According to the Minister, he personally went on unscheduled inspection to the Abuja-Kaduna rail stations on Friday, having received complaints from Passengers via social media.
Those affected include, the station Managers, Porters and ticket officials at Idu and Rigasa rail stations, Abuja.
Amaechi, however, said the only solution to ending such illegal trading of tickets at the stations was to bring in more coaches to break the monopoly of the man who hoards tickets.
“The man is trading. He buys a ticket and he offers you at N3000. If you don’t want to buy, you don’t want to buy.
“The man is not creating scarcity; the scarcity is because government is not able to bring in more coaches. So, the solution to it is, go and bring in more coaches, the man won’t have a business.
“As soon as we bring in more coaches and have between 10 to 17 coaches; there will be too many spaces for the man not to have that market. We currently have only four coaches. These four coaches can only take 120 passengers. So, if you have about 800 passengers, that means there is a deficit of about 600 and something. So, some passengers will pay more if they must go to Kaduna,” the Minister explained.
The Minster decried lack of fund, which he said was principally responsible to the lack of infrastructures currently plaguing the railway sector, adding that, with more money, more coaches would be bought and more railways would be constructed.
He said, “The contracts that you need to deliver on a railway are in tonnes of naira. Take for example the approval by the President that we should do a railway from Abuja to Lokoja to join Itakpe to Warri as well as a seaport in Warri; that project was put at $3.1bn, which is nearly N1tr. Where will you get the money from”?
Though the Minister confirmed that the rail transport has been subsidised to enable passengers afford the fares; he also stated that some passengers had requested that the fares be increased, so as to rejuvenate the operations.
His words, “Where will you run a rail transport for N1, 000 and then the business coach is N1, 500? The passengers themselves are the people begging that we should increase the cost of transportation and we are hoping that by October, when we receive more coaches, we will increase the price. I don’t know how much we will increase it to. But we will increase the price so that even if we do not pay the entire cost of operation, we can at least reduce the loss.
“We expect about 10 to 17 more coaches by October. I think by the time the new coaches and locomotives arrive, we will be doing 130 kilometres per hour. The current speed is 80 kilometres and the train has a capacity of 150 kilometres per hour”.
While answering question on the reason why the present administration had laid claims to the construction of Abuja-Kaduna railway project, when it was obvious that it was the achievement of the PDP-led government; the Minister disabused the notion, saying it was wrong to have attributed it to the past regime.
“That will be very unfair. For instance, why is the Itakpe-Warri not running? It was awarded 30 years ago. Now, we are focusing on it and if N100 billion is required to complete it and we bring that; then they say, no, it’s not your project. You see, that’s why politicians don’t complete projects if it is abandoned, because you will go and say; it’s not your projects.
“It’s like what I told my supporters in Rivers State, that it doesn’t matter if Wike completes a project I started and takes the glory. We did not believe in the principle of commissioning projects. He believes in the principle of commissioning projects, then, let him go ahead.
“We believe you are employed by the people, your salary is paid by the people, and then you do your job and call the people to come and dance with you, because you have done your job?
“Let us consider the Kaduna-Abuja rail that you talked about. It is part of the Lagos-Kano. It was close to 90 per cent completed. But key is that there were some things that we needed to address: we had to deal with the obstacles.
“One of them is that, the Catholic Church needed land and compensation for their land and the buildings we were going to demolish. We paid the compensation. Personally, I went to the Minister for FCT and got the approval for a Certificate of Occupancy and handed it over to them and we got government to fence their land for them and they vacated. So, you cannot say it is not our project. We are not laying credit. What matters is that business is running.
“The Itakpe-Warri rail was awarded in 1987, and up till today, it has not been completed. About 50 kilometres have been vandalised – from Itakpe to Lokoja. Now, we are awarding a fresh contract to CCECC to enable us rebuild from Itakpe to Lokoja. Hopefully, cabinet should be able to discuss it once we send a memo”, Amaechi posited.
On the loan being sourced from Chinese Company with the intention of establishing an Academy to train young Nigerians on railway system and others, the Minster said the Senate had approved the loan, waiting for the agreement to be signed before accessing it.
He said Nigeria would access the sum of $1.5bn with about 15% interest rate.