As the contractor, CCECC race to beat the December 2018 deadline set by the minister of transportation for the completion of Lagos-Ibadan rail projects, MARK ITSIBOR takes a look at the matters arising from the compressed delivery period.
The construction work on the 156.65km Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project located in the west-ern part of Nigeria has reached advanced stage. Pillared in Lagos, the largest coastal city in Nigeria, the rail line goes through Abeokuta, Ogun State, ending on the Ibadan axis of Oyo state.
The project, was originally billed to be completed in May, 2020. The project lifetime was however re-versed by the Minster of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi to December 2018 – half the originally agreed time. To achieve that before the 2019 election year, the minister ordered the contractor, CCECC to deliver without fail. The firm has been stretched to almost braking point as it races against time and handover the project to the federal government within this year.
Already, the progress of excavation around the rail track path and subgrade fill/cutting is currently over 70 per cent completed. Also the culverts and bridges being done have reached significant levels as the contractor, CCECC now works day and night to meet the new deadline of December 2018 set by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. Our correspondent gathered that over 120km right of way have been established along the corridor and compensations paid out to locals for farm lands, proper-ties and economic trees already. Some officials of the company say tools have been deployed to also start laying the tracks by this month, to comply with the minister’s directive.
Challenges for the compressed project duration.
Observers say the reduction by half, from May 2020 to December 2018 throws up additional challenges as the construction now needs to deploy twice the amount of human and material resources to meet the deadline and if quality will not be compromised. Recent visit to the site showed that CCECC has engaged more workforce who now work round the clock on the project. Additional implements in-cluding excavators, skid-steer loaders, backhoe loaders, bulldozers, dump trucks, cranes, drilling rigs among others have also been procured and deployed to the site as part of efforts to meet the dead-line.
That should naturally cost them more and impact there profit margin at the end of their contract. But it is not very clear if the contract cost will be reviewed upward since the competition date has changed so the company can recoup its loses. But sources within the transportation ministry did say they may eventually happen.
Another issue some industry watchers are saying is that the deployment of additional construction equipment will have a negative impact on CCECC if at the end of the contract time, they don’t have a new project to deploy the new equipment they have bought to complete the Laos-Ibadan rail line contract. They wonder what will become of the additional specialized equipment the CCECC has de-ployed to do the job in other not to compromise quality.
However, a top ministry of transportation official who spoke to our correspondent on the matter un-der condition of anonymity said “whilst there is no talk on the contract review for now, it may eventu-ally crop up because that is best practice except the contractor wants to let go.”
He explained that typically, “If gave you a contract to do and you said you will complete the job in 6 months at N1 million. We agreed. You went to work and only for me to return to say I want the job in three months. There is no doubt you must certainly charge me additional money for an express job as you would have to deploy more hands and more equipment to complete the job to specification.” Even your local tailors will charge additional fee for an express job he said adding that this may also ap-ply to the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.
“Again, after CCECC has deployed so much equipment, resources and staff to the Lagos-Ibadan project and deliver on schedule, what happens to the equipment and other resources after the project,? If there are no more projects to deploy the equipment on, what do they do with the huge equipment? Take them back to China and at whose cost?” he asked.
He also noted that the contractor may just “want to have a good working relationship with the gov-ernment for the future but the government if they don’t press for reviews.”
The contractor has declined comments over the additional costs issues and has declined comment on the subject matter.
Beyond the two bridges that will be demolished and rebuilt on the Lagos axis, several kilometers of gas, water pipes and telecoms cables, and an army barracks will have to be relocated among other is-sues. Also huge right of way would have been established in Abeokuta, according to contractor, it costs some billions of Naira to compensation those that will be affected by the construction. While it is still possible to pull the bulldozers and speed against time, the site managers say it requires speedy quick release of more funds to meet the exigency of time.
The Minister, in February during a recent inspection, announced new measures to tackle the issues to enable the contractor have a better experience. Amaechi told the contractor to avoid the 1,400 struc-tures marked for demolition in Abeokuta. “What we have suggested is that they should review the location of the train station in Abeokuta to avoid an area where we have too many buildings. If you observe, when we visited the area where we have so many buildings on the proposed station site of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project in Abeokuta, towards the left of that area is a huge expanse of land that has fewer or no structures on it. We have told the contractor to look at the possible option of going towards the left, instead of going through the MKO Abiola Complex (in Abeokuta) and running through buildings behind it. It doesn’t involve any new engineering structure. All they need do is move towards the left of the MKO Abiola Complex so that the path of the standard gauge project will avoid an area where we have too many houses,” he had suggested.
There is a caveat on that. Mr. Amaechi said if the federal government agrees to go towards the left of the MKO Abiola Complex, “then we won’t be paying N2.8bn as compensation to property owners.”
On the Lagos axis Mr. Amaechi said a committee to be chaired by the Chairman of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, with (representatives of) the CCECC, the Nigerian Army and the Lagos State Government as members has been set up. “This is because the Lagos State challenges are huge,” he acknowledged, adding that “We have oil pipelines and water pipelines, some belonging to the NNPC, some belonging to private investors and some belonging to the Lagos State Government. The committee members are to look at possible solutions to the problems, having at the back of their minds the deadline target of December 2018.”
But one thing is certain, as a result of the revised completion date of the project, the contractor has incurred additional costs, and this will impact its bottom line negatively. Will they be raising an invoice for a contract review? Only time shall tell. The contractor had last year said it is focused on delivering the project by December 2018 as a mark of support to the federal government to enable it fulfill its promise to Nigerians. No doubt, the rail project, when functional will catalyze economic growth and social good in the country.
With the possible commencement of the laying of tracks by this April, the minister expects that the project will be delivered in December 2018 as planned. The minister said the speed of the project by the CCECC had greatly increased compared to last year when he gave the revised completion date. “I am very impressed, the speed has increased. The doubt I had before whether we could achieve this project by the end of the year appears to be clearing,” Mr. Amaechi said.