*Saraki says palliatives no more required for ports rehabilitation
The Federal Ministry of Transportation has intensified efforts to ensure that the standard gauge rail line at Apapa port becomes operational by July 2022 for cargo evacuation to reduce congestion at the ports.
This is just as the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, stated that it would demolish the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) building sitting along the rail gauge track inside the AP Muller Terminal Apapa, frustrating evacuation of cargoes in the port.
Saraki revealed this yesterday during an inspection of the ongoing rail construction at Apapa port and some facilities at Tin Can port.
Saraki also reaffirmed the position of the Nigerian Ports Authority for the total reconstruction of Quay walls of the TinCan Island Port Complex, which have become weak due to age.
Speaking during her tour of the Lagos Port Complexes, yesterday, the Minister said, “we cannot build on a weak foundation, it is vital that we get these two very important ports modernized and ready to berth modern vessels. The state of the Ports show decades of neglect but it’s better late than never.”
The position is in harmony with that of the Managing Director Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello Koko, who had allayed fears of the imminent collapse of the TinCan Island Island Port Complex as the Authority is already at conclusive stages concluding funding options which includes talks with competent multilateral funding institutions and the possibility of the authority using a percentage of the revenue or transfers to CRF to fund the reconstruction.
It will be recalled that Koko had on several interactions with the media drawn attention to the fact that “although the NPA had over the years been undertaking remedial works on the quays, the time has come for a holistic reconstruction and the Authority is working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation on the most prudent funding option.”
Saraki said the ministry would organise a tripartite meeting with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on the demolition of the building, which has stalled the completion of the railway construction.
Recall that the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation had last month lamented that the building is frustrating evacuation of cargoes by rail in the port.
The Deputy Managing Director, CCECC, Xia Lijun, said the building was the major reason why cargo evacuation by rail on the standard gauge trains had not commenced services inside the terminal.
He said for the past three years, several efforts made at removing the building sitting along the rail gauge track has been futile.
The minister said: “We are here to look at the issues affecting activities to connect the rail to the Apapa seaport. The construction of this standard gauge line has been ongoing for more than two years and I came here to inspect the activities.
“Although this building looks big, it is actually a minor issue that will be resolved by the time the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Ports Authority and Nigeria Customs Service sit together to discuss it.
“It has been agreed that the building is going to be demolished but the fact is that it is a radioactive facility. It houses scanners and we have to ensure that the demolition is done safely.”
According to Saraki, the ministry wants to ensure that the standard gauge rail line is completed and operational by the end of July 2022.
“We want to ensure that before the end of next month, the activities here have improved and by the end of this month, we want to ensure that the removal of this Customs facility, which is on the rail track, is resolved. The goal is to have this track operational by the end of July 2022,” she said.
Speaking on the dilapidated ports facilities, Saraki said the ministry; agencies and concerned stakeholders need to take holistic approach to solving the problem as palliative wont work anymore.
“It is sad that the NPA has written and taken it upon themselves to try and find solutions – we have seen the terminals and the state of the ports’ facilities. Tin Can is one of the major ports we have and it is one of the engine rooms of our economy. A dilapidated port is certainly not good for economic growth. Palliative won’t work anymore, we have to try and find a long term solution to this problem,” she said.
She said the ministry and agencies would consult with experts for the rehabilitation of the ports, as the nation cannot afford to stop business and activities, while looking for solutions to the problems at the ports.