Amaechi’s Monorail As Wike’s Albatross | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Amaechi’s Monorail As Wike’s Albatross

Posted: Aug 4, 2015 at 12:40 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Daniel Abia – Port Harcourt


On May 29, 2015, Governor Nyesom Wike under an oath  made it abundantly clear to the Rivers state people and the world that his administration would not repeat the mistakes of others before him by abandoning any good project started by his predecessors.

The immediate past government of Rotimi Amaechi actually had a good intention of making Rivers state the most developed in all facets of life. It improved tremendously on the health, education sectors and road infrastructure.

Wike and Rotimi-Amaechi

Wike and Rotimi-Amaechi

While it is most likely that Wike may continue with some of these projects because of their importance to the lives of Rivers people, it is extremely difficult to express such optimism on the monorail which many described as the most wasted effort by any government since the creation of the state.

The Amaechi administration said the original intention of government for the construction of the monorail was “to address the growing traffic problems encountered in the city of Port Harcourt”. The argument in town was that commencing the construction of the project from the UTC Junction to Lagos Bus Stop, where it terminates now nullifies whatever excuse or defence government may advance to justify its actions.

There are clearly some undeniable flashpoints of traffic congestion as visitors enter the city of Point Harcourt from Aba, the Abia State axis. These points include Artillery 1 and 11, Air Force Base Junction, Hotel Presidential, GRA Junction and Garrison Bus Stop. What this implies is that the project ought to have commenced from where it is needed most, the route as indicated above than where it is today.

When the monorail idea was first muted, the Amaechi government reasoned that it could handle it with ease only to realize so soon that the monorail technology is far from the construction of 18-kilometers of road.

The former Commissioner for Transport, Honourable George Tolofari, had disclosed  in an interview that a 21-kilometer monorail track was first considered by the government. The rail was to run through UTC where it starts now to Ikwerre Road up to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), roundabout.

The rail was to go through Kaduna Road down to Olu Obasanjo Way to burst out at Waterlines and then return to Garrison Bus Stop. While that is completed, another phase would have commenced up to the Air Force base to complete the circle.

Indeed, there is absolutely no magic any government the world over could perform that would have enabled such administration to finish a 21-kilometer monorail project in a record eight years when there are alot other sectors eagerly begging for financial attention and effort of government. The cost of a monorail project is extremely enormous, according to Tolofari.

“The initial cost we had for the monorail run into N100billion,” the then Transport Commissioner, Tolofari said.

But from other sources, it was discovered that the cost of the monorail as planned by government could go as much as N150billion, an indication that lack of funds would definitely stall the pursuit of the project to its logical completion.

And to save cost, government decided to prune the length of the project to 6.5kilometers. At the moment, 2.6 kilometers is being embarked upon from the UTC Junction to the Lagos Bus Stop deep in the city of Port Harcourt, the state capital.

Considering the huge financial involvement, government decided to take the initiative of partnering with TSI Engineering which demanded for 80 percent of the equity while the government was to cater for 20 percent. But in view of the global financial meltdown, TSI later turned around to demand for 20 percent equity other than the initial 80 percent.

But before this sudden development of change in equity, the Rivers State government had committed N11 billion into the project to show its readiness or willingness to get it done.

“If we halt the project, what do we tell the President who came for the ground breaking ceremony of the event?

“What do we tell Rivers people whom we have already told that we were going to build a monorail for them? We cannot commit N11billion and allow the project to halt,” Tolofari lamented.

It will be recalled that in February 2013, the commissioner told the visiting team of the National Good Governance Tour, (NGGT), led by the former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, that for the project to have reached the level it is now with the construction of the mega stations, it has gulped N19billion already.

Besides the controversy generated by the actual cost of the project, another point of great concern is the consistent shifting of goal post on the completion date of the project.  Governor Amaechi had n 2013 told Maku that the phase 1a and 1b of its 6.5 kilometres mass transit monorail system in Port Harcourt would be completed by September of the same year.

Speaking during his 48th birthday anniversary in Government House, Port Harcourt, Amaechi assured that the state’s N150 billion monorail project would be completed before he vacates office in 2015.

He disclosed that the phase A would be completed before January 2014, while Phase B which will run from the city centre and terminates at Water Lines would be completed in 2015. Of course, none of these predictions came to pass. As it stands now, people are already wondering when they will witness the completion of the project just to admire the beauty of it and not necessarily for the economic advantage, if it has any.

The controversy surrounding the completion of the project has further justified the fears of people of the state who are now want it stopped due to cost incentive and “the manner the whole exercise is shrouded in secrecy”.

Besides lacking immensely in economic value, the monorail as it is currently constructed could be some serious security threat in the state. The fact that the rail tracks run across the seat of power taking into reasoning the activities of terrorists across the world gives any reasonable person some grave concern.

Monorail that was designed to convey hundreds of people and loads from one point to another at a time, was supposed not to have anything to do with sensitive areas like Government House among others. As trains run on the tracks across the gate of Government House, people are already skeptical whether any sense of security was considered before embarking on such a project.

Those who have lived in the state for as much as ten twenty years or more ago have revealed that from the UTC junction where the project starts to the Lagos bus stop where it terminates for now, there has never been any serious traffic congestion at any point in time.

What this presupposes therefore is that the gigantic pillars erected along the Azikiwe road were, perhaps, to add some sort of ecstatic to the Government House. At most, they might have been fixed there as testimonials that government was undoubtedly active and working too.

The former governorship candidate on the platform of the Labor Party in the state, Engineer Tonye Princewill was linked to the birth of the monorail. He was said to have “lured” the governor into mooting the idea of a monorail that would put to rest the problem of traffic congestion in the state.

But listen to what Tonye said about the project in one of his campaign outings in the state. “I still think that the monorail project was not properly conceptualized. Even though Governor Amaechi’s intention for the monorail project was genuine, I hold a qualified exception to its implementation. What we can do is to attract foreign participation to add value to the project in the interest of Rivers people.