Rotimi Amaechi-Uncommon Railway Minister by Tony Oche

Nigeria Minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Amaechi is mostly known as a top political player with intimidating political credential.Few expect the lawyer to dramatically emerged the best minister of railways Nigeria has ever produced.

The Muhammadu Buhari government has every reason to thank Amaechi.His dogged pursuance of major infrastructural projects especially in the railway sector marked him out as one of the best within the executive council.Despite his closeness to the President ,staffers of his ministry said the man worked like a jackal,doing night inspections and pushing contractors to the limit.It is not a surprise that one sector of huge success under Buhari is the railway sector.

Hardly can you mention two Buhari”s achievements without referring to the incredible delivery at the rail sector.The completion of Abuja Kaduna rail line,the completion of Itakpe Warri line,the concession of Lagos Kano rail line,the laying of foundation for East West rail line,the impetus for rail freight and the landmark Lagos Ibadan standard gauge railway. The ministry has also launched many new rail projects under the former Rivers state governor.

Many analysts wonder how a lawyer quickly mastered the complexity of engineering project management.An observer said Amaechi has a good hand and supporter in the Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation. The NRC boss is said to be a workaholic like his boss.The minister is a non-comformist ,another official said.

“He is quite different from any other minister we have worked with.Once a project is approved, dont go and give any excuse .If you do,the minister will open eye”,another staffer said.

The next move for the minister is not clear. He has tried as much as possible not to allow politics of his home state to affect his performance.He pushed many critical projects into reality.In Buhari’s cabinet,he is openly and indisputably one of the leading stars.There is no doubt he is going to retain his position in the cabinet. This is not because he is close to the President;it is more because of his performance in office.No matter your grouse with Amaechi ,you cannot fault his star studded records as a minister.

But within Buhari’s second term,what whill the Rivers man do differently? One,he has to work hard to get an investor friendly legal framework in place. He should show more interest in the railway Amendment bill still pending before the National Assembly.The sector must be opened up for private sector investment. This is a major assignment.

The second focus should be the adoption of Luxembourg protocol on the acquisition of rolling stock.The protocol is the answer to the funding crisis facing African railway sector.Last week the minister said Nigeria needs about $40 billion to complete ongoing rail projects.That is a tall order .The Luxembourg protocol provides a framework for ease of expansion and modernisation of the nation’s railway network.

Third task for the minister is to pursue a multimodal transport system.For example,linking Apapa port to hinterland with railway is an urgent task.The situation is critical.

President Buhari has an infrastructure ally in Rotimi Amaechi.Their friendship should yield more fruit with completion of more railway projects.

This Nigerian railway minister is unique.

*Tony Oche is Director of Corporate Services ,African Railway Roundtable

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