Jonathan, Buhari, or Obasanjo — who initiated Abuja-Kaduna rail project?

 

There has been a brouhaha of sorts over the initiator of the Abuja-Kaduna rail project that was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016.

This recent round of controversy followed Buhari’s train ride from Rigasa to Kakuri, on the outskirts of Kaduna, where he commissioned Nigeria’s first inland dry port on Thursday.

Before the train trip to Kakuri, Buhari had commissioned additional rail vehicles acquired for the Abuja-Kaduna rail route.

Ben Murray-Bruce, a serving senator belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), tweeted that Buhari should thank former President, Goodluck Jonathan, for putting the rail project in place.

“I hope President Buhari remembers to say thank you to former President Jonathan for the train ride he enjoyed in Kaduna. Some of us haven’t forgotten that that achievement was ENTIRELY the handiwork of the Jonathan government. Nigeria should give honour to whom honour is due,” Bruce wrote.

But Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, fired back almost immediately, saying that it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, not Jonathan, that conceived and began the project.

El-Rufai went a step further by saying that at the time the Abuja-Kaduna rail project was commencing, Bruce was busy “organising beauty contests”, while Jonathan was just a Deputy Governor.

“Wrong Distinuguisnhed Senator! The Obasanjo administration which Jonathan was not part of, designed, raised the financing and started the EPC of the Lagos-Kano dual track-standard gauge rail system, and the Abuja Light Rail. Yar’Adua-Jonathan stalled both projects for two years!

“There is nothing to debate. Facts cannot be debated. Opinions are free. While the Obasanjo administration was conceiving the rail modernization programme, Sen Ben-Bruce was organizing beauty contests and Jonathan was a deputy governor. I am not cluelessly common-sensical!”

However, Shehu Sani, senator representing Kaduna Central, said there had never been any rail project begun by any President, leading to or from Kaduna, except the one initiated by Jonathan.

“I was born in Kaduna,I live in Kaduna, I represent Kaduna. There was never any modern rail project in Kaduna or from Kaduna except the one started ‘to near completion’ under GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) and now completed by the PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) Government. If there was any under any other Government, perhaps it was invisible.”

Though Sani is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as is El-Rufai, it is common knowledge that both men are sworn political foes.

SO WHAT IS THE TRUTH?

In February 2016, when the senate committee on the FCT, led by Dino Melaye, the committee Chairman, went on an oversight function to the site of the Abuja-Kaduna rail project, contractors handling the project told the committee that it was the Obasanjo administration that awarded the contract in 2007.

However, Etim Abak, Project Manager of the Chinese company handling the construction, said the contract was awarded without any structural design or memorandum of understanding between the two parties.

Abak told the lawmakers that the $841.645,898 million contract was signed by El-Rufai, who was the then FCT Minister, and that the completion period was 48 months.




    “The contract was awarded based on conceptual design and estimates were not properly done. There was no formal design submitted and rail bridges and crossover bridges were not captured in the contract,” Abak was quoted as saying.

    However, it was Jonathan’s government that almost completed the rail project, as he took train ride himself in May 2015, days before his handover to Buhari, during an inspection tour where he expressed optimism that the Buhari administration would complete it.

    “I emphasised the need for train system in terms of developing an effective mass transit in any nation. Of course, this government is leaving on the 29th. The incoming government will definitely continue because this is a noble project to Nigerians especially residents of the FCT,” Jonathan said at the time.

    It is now left for Nigerians to decide who is right between Murray-Bruce, El-Rufai and Shehu Sani.

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