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Amaechi, Bello-Koko make contradictory claims over Lekki port rail connectivity project.

Ameachi and Bello-Koko

—stakeholders say  statements conflicting,  confusing, worrisome

Opeyemi Adesogbon
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko and his principal, Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, have both  been making conflicting statements on the true status of rail connectivity project of Lekki deep sea port.
About a week ago, the Minister, while on the tour of the multi- million dollars project, in company of the NPA MD and other dignitaries, had openly confessed that the Federal government lacks the financial capacity to embark on the rail connectivity of the port due to the paucity of funds.
“As a Minister of Transportation, I imagined a lot of things that I could have implemented’, he had said.
“I imagined that the Lagos-Calabar rail line would start from here, that was my imagination, but, the Lagos-Calabar rail project needs $11.1 billion funding but, there were no such funds at the moment for the project”, he lamented.
“If we get the 11.1billion as it is, we would probably have to divert the rail line, because Lagos-Calabar rail line actually goes into Lagos city, we can divert it to come to the seaport in Lekki,” he had  stated.
In another breath, the Managing Director of the NPA, who was incidentally on the inspection teamof the Minister a week ago, made another statement this Tuesday on the same rail connectivity status of the Lekki deep sea port, which contradicted the position of the Minister,
While speaking during the President tour of the project Tuesday with Amaechi, Bello- Koko said the port will be connected to rail line, a claim which was diametrically opposed to what his principal said a week ago.
According to him,  there was already a plan and the Minister of Transportation has given the Nigerian Railway Corporation a directive to carry out a survey on the possibility of linking the port to Lagos-Ibadan railway.
Stakeholders have however expressed concerns over what they described as “double speak” on both the two frontline government officials connected to the success of the project.
They alleged that the conflicting and contracdictory statements of both the Minister and the NPA MD have created doubts about the sincerity of government in linking the port to the rail line.
It could be recalled that Ameachi, after telling his host  of the inability of government to carry out the rail connectivity project, advised the promoters of the Lekki deep sea port to invest on the rail connectivity with the port.
”Another advice I could give is if they want to invest, they can invest in rail and then the government will either do tax reduction or do something to help them”, the Minister had said.
Meanwhile, Ameachi has  said the federal government will begin construction of Bonny Deep seaports after completion of the Lekki Deep Seaport.
He disclosed this Tuesday during President Muhammadu Buhari’s inspection visit of the Lekki Deep Seaport project in Lagos.
Amaechi, who further, disclosed that the reason the president came for the inspection was to publicize the project to Nigerians that, the government is building the first deep seaport in Nigeria.
“I am convinced that we would commence work in Bonny deep seaport before we leave Office. Also, Ibaka Deep Seaport has gotten government’s approval and we are fast tracking the approval of Badagry Deep Seaport, so they can also get their own approval.
“By the time we leave office, all those people who would have been granted approval are all private seaports. The only one that government will participate in its ownership is the Bonny seaport.
He, however, said that the deep seaports is almost ready as the cargo handling equipment will be ready in June while commercial operations will begin in September.
He said, “The reason for asking the president to come to Lekki Port, is to publicise the seaport so that people will know this Government is building the first deep seaport in Nigeria. The other ports in Nigeria are all river ports.
“The next reason for the president coming, is also to put the heat on them (promoters), you know that the port is almost ready, if not for the equipment, they can actually get this place ready before June, but they said the equipment are arriving by June,2022 and installation will take them till September and the it can be commissioned in September.”
“You see the miracle of bringing the president here, that is why it is important for a president to inspect projects, that will hasten the process of completion if there is money,” he said.
Speaking earlier, managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the Lekki Deep Seaport, which has been under construction for years, would be ready for test run in September, after which the first commercial vessel can be received at the port.
According to him, the port is located on about 90 hectare of land, supposed to have three container terminals and will be the first automated port in Nigeria that will enable speedy clearing of goods.
Bello-Koko, who noted that the commencement of Lekki Port will reduce the rate of traffic at Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports, said there will be Ship-to-Shore (STS) cranes that will enable faster processing of goods.
“Some of the businesses we have loss to other neighbouring West African countries due to draught limitation will be regained.
There will be employment creation and increase revenue for government. It will create competition and compel other terminal operators to up their games to reduce cargo dwell time at their terminals. Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports have been operating far beyond their capacity which means that the excess cargoes that have been going there would be diverted to Lekki Port,” he explained.
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Danish court returns guilty verdict on Nigerian pirate —- remands him in prison

The Eyewitness reporter

A Danish court on Monday found a Nigerian guilty of endangering the lives of Danish military personnel in a shooting incident last November involving Denmark’s navy and a crew of suspected Nigerian pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.

However, the court declined to sentence the Nigerian, Lucky Frances, 40, despite a call from the prosecutor for a prison sentence of 12 to 15 months.

As part of international anti-piracy efforts, Denmark deployed a frigate to the Gulf of Guinea in October last year.

The following month, it intervened in an alleged attack on a commercial vessel, killing four pirates and capturing four other suspects.

“The court emphasized that the 40-year-old Nigeria, together with the other perpetrators, fulfilled all the signs of piracy and had to be described as a pirate group,” Copenhagen city court said in a statement.

Frances, who was injured during a firefight with Danish navy personnel in the November clash, was taken to Denmark for prosecution in January after being treated at a hospital in Ghana.

 Danish authorities deemed it unsafe to release him in Ghana. His leg was amputated as a result of his injuries.

Frances was exempted from any legal consequences due to his medical condition and the fact that charges against the other three suspected pirates had been dropped, his lawyer Jesper Storm Thygesen told Reuters.

Charges against the three other suspected Nigerian pirates were dropped in January after Denmark failed to find a country in the region to take them.

