Counterpart funding derails Abuja rail project

by Daily Trust

So much has been said about the Abuja rail mass transit project. As a result of this, residents of the capital city have been waiting anxiously to see modern trains on tracks, hoping they would ease the transportation hassle of commuters; but they still have to wait much longer.

Investigations by Aso Chronicle have revealed that inconsistent funding is a major challenge for the effective execution of the project.
The multi-million dollar project was awarded during the tenure of the then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Nasir el-Rufai, but it has dragged on since it was awarded on May 23, 2007 at the original contract sum of US $841645, 898.00.
The project could not commence until May 28, 2009 after it was reviewed from the conceptual design it was awarded with.
Since the project started, many buildings have been demolished while several people lost their farms, though they were said to be compensated. It has witnessed reviews under three different administrations.
From the original completion date of May 28, 2011 to a revised completion date of December 31, 2015, Aso Chronicle reliably gathered that the project could not be delivered on the scheduled date due to some constraints, including the change in government, delay in the appointment of FCT minister and the inability of the Federal Government to pay its counterpart funds.
The Abuja rail mass transit is divided into six lots owing to its enormity. The lots currently handled by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Limited are lots 1A and 3, covering 45.245km. The rail line is expected to convey commuters from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport to the city centre, and Idu to Kubwa.
Our reporters who went round the major sites of the construction work discovered that late payment of counterpart fund, delay in compensation, removal of buildings on the right of way and the absence of a minister for the FCT for over five months, are the major reasons the project cannot be completed on schedule.
There are strong indications from documents obtained by Aso Chronicle that the project would not be completed this year with 41.332km out of the 45.245km length of the double track rail line completed.
“We know when it is to be completed, but on our part we are not doing what we are supposed to do. We have failed in our own counterpart funding,” Engr. Etim Abak, the Chief Resident Engineer (Rail) of the project said.
Contractors handling the project said they had not been paid since June. “The file is still with the authorities,” Abak said, while explaining the delay.
Sources close to the government, however, said the payment was delayed due to the absence of a minister in the Federal Capital Territory. The sources said the FCT minister who was supposed to endorse the payments and send it to the appropriate quarters was not sworn in until late October.
The sources expressed doubts over the endorsement of the file for the release of the counterpart funding, which they said had since been passed to the presidency in the absence of the FCT minister.
One of the indigenous workers at the site said the lateness in payment had slowed the rate at which the workers perform.
“It is not possible in 2015. There are certain things that are dependent on time. We have lost some time in the process of not paying the contractors in time. The work would also be affected. We cannot achieve it.
“We have our schedule, but it should be matched with funding. If the funding has a problem, certainly the schedule cannot be reliable.
“What I can assure the public is that if the new administration can start the funding, by June everything will be completed.
“The only problem is funding, which is affecting the execution of the project. But we have done so much in terms of our counterpart funding. Last year, we had a problem with funding for over two months. And we have lost some time in the process of not paying the contractors, which also affects the progress of the work,” Abak said.
However, the Acting Secretary, Transportation Secretariat in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Abdulhamid M. Suleiman said the Department of Resettlement and Compensation had valued all the buildings, and compensation would be paid as soon as possible.
“Enumeration and compensation of the structures on the entire 45.245km right of way have been completed, except for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) mega station, Advance Link, Forte Oil and Danzyl Plaza, which are obstructing the work for the Abuja Metro Station in the Central Business District (CBD).
About 3.923km of rail is yet to be laid. This area covers mostly where there are bridges or obstruction like that in the CBD; and it
remains about 800metres rail line to be laid. The bridges at Ring Road 1 and the airport are other portions yet to be covered.
Aso Chronicle gathered that of the 13 railway bridges expected to be constructed, 12 have been completed. The entire T-beams required for the railway bridges have also been completed.
Also, ballast and sleepers needed for the entire project are already on ground.
The Idu rolling stock depot, which is expected to have 20 buildings, including a training centre, comprehensive maintenance and office complex at October, had 65 per cent completion rate. The maintenance workshop, parking shed, washing shed, overhaul team quarter, service sliding complex building, commissioning room, water rheostat test room and general house were yet to be completed.
At the Airport Transfer Station, the completion of the launch of precast T-beams at the realigned airport super major bridge would take about one month to be completed, according to a senior official at the site, while the national transfer station and the airport north station were yet to be completed.
While construction is still ongoing, with the scheduled date of completion not feasible, the project has gulped US$515, 840, 482.14 (N80, 884, 442, 806.58). Documents obtained by Aso Chronicle showed that of the US$823, 540, 545. 87 revised contract sum US$ 515, 840, 482. 14 has been paid.
The Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank) and the Nigerian government jointly fund the project. The bank has provided US$500, 000, 000 as soft loan with the Nigerian government contributing US$323, 540, 545.87 as counterpart funding.
Abak said it got to a stage the bank could not release money unless “we bring our counterpart funding.”
Residents hoping to see trains ply the rails come January 2016 would have to wait longer. Contrary to their expectations, the Abuja rail mass transit project would only put in place an engineering design, locomotives and a rolling stock depot, buildings and stations without the rolling stock.
The project, as explained by a senior official at the Transportation Secretariat, is like “putting in place an airport for aircraft. Ships cannot berth without seaports, so there won’t be rolling stock without engineering design and rail lines.
While corroborating the senior official, the Acting Secretary in the Transportation Secretariat, Abdulhamid Suleiman said, “Procurement of the rolling stock, which is the train cars or locomotives that would kick-start the rail transportation is still in process.”
Engineer Abak, the chief resident engineer overseeing the project, also added that a diesel-powered locomotive to be procured by the government has already been identified. The locomotives, he explained, is a hybrid that could later be upgraded.
A source in the Transportation Secretariat said the likely date for the commencement of the train transport in the territory was a policy statement, which can only be disclosed by the permanent secretary in the FCT.
The hopes of many residents could be dashed if locomotives are not seen on the rails as soon as they are completed “because the contractors would have to test-run the rail for a period of time,” our source in the Transportation Secretariat said.
“After the completion of the project, the contractor must also run this system, at least for one year for us to see. There are a lot of things to be done,” Abak affirmed.
The rail mass transit project, owing to its large nature, was divided into six lots covering the entire territory. Lot 1A and 3 currently executed, covers Nnamdi Azikwe Airport, Central Area, Idu and Kubwa. Lot 4 will convey passengers from Kuje to Karshi while commuters going from Kubwa to Bwari would be captured in the fifth lot.
Lot 6 covers the Airport, Kuje and Gwagwalada to Dobi, in the outskirts of Gwagwalada.
Of all the lots, lot 2 is the most wanted, covering one of the largest traffic corridors in the territory - Nyanya to the city centre, up to Kubwa.
The project, if effectively completed, would become a major yardstick with which the present FCT minister, Mohammed Bello could be assessed.
Residents feel there is need for quick government’s intervention in order not to make the project join the league of uncompleted ones in the territory, especially as it has the potential to engage directly and indirectly, at least 20, 000 persons.
Besides, the project would address transportation chaos in the territory, providing cheaper, efficient and safer transportation to hundreds of thousands of residents. It would also serve as a viable source of internally generated revenue to the FCTA, stimulating economic growth and job creation.
Ultimately, the rail mass transit will speedily transform Abuja into a modern city as it would integrate the social, political and economic activities between satellite towns and the city centre, thereby reducing traffic congestion drastically and saving lost man-hours.

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