestrian bridges, ”he added.