On July 26, the media was awash with news of the commissioning of the Abuja-Kaduna railway project. The news elicited a tweet from the PDP via their official twitter handle. This eventually sparked off a controversy on who should actually take the credit for the completion of the project.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi was credited with this statement, “The rail contract was awarded by President Obasanjo, partially executed by President Jonathan and completed by President Buhari.”
For the record, let’s get this clear.
While I commend Buhari’s administration for seeing the project to completion, do they deserve the credit?
Even the PDP does not deserve the credit.
Who then gets the credit?
I wish I could say it is the Buhari-led government but the project would not have seen the light of the day had Dr Okonjo-Iweala opposed it as finance minister.
Had she not approved the disbursal of funds for the project, APC members may have been in council meetings instead of posing in front of a camera at a so-called commissioning.
Prior to the birth of Buhari’s administration which has Amaechi as the Transport Minister, the Chinese government signed a contract agreement with the Federal Government on October 22, 2009, for the construction of the 186-kilometre standard gauge rail line from Abuja (Idu Station) to Kaduna railway with construction deadline initially scheduled for December 2014, a 46-month period.
Through the support of former Finance Minister, Dr Okonjo-Iweala, the Chinese government invested about $900,000,000.00 from the China Export and Import Bank (The Guardian, January 27, 2016) for the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) project.
However, the project was stymied by different challenges. The Chinese construction company handling the project, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), cited exchange rate issues, as impediments to the completion of the project.
Showing her commitment to the project, Dr Okonjo-Iweala categorized the Abuja-Kaduna Rail as a priority project, in 2015 budgetary and economic planning, despite her bid to cut down capital expenditure to alleviate the pain resulting from the economic headwinds.
She writes, “Inevitably, there will also be some cuts in capital expenditure in the 2015 Budget, but this is being done in a way that is pro-poor and pro-average Nigerian. Focus will be on priority sectors of infrastructure, Health, Education and Security, as well as growth stimulating and job creating sectors like Agriculture, Housing and Creative industries. Even in infrastructure, there will be focus on certain priority national projects such as Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the second Niger Bridge, Oweto Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna Rail, Maiduguri-Enugu Rail, Zungeru, Kashimbila and Mambila Hydro etc.” (Afripol, December 5, 2014).
I could go on stating many other facts and reports but my point is this; credit should be given to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the approval, funding, start and completion of the Abuja-Kaduna Railway project.
After all, many projects have been proposed but never saw the light of the day because of bureaucracies, corruption and selfish interests.
Incidents of abandoned projects are rampant all over the country from Lagos to Ogun State, Port Harcourt to Delta, in the North, South-East and all over the country. Projects of high capital cost, such as residential buildings, office buildings and even road constructions are abandoned too.
This is caused by numerous factors, including choice of project site, embarking on projects without need analysis, lack of social analysis of a project’s development, project imposition by contemporary standard, improper financial analysis, under-bidding of projects, lack of technical analysis.
But not the rail construction.
From facilitating the release of a $900 million loan from the NEXIM Bank of China, a move masterminded to further strengthen Nigeria and China’s relationship, to supervising and inspecting the project, Dr Okonjo-Iweala should be commended. Having taken the project to a commendable level, the present administration had no choice than to commission it; after all, everyone likes to associate with success!
Let’s give credit to whom it is due.
Well done Okonjo-Iweala!
Tope Bankole and Uzoma Ngozi