Highlights

WHO’S MEGASTAR ?

Governor Amaechi has done some major good work. It is important to underline this and his work has been well advertised. What is not well advertised is that Rotimi Amaechi can be a bit of a guided missile. Once he makes up his mind on a direction to go, it is fiendishly difficult to talk him down.
The seventy billion naira monorail project is probably the project which raises the question if indeed the governor of Rivers State is a loose cannon. One can understand his supposed excitement with newfangled things. For one moment, one can even allow oneself to visualize his multi-colored monotrain filled with comfortably seated Rivers people flying across the horizon from Lagos bus stop to Garrison. It is a short flight of fancy. The scene fades quickly and the voice of reality intrudes. Is the thing just imagined worth seventy billion naira ? If Amaechi actually succeeds, using hitherto unknown contractor Megastar to build the monorail, commissions and runs it before the end of his tenure. What will be the impact on the traffic situation. Marginal. Negligible.
The monorail will start from the Lagos bus stop area and terminate at Garrison. That is a distance of less than ten bus stops. Never in peace time has so much been spent for an advance of less than two kilometers on land. The traffic challenge to getting from Lagos bus stop to Garrison is hardly formidable. There are alternative routes. For a real traffic snarl, check out Choba Bridge, Eliozu Junction, Ikwerre Road , Woji bridge and Rumuomasi. One must concede that the Amaechi administration had opened up quite a few roads to alleviate the bottle-neck in certain areas.
The monorail is situated in an area without a great traffic challenge. This is difficult to understand, if it was meant to address the worst of Port Harcourt traffic jams. For the sum of money involved, it should not serve any less. It is also situated where it won’t be missed by visitors to the Government House. Even at its presently inconclusive stage, it should make a surreal feast for august visitors. Amaechi is betting his billions against a mission impossible. The ironic thing about it is that after he has left Government House and the monorail stands unsustained and abandoned like a closed amusement park ride, its power to illustrate Amaechi’s peccadilloes will remain undimmed.
The monorail is a seventy billion naira gamble. The project is not market driven. The state lacks the technical capacity to sustain it as the state has clearly failed to sustain a much simpler mass transit bus service. The so-called partners who brought the idea in the first place could not come up with the money. The governor is currently in debt to finance the project. This much has been confirmed by Chamberlain Peterside the Rivers State commissioner for finance. All the workers on the monorail site are clearly people who have never worked on a mono-rail project. It is like trial and error and it makes a great conversation for cab or bus passengers when the traffic is slow on Azikiwe Road.
Amaechi means well. He is a good intentioned, tough talking, cunning, impatient guided missile. He is impatient to get Rivers into the twenty-first century. He had a plan and when those he depended on to be his partners in the plan failed him, he decided to go it alone. He did not dream up the mono-rail. People sold him the idea; people who included a former military governor of Rivers State Gen. Anthony Ukpo. They were supposed to bring 80% of the investment but at crunch time, they owned up that they did not have the funds. They wanted suddenly to be contractors for the project while the state coughed up the money. Amaechi agreed, coughed out eleven billion naira for a start and a hitherto unknown company Megastar appeared on Azikiwe Road, started digging holes, filling the holes with cement and iron rods and casting pillars out of them. How can it be so simplistic to build a mono-rail network and yet it is the first in Africa. One expected at least that if the state was putting down tens of billions of dollars for such a project, the reputation of contractors involved would at least be international. Who’s Megastar ? Remember Agip bridge and Rumuokwuta-Choba Road.

1 Comment on WHO’S MEGASTAR ?

  1. RESPONSE TO REPORT ON THE RIVERS MONORAIL BY THE RIVERS STATE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT
    (“Who is Megastar”?)

    The Ministry of Transport notes your report on “Who is Megastar”?, as posted on your blog. The Ministry also welcomes the interest shown in the Rivers Monorail Project; however, we would like to state that it would have been much better if a visit was paid to the Ministry of Transport to clarify some of these issues, before presenting them as statement of facts in your blog.

    The Ministry of Transport runs an open door policy and is always willing and available to provide information on all her projects. In the light of the issues raised in your blog, kindly see below specific responses;

    1. The Rivers Monorail Project is in Phases; Phase 1 stretches from Sharks Park to Garrison Bus stop and is a distance of 5.4km. Phase 1A, which is currently under construction stretches from UTC Bus stop to Sharks Park, is a distance of 2.6km. The other phases are expected to stretch along Ikwere Road via UST Junction, Olu-Obasanjo By-pass, Olu-Obasanjo Road, Waterlines back to Garrison. What is seen presently is just Phase 1A of the Rivers Monorail Project, and not the entire project. The project is estimated to cost Fifty Billion Naira Only (NGN50 000 000 000.00).

