Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has said that the commissioning of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line would be put on hold due to the upsurge of the rampaging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
Since the second wave of the virus arrived, Nigeria has been recording increasing number of new cases on a daily and reporting fatalities almost on a daily as well making the government at some point contemplating a second lockdown. But with an already fractured economy destroyed by previous lockdowns, the move did not crystallise. With the Christmas and New Year festivities barely over and business picking up amidst the pandemic, a lot of organisations including government are careful about holding events that would bring people together.
Amaechi who made the disclosure at a television interview in Abuja further informed that over 60 staff on project site have been infected by COVID19 while trying to complete the project, which paints a gloomy picture.
He said, “First let us admit that over 60 of our staff, not ministry of transport staff, but the staff working on the rail project have been infected by COVID, luckily nobody has died and I pray nobody will die, but you see the kind of sacrifice everybody is making to get the rail to function.
“They are people sacrificing their lives to get to that point, we are of the view when we made that decision that Nigeria will not say 2020 was a bad year, so remove one year and add another year to Buhari administration.
“As far as we are concern, we need to learn how to leave with COVID, I really want to congratulate those that achieve that feat, we were to inaugurate first week in January. We had to stop those doing minor completion because of the rise in COVID transmission.
“The timeline for inauguration will depend on COVID, if COVID stop today or reduces we will commission the project.” Amaechi further stated that the train services on all route might stop if passengers do not adhere to COVID-19 protocol.
“We will allow the train to run but if we see that we are conveying passengers who have COVID from Lagos to Ibadan, we will stop it, just like we are threatening to stop Kaduna-Abuja if people don’t comply with the COVID Protocol.” He said that Abuja-Kaduna route convey about 4,000 passengers daily, stating that if anyone transmit COVID onboard it will become a serious challenge to the country.