They were released from detention on the frigate and put to sea in a small dinghy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Frances will remain in custody until both sides have decided whether to appeal against the verdict, Thygesen said.

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Possession of NIN by passengers now requirement for boarding trains—Sambo

 

— as government shifts resumption of Abuja-Kaduna rail services to December
The Eyewitness reporter
As part of the multi-layer security measures put in place on the troubled Abuja-Kaduna train route, the federal government has announced that no passenger will be allowed to buy tickets for train services without a National Identification Number (NIN).
In addition, no minor will be allowed onboard unless registered by an adult with a NIN who cannot register more than four minors per trip.
Reviewing the security measures put in place ahead of the resumption of the Abuja-Kaduna train route, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, said these and other security initiatives which the government has taken are necessary to forestall the reoccurrence of the sad event which occurred on March 28th, 2022 on the route when the train was derailed by insurgents who killed and kidnapped passengers.
The minister, who on Sunday at Kaduna expressed satisfaction over the level of security measures in place, also said the steps taken so far will also stop ticket racketeering which has been the order of the day among the railway staff on the route.
The Minister also expressed confidence that the measures put in place are adequate enough for the train service to commence.” There is sensitive equipment that we have deployed that I will not reveal. The other thing I can tell you is that for every journey, the train is monitored every second on the screen.

” The train driver can see from a distance if there are any threats on the tracts that will enable him to match the break long before getting to the threat, and that is why I am telling you confidently,” said the Minister.

The Minister debunked the rumour that train services will resume on Monday, adding that the newly introduced measures will delay the resumption of business along the corridor for a few more days for passengers to get acquainted with the new protocol involved in train boarding before it will resume services.

“We have not said that train services will start tomorrow. I want to be very categorical about that.

“Now, we have introduced a new system before you buy a ticket. The purchase of a ticket requires you to provide a phone number and a national identification number in order to profile you because that is the beginning of the security checks. So at any point in time when a train moves from one station to another, we know who and who are on board.

“If you don’t have a NIN you are not going to board our train, it is as simple as that. If you are a minor, an adult will register for you and an adult can only register for not more than four minors.

“Now, we want to give sufficient time for the Nigerian public to listen to these two requirements, to assimilate this new system.

“So if you go and start tomorrow, a lot of people will be disgruntled. Why didn’t they tell us that this is a new way of doing it? Why didn’t they give us adequate time to do it? So we want to give you adequate time. Definitely between 3,4,5 days, certainly not more than a week.

Sambo assured Nigerians that a smooth and secured train ride is guaranteed while noting that the trains will not travel at night for now, while there is also going to be a review in train fares.

“I can assure you that we are a compassionate government and will consider the masses in the review of the train fare.”

We are not going to tell you what we have done. It is a security matter and I have no apologies for that.

“We’ll be monitoring it on a daily basis and improve on wherever we find some snags”.

“The ticketing called e-ticketing has already been contracted to a company, called secure ID. That concession has gone through the entire concession process under extant laws, including approval by the Federal Executive Council. So that concession remains in place for the duration of the concession period, which I think is 10 years”.

Sambo said that although only God can guarantee maximum security, he assured Nigerians that everything is in place to guarantee a secured and smooth train ride.

“We are not going to tell you what we have done. It is a security matter and I have no apologies for that.

“We’ll be monitoring it on a daily basis and improve on wherever we find some snacks”.

The Minister assured that Secured ID would continue to handle the e-ticketing services.

“The ticketing called e-ticketing has already been contracted to a company called secure ID. That concession has gone through the entire concession process under extant laws, including approval by the Federal Executive Council. So that concession remains in place for the duration of the concession period, which I think is 10 years”.

The Minister was accompanied by the Minster of State for Transportation, Ademola Adegoroye; Minister of Water Resources Eng. Suleiman Adamu; Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation Fidet Okhiria; Chairman Governing Board Nigeria Railway Corporation Ibrahim Musa.

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As Nigerdock recants operational breaches, FG may lift suspension on the facility

The Eyewitness reporter
The Federal Government has expressed its readiness to lift the suspension order on Nigerdock following its willingness to abide by the rules and its contributions to the growth of the National economy.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, stated this recently when he visited the firm in Lagos in the company of the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye and some Management Staff of the Ministry.
Addressing the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerdock, Maher Jarmakani and other officials of the company, the Minister pointed out that the reason why they were suspended was as a result of complaints from other Terminal Operators, saying Nigerdock had operating advantages over them.
“What led to your suspension was that I received complaints from Terminal Operators, saying that you are not on the same level with them. In the sense that they pay more to the government than you do. You’re likely to attract freight at a much lower cost to the detriment of businesses”,  the Minister disclosed.
He, therefore, urged them to liaise with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to work out all the operational licenses needed to enable them to operate and the latter will forward the same to the Minister of Transportation whose prerogative it is to give approvals.
Speaking further, the Minister said: “We will never do anything to undermine the things you are doing here in terms of generating wealth and jobs for Nigerians.  The only thing we are saying is that the law should be followed. We should not encourage lawlessness “.
Responding, the CEO, Nigerdock, Maher Jarmakani, said the firm has taken notable steps in this regard as they have been granted bonded permits by the Nigerian Customs and they are currently working with Nigerian Ports Authority to ensure all processes of getting the needed approvals are followed accordingly.
“We are seeking your support Honourable Minister and that is why we wrote a letter of appeal for your guidance and your support to see that we have followed all processes and procedures” Jarmakani stated.
Furthermore, Jarmakani informed the Minister that in the 30 years of its existence, Nigerdock has employed more Nigerians than its peers, assuring that the company will not undermine the country’s extant rules and regulations.
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