    2. The Rivers Monorail project was initially conceived as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) Project, between the Rivers State Government and TSI Property and Investment Holdings Limited. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called the Rivers Monorail Company was setup to construct the Monorail Transportation System. The Rivers State Government has 20% equity on the Rivers Monorail Company, while her PPP partner has 80% equity. Every PPP arrangement has its own peculiarities, which often than not is provided for in the agreement between the parties. The Ministry of Transport acknowledges that the Rivers State Government PPP partners have some challenges with regards meeting their financial obligation. Consequently, the Rivers State Government has opened up discussions with the partners on the issues.

    3. It is incorrect to say that the “workers on the monorail site are people who have never worked on a monorail project”. It is also incorrect to say that “Megastar started filling the holes with cement and iron rods and casting pillars out of them”. Different contractors handle different aspects of the Monorail Project. The contractors have the requisite experience required and needed for the project. Contractors involved in the Monorail Project include;
    • Trevi Foundations Nigeria Limited – An international engineering firm Responsible for Soil Investigation, Foundation Designs and Piling Works.

    • Megastar Technical and Construction Company Limited – Responsible for the Construction of Pile Caps, Columns and Pulvinos (which you erroneously described in your blog as filling the holes with cement and iron rods and casting pillars out of them).

    • INTAMIN Transportation Limited – Is an international engineering firm based in Switzerland, with proven track record in monorail train fabrication. They are responsible for the fabrication and construction of the rolling stock. The trains and tracks are being fabricated in their factory in Switzerland. INTAMIN Transportation Limited built the Monorail System presently operational in Moscow and parts of Switzerland.

    • Arcus Gibb Nigeria Limited (Arcus Gibb Pty South Africa) – Is an international consulting firm based in South Africa, with considerable experience in Monorail projects, they were part of the South African consortium that built the Guatrain Rail System. They are the Rivers State Government appointed project management consultants on the Rivers Monorail project.

    • Amy-Forte Nigeria Limited in association with Capita Symonds Limited UK – Project Managers to the Rivers Monorail Company.

    • Karaiala Consults – QA/QC Consultant for Survey Works

    • AllCad Nigeria Limited – This Company is responsible for Survey works along the monorail route.

    • Geodata Gallery – This Company is responsible for Survey works along the monorail route.

    • Architectronix – Architects – Architects responsible for the designs of the Stations and Depot.

    • Ette Aro + Partners – Civil/Structural Engineers for the Stations and Depot.

    • Aman – Quantity Surveyors for the Stations and Depots.

    The information presented above, is in the public domain. The Rivers Monorail project is a project that would take the State into the 21st Century and jump-start the economic growth of Rivers State. While we welcome the interest shown by people and comments on the project by journalists, we urge that all be guided by the old maxim, `comments are free, facts are sacred`. We remain open to share and provide information if and when required.
    George F. Tolofari
    Hon. Commissioner for Transport.

    RESPONSE FROM EDITOR:. This response is like opening a can of worms, the picture presented by the ministry is even worse than the original story. First of all, the distance of monorail being done is shocking; a monorail line of only about six bus stops, a distance of about 2.6km at a cost of N50 billion. Incredible. The hypothesis of other phases to be built later sounds as if the administration has another twenty years in office. In reality the administration would be lucky to conclude this walking distance of 2.6km. It is a waste of N50 billion and it is a joke to suggest that it will bring Rivers into the 21st century. There is no need pretending that the Rivers Monorail is a public-private-partnership. There are no private partners. It is completely paid for by the Rivers State Government. Claiming to be opening discusions with the private partner is subterfuge. Governor Amaechi is forking out the billions, even borrowing to do so and the MoT has even provided the list of contractors on the project. Is it when the project is completed that the partner will come on board. Those who were supposed to partner the administration were clear. They do not have that kind of money. The sight of workers filling holes with cement and casting columns out of them were seen by all who walked or drove by Azikiwe Road when the pillars were being put up. The column foundations are a permanent testimony of what was done. It is also true that those megastar workers have absolutely no previous experience of having worked on a monorail project. Where would they have worked on one? Japan? Malaysia? Canada? It is noteworthy that the South African company which bamboozled Rivers people with a nebulous Greater Port Harcourt masterplan is now a consultant on the monorail. Who can walk away from all that money ? It will be interesting to see how it all works out.

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