October 21, 2021

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LAGOS-ABUJA RAILWAY: Have We Put The Cart Before The Horse?

4 min read

Unconfirmed media reports seem to suggest that the Abuja Light Rail Service, which runs from the Metropolis right up to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, travels with its Coaches half full (or half empty, depending on the reader’s perspective) every day, since commissioning till say the third Quarter of the year 2019.

Likewise, a Statement credited to Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the Federal Minister of Transport, close to the festive season of December 2019, said that the recently completed Lagos – Ibadan railway line will convey passengers F.O.C. (i.e. completely Free of Charge) till the early year of 2020, to stimulate the interest of the travelling public in this alternative mode of Transportation. It is noteworthy that these infrastructural services were provided at great cost to the Public Coffers, perhaps with a heavy Foreign Loan component.

The little knowledge imparted into my Class Set in the Field of Highway Traffic and Transportation Engineering in the University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, between 1983 and 1985, when I Graduated in Civil Engineering, tends to support the poser, which I have chosen as the caption of this Write – Up. Under normal circumstances, extensive Studies ought to have been made before such massive Funds were committed to the detailed design as well as Construction of the afore – specified Railway Tracks as well placing Orders for Coaches, etc.

A few Studies that readily come to mind include ‘ORIGIN AND DESTINATION STUDIES’, Trip Generation, Trip Assignment, Commuter Travel Times, Preferred Disembarkation Points, etc. The results of the Studies will be what will then inform Decision Makers about which Route to specify for the Railway Line, where the Stations will be located, among other things.
The seemingly “low patronage” of the Service(s) by the commuting Public in Abuja, Lagos, and Ibadan, suggests that there was a hiatus of some sort in the process. What did we omit, . . . so that such “costly” errors will not be repeated again? A rational expectation would have been that there would be a ‘Flood Gate’ of relieved Passengers, rushing to utilize the much-awaited(?) Railway Service.

Engr. Afolabi O. Adedeji, FNSE

The skills of British Engineers are reputed to be legendary in this area of knowledge, with many Publications in Print written by them. Whilst in Japan, we now have high speed or “Bullet Speed” Train Service(s), some critics have also described the Abuja Light Rail as moving at “snail speed”!!!. I honestly hope that this is a gross exaggeration of facts.

At a major Public Forum within the last 24 Months, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, in his speech gently chided Academics and Researchers in a good number of Nigeria’s Higher Institutions for not being fully transparent in their disbursement cum utilization of Research Funds from the Government and other Grant Awarding Bodies. Is this sentiment or opinion of ‘PMB’ valid? The Civil Engineering Department in many of our Universities would have been happy to conduct necessary Studies as a precursor to the inception of these laudable projects. These would, in turn, have provided virile and fertile Topics for the Dissertation of M.Sc. and PhD Students, not forgetting the much-needed income for the Universities.

During my stint in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing between 1989 and 1991, we also had a Highway Planning Department, whose Deputy Director was Engr. Inko – Tariah. I am almost certain that there is an equivalent in the Federal Ministry of Transport. Almost all Federal Ministries have a Planning, Research, and Statistics Department. Was their input obtained before huge Financial Commitments were made to the Provision of the Abuja Light Rail Service, and the Lagos – Ibadan Railway Line?

Looking at experiences from other climes, the [Euro] Channel Tunnel, which links Britain to continental Europe, and France in particular, is said to have carriages, which can allow a person take his/her Car along and simply “Drive – Off” at the other end. Was this option considered in the case(s) under discussion? If the overriding preference tilted strongly towards Road Transportation, should we not have considered a faster upgrade, re-design, expansion, etc., for Lagos – Ibadan Expressway? Or should extensive investigations not have been made of the needs of Road Haulage Practitioners, Manufacturers, Oil & Gas Marketers, Cement Manufacturers, and so on such that, the First Phase of the Railway Line will be for Goods only?

Your Editorial Team and your Readers know best how to probe further and seek answers to the posers raised above. After all, the Media has been correctly described as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the “watchdog” of the society, and the last hope of the common man.

Long Live The Federal Republic of Nigeria; May God Continue To Grant Wisdom To Our Rulers.

Author: –
Engr. Afolabi O. Adedeji, FNSE
Managing Consultant / CEO
Afolabi Adedeji & Associates [‘AA&A’]
(Consulting & Training in Facilities Management, Etc.)
Victoria Island, Lagos

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