An itinerant delivery man in Abuja has his earning tied to the number of deliveries he makes. With the turn the general economy has taken in Nigeria where cost of things –electricity tariff to pump price of petroleum – have gone higher and pushing other indices up in the cycle, coping gets really testy.
On a typical day, Emmanuel Etim who prefers the initials, EE, runs through the streets and highways of Abuja from his Kubwa satellite town residence to his office in Utako. He says the free traffic in Abuja used to be a big incentive some 13 years ago when he got the job. But lately he has started losing momentum, as the traffic situation gets less friendly.
Speaking with him at the international airport where he goes to pick up or drop deliveries, he said he was excited to hear that the city train would start plying the airport in full scale when the COVID-19 pressure eases. To him such news revives hope of his personal economy.
“I can also ride the train and make my deliveries. Even if I can’t, since many residents will, the vehicles they would have put on the road will be off the traffic and I will have more peace and deliver more parcels faster. That is good business for me.”
In the city, there are thousands whose livelihoods are directly tied to the transport system in the city, and such have already started welcoming a new lease of life as the alternative transport means in the city kick in.
These alternatives have been made possible with the completion of the Abuja integrated mass transit system (IMTS), a project of the Federal Government and the Federal Capital Territory Authority.
The execution was handled by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). The company, beyond the FCT transportation projects, has a tradition of good faith in all its projects in the past 39 years of operation in Nigeria, it was gathered.
A city on tenterhooks
Until recent innovations, Abuja had been a city on the tenterhooks regarding traffic crisis as it grows larger every day as one of the fastest expanding cities of the world.
Those that knew the city in the 1990s and early 2000 would tell that Abuja is already relapsing into traffic anarchy.
The reason? Abuja city transport stands on one leg. All residents move by one means – just the road which is far from what obtains in modern cities and at the class and standard of Abuja as the capital of Africa’s largest country and economy.
If the Abuja roads clog, every movement comes to a halt.
By its location, water transport is ruled out in the city, therefore, the possible alternatives to road transport are air, rail and the subway system.
Abuja, the youngest city in Africa should have ordinarily taken off with a subway service system. At a point, the government realised this and started making moves towards taking Abuja ahead to where it is supposed to be.
The government had its eyes set on alternatives, which ultimately would be an integrated transport system, within, into and out of the sprawling city.
As at the end of 2018, the city’s population had grown to 4.2 million, with about two million commuting to work everyday, from FCTA data. That population has already defeated in a jiffy the three million volume Abuja was built to contain. The figure differential gives a better picture of why the city has started chocking in bloated traffic even with continuous road expansions and extensions. Yet, this is in the face of the reality that Abuja would grow larger and faster in years to come.
The capital city is Nigeria’s 13th largest economy with a GDP of $5.4 billion and number 14 in living standards which better transportation can tremendously improve upon. The Abuja GDP per capita of $1,292 is far better than that of Lagos. Its GDP growth rate is 5.9% a year. No doubt, from experience and empirical facts, a better transport system is sure bet to take the indices higher.
Integrated rescue plan
The import underscores the roles the facilities in the integrated Abuja transportation system play in the wellbeing of the city and Nigeria. The system has three arms – the Abuja metro light rail; Abuja-Kaduna railway and the upscale Abuja International airport. These three are interlinked with railway tracks with the node at the Idu Train Station.
ACE uncovered the benefits of the onerous role of keeping faith with the policy of the government of Nigeria to recreate Abuja, its economy, social wellbeing and political functions by building those modern transport facilities.
Visits to the remodelled Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport with the new international terminal in operation since December 2018, the Idu Train Station, a ride to Kaduna and back by train, and visits to the Abuja metro light rail, though not in use due to the coronavirus pandemic beamed some light on what new lease of life Abuja would soon live with. These benefits are bound to improve, thereby recreating its economy. These were all built by the CCECC, all commissioned and fully in operation.
To actualise the integrated and efficient transport system, it was not by chance that the CCECC was chosen for the job for some very peculiar considerations.
The company had operated in Nigeria for about 26 years then, since its entry into the country’s construction market in 1981, and had over the years delivered prominent infrastructure and full industrial chain services for local communities in 28 of the 36 states.
The other consideration is because, China the native place of CCECC is reputed with the best proven railway technology in the world and also the largest railway system where the high speed rail (HSR) total coverage since 2007 exceeded 36,000km in August 2020, some 66 per cent of world total and targeting 70,000 kilometre reach in 2035.
Citizen of Nigeria
In a document, Managing Director, Mr. Michael Jiang, said the company now sees itself as a Nigerian citizen.
“CCECC is not in Nigeria to play business and go. We are here to lay a foundation for stronger and better friendship between Nigeria and China. We are here to make a statement of the uniqueness of our quality and depth of expertise. We are here also to build the base for Nigeria’s technology growth in civil engineering and all our areas of operation. Therefore, we take Nigerian experts along. We don’t leave them behind while we operate.
“We have been sourcing our raw materials mainly from Nigeria, reason we have our steel fabrication plant within the Idu Yard where we make the steel components of our requirements. We have another factory where we produce the rail track sleepers and other materials. We source the concrete from the quarries of Abuja and this is a large percentage of our raw materials pool.
Moreover, as the Chinese experts service and maintain the trains, they do that side by side the Nigerian counterparts with the deliberate intention that they take over the core of the projects some day.”
Mr Vincent Liu, General Manager, Corporate Culture office, said the company have as many as 20, 000 Nigerians working on its many projects. “We set up the Kajola factory in Ogun State where train cars are produced locally with local raw materials.
“On April 12, 2018, CCECC held a job fair for fresh Nigerian graduates that eventually led to their employment in the company, and some six months later, the company sent about 67 of such young graduates to China to study railway engineering as part of the process of deepening their relationship with Nigeria. That’s a clear sign that CCECC is not a predator but a builder and part of the Nigerian quest for the deepening of technology, industrialisation and true friendship.”