By Yemi Adeleye
Lagos – The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) says the possible delay in the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project owing to the outbreak of Coronavirus is better than jeopardising health of Nigerians.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had on Thursday disclosed that the outbreak of Coronavirus in China might delay the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.
The COVID- 19, which has become a global health challenge, is threatening the April deadline of the project, being handled by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC).
The minister said the delay might not be unconnected to the fact that the bulk of the workforce handling the project were stuck in China, where the disease broke out and spread to other countries.
According to him, the Chinese government prevented some of the workers from returning to Nigeria because of the virus.
Reacting on the possible delay, Mr Jerry Oche, Lagos Railway District Manager, told the NAN that Nigerian government would not sacrifice health of her citizens because of any project.
“The simple question we should ask ourselves is what do we want? Do we want to be infected with the Coronavirus because we want to meet the time for the completion of the project?
“Or we prefer a situation where the Chinese takes care of themselves and get over the epidemics before coming to complete the project so that we all be safe and healthy?
“The project we are talking about is for the living people not for the dead. If the Coronavirus should infect us, how do we handle that?” he said.
According to him, most Chinese working with the CCECC went to China for New Year celebration holidays and had not returned before the outbreak of the disease in their country.
Oche said that if the Chinese were going to come back to Nigeria and continue the project, they must be certified Coronavirus free so as to protect the country.
“If the project is going to be delayed and we are safe of this disease, I think it is better. Even, if they come and carried the virus, they won’t be able to do the work.
“It will now be double jeopardy for the country. We will be running from pillar to post to contain the spread and the work will be stopped also. Safety is still the first,” he said.
Oche, who noted that everyone knew that the Federal Government was very passionate about the project, said that the health of Nigerians remained a priority.
NAN reports that work across the 10 stations along the 157 km long Lagos-Ibadan standard guage rail line had been skeletal since the beginning of the year because of the COVID-19.
Most staff working on the project are yet to resume because of the deadly disease.