Rotimi Ameachi And The 2 Controversial Rail Projects
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the former Governor of River state and Minister of Transportation in the last dispensation, is one man that courts controversies effortlessly.
The former Minister is also famous for declaring publicly that he has never accepted a bribe, and that he would not be tempted, much less yield, because he does not like money.
In the recently dissolved cabinet of President Mohammadu Buhari, Rotimi Amaechi was one of the most active and outstanding ministers.
In the last 4 years, he was constantly in the news on account of several railway reconstructions and expansion projects around the country.
Rotimi Amaechi, during his stint as the governor of River state and as the Minister of transportation, had been the focus of several controversies.
Interestingly, some of the biggest controversies involving him centred on the cost of railway construction projects.
Autojosh highlights 2 of the controversial railway projects that Rotimi Amaechi has been embroiled in.
The Port Harcourt Monorail Project
Rotimi Amaechi conceived the idea of the Port Harcourt Monorail project in 2008 during his first term as governor of River state.
The project was intended for mass transportation within the Port Harcourt metropolis.
While announcing the monorail project, Amaechi said it would be the first of its kind in West Africa.
Two companies bided for the contract: Urbanord, an American company and TSI, a local company owned by a one-time military administrator of Rivers State, Colonel Anthony Ukpo.
The foreign firm bided N25 billion to complete the Phase 1 which was a 12-kilometre distance in the design, while TSI quoted N50billion for the same distance. Amaechi opted for the indigenous firm.
However, this decision did not get the buy-ins of Amaechi’s cabinet.
When it became hard to get the endorsement of his cabinet members, he allegedly dissolved the cabinet to have his way and later reconstituted it after the contract award.
This accounting is according to a submission by the Director, Safety and Aviation, Engineer Says Antioch of the State Ministry of Transportation before Justice George Omwreji-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the Sale of Assets of the state by former Governor Amaechi.
The contract for the construction of the Port Harcourt monorail was designed to cover 12 kilometres at the cost of N50 billion.
The first phase of the project was to cover Aggrey road through Station road- Azikiwe road-Aba road to Water lines junction.
In 2015, at the completion of Ameachi’s second term in office, the project had already been abandoned.
Sources said the work already done at the point of abandonment covered only 2.6kilometers. At that point, it had already gulped N33.9billion.
Many considered that spending as much as 33.9 billion on a 2.6-kilometre railway project was outrageous.
There had also been allegations that the cost of the project, compared with similar projects in other states, was suspicious.
Since Amaechi left office, the project has remained abandoned, as the current government, led by Governor Nyesom Wike, has distanced himself from the project.
In April 2017, the Federal Government announced that it had begun the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway line.
The Goodluck Jonathan-led government originally contracted the project for nearly $1.5 billion.
However, the Buhari administration – under the supervision of the Rotimi Amaechi-led Ministry of Transportation – rewrote and renegotiated the contract with the Chinese construction firm handling the project, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
Multiple news reports said while the 156-km Lagos-Ibadan railway line is estimated to cost $2b.
The Line will run from Iddo in Lagos to Ibadan in Oyo State, passing through Abeokuta in Ogun State. It will also have an extension to the Apapa Ports Complex.
However, in May this year, a news report published by a Ghanaian news media revealed the cost of a similar railway construction project in Ghana.
In the report, Ghana locked down its own standard gauge deal with another Chinese firm, which would also include the building of two terminals in addition to plans to establish local hubs to build locomotive coaches.
The Ghanaian railway line, which will run on a 340km track, will cost Ghana $2.2 billion.
The reports suggested that the Lagos-Ibadan railway project may have been significantly inflated considering the cost per distance of the two projects.
Since the Lagos-Ibadan railway project is roughly one-third shorter, without any significant differences in gauge-type, power source or terrain, many wondered how Ghana got a better deal with the Chinese.