By Adelola Amihere
As the country continues to record strides in the modernization efforts of its rail infrastructure, the Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) Engr. Fidet Okhiria says reviving the Eastern rail corridor is an important agenda for the Federal Government.
Speaking exclusively to The AUTHORITY in Abuja, Engr Okhiria explained that the process is now with the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) as they await funds for the mobilization.
According to him, “It is quite on government’s programme. Rail infrastructure service is expensive and you have to move from one spot to another. So, that is why you have to start from where you have comparative advantage.
“The Port in Lagos is quite busy and we had to consider which one would be of greater benefits for Nigerians. That is why we started from Lagos. As you can see, now Lagos-Ibadan and Ibadan to Kano is on, and we have concluded arrangements for the Itakpe to Abuja to link Kaduna axis, and programme is on to go to the East.
Also speaking on the level of local content in the ongoing railway modernisation project, the NRC boss noted that local content is at a maximum peak.
“Why do I say so? What you have is what you have, what you don’t have you cannot create it. We are using concrete for construction, the sand, stone, water are gotten from Nigeria. I think the rods that meet specification for the project are also being purchased from Nigeria.
“For the stations buildings, the blocks are not imported, and the people working there are Nigerians. I think that is enormous local content. I remember at the last count when Ibadan- Lagos was at peak, they were counting about 12000 Nigerians working on the project.
“That is direct employment by the contractors not the indirect jobs that project created, like people who go to sell essential commodities to these workers on a daily basis”, he pointed out.
He added that as part of efforts to further increase local content participation, when the country ordered wagons from China, 23 engineers from Ministry and the Corporation were sent to China for six weeks to witness and also be trained on the processes.
“And also, 150 persons who just finished senior secondary school were sent to China to do their degree. We have agreed that those that were able to do well can continue their PhD so that they can be part of the academic staff of the University of Transportation. We are establishing University of Transportation, the contractor is doing that, as social responsibility.
“They are also building an assembly plant, it is not NRC that is building the assembly plant it is the contractor, and it is Nigerians that would work there. If ask me, rail construction is really empowering Nigerians. There are some items you cannot get in Nigeria which means it must come from abroad”.