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KANO LIGHT RAIL: THE MORAL QUESTIONS… Bichi

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Many people wrote for or against the proposed KNSG Light Rail project that the state government is hell-bent to embark on in a tripartite arrangement. The proponents of the project are trying to depend the action of the state government in giving some of their reasons as the justification for the government’s proposal, mostly political in contents. Whereas those against the project have also gave their reasons as to why the project is a waste of the taxpayers money.

I have been tossing with the idea of writing about this topic, but at the end I feel that I have a moral burden to, even if to at least enlighten the public of what I found out about this project. I specifically choose the title of the topic because I based my write-up with some questions that I will leave my analysis open for public input.

Let me for the purpose of understanding explain some terms that I will use in this article.

BRT – Bus Rapid Transit.
EIA – Environmental Impact Assessment.
KNSG – Kano State Government.
CCECC – China Civil Engineering Construction Corperation.
IGR – Internally Generated Revenue.
DFID – Department For International Development.
LAMATA – Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority.
BEME – Bill of Engineering Management and Evaluation.
EOI – Expression Of Interest

For information, the Light Rail Project is estimated to gulp Two billion US dollars ($2 billion), the KNSG will give 15% of that amount as counterpart, whereas the Chinese company will provide the remaining 85%(as a loan). When the percentage is translated into money, it means the KNSG will put in $300,000,00.00 of taxpayers money, whereas the CCECC will put in $1.7 billion(as a loan). The public is yet to know the status of the State’s own contribution, especially due to this hash economic situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, since the state is now hell-bent on continuing with the project. I believe there is need for an updated information from the KNSG side even if for giving comfort to the public of how their money are utilized. Like I said, just for information so that my write-up will be understood.

Now, let me start by asking;

A) What is the relationship between Light Rail and BRT?

Before establishing the relationship, let me try to explain what BRT is all about. BRT is a mass well regulated public transport system initiated by World Bank team mission in Kano in 2010-2011 to ease transportation system in the state, just like how it is done in Lagos, some specific routes were identified and millions of dollars was spent in the research work for the actualization of the BRT project, series of meetings were held between the development partners and the representatives of the KNSG. Dawanau – Bata route known as Katsina routed and Janguza – Bata route also known as Gwarzo route were the first two routes to be identified.
These 2 routes are known as World Bank routes because they were identified by the World Bank transport team way back 2010/2011 as potential BRT routes. These two routes along with other routes in Kano were subjected to detailed analysis with World Bank Global Facility grant through LAMATA and DFID funded programme on transport to provide the basis of empirically evidenced based framework for the full implementation of the BRT system in the state. About $1 million was expended for these analysis and study.

Now these same routes miraculously metamorphosed to be the Light Rail project’s routes. Meaning that Light Rail project will be built based on the BRT project’s feasibility study with no trace of the BRT system, despite the huge resources that was expended. This how Light Rail project is related to BRT project in my own findings.
Now the questions here are;

  1. Can the feasibility study of BRT project be used as the feasibility study of the Light Rail project?
  2. Will the Light Rail project be possible in a place where BRT system is not in operation?
  3. Where is the Technical study of the Light Rail project?

My expert friends in Transportation will help me answer these questions I supposed.

B). Is there any independent feasibility study carried by the government?
If not,
Does it means the contracting company is both the Prosecutor and the Judge in this situation?

Let me explain, the Company that is shouldered with the responsibility of carrying the construction of the Rail project is the same Company that did the feasibility study without any counter feasibility by the other partners(KNSG in this case), it is also the same Company that will invest it’s $1.7 billion, then what are we saying? The company CR18G-CREGJV Ltd which is vested with the responsibilities of handling this project, it seems, is both the Contractor and the Investor.
Do you see what I saw?

C). What is the Recovery plan?

How is the invested money plan to be recovered? In every investment, there must be a plan of how the invested money will be recovered and also how to recover the profit accrued. Remember, the Lot-1 of this project will cover the Dawanau – Bata route, according to the BRT project’s survey, the average weekday passenger demand provided by the informal transport sector on that route is approximately 300,000 (this includes private passengers), note that in the BRT survey the actual demand is what is taken, whereas in the Light Rail survey a Potential demand is always considered. In Potential demand it is not seen but only some variables are taken into consideration, things like population density of the area, socioeconomic status of the people in the area, and so on, unlike the actual demand where near actual figures are considered because they are physically observed. Another disturbing issue is, this route in question is not even an industrial route. So we need to ask,
Are we really on course?
What is even the current public transport demand on this particular route that the Light Rail is to be built?

D). Is there any Regulatory framework?

Yes, we may say we have Ministry of Transportation, but do they really understand what this gigantic project consist of or is all about when they still busy with the issue of assets sharing between the Ministry and that of Works and Housing? From the little I know upto today, the newly created Ministry of Transportation and that of works (that the ministry of Transportation was carved out from) are still at loggerhead with each other in identifying who and which is responsible for what, the delineation of responsibilities is becoming an issue to put them apart. There is no way this project can be successfully undertook without a Regulatory framework.

Another thing is, has Kano state Ministry of Works carried out the usual BEME of this gigantic project? I know normally in every project that a State is to embark, the Ministry of Works must carry out BEME in order to ascertain the cost implications of the project before the call for EOI.

E). When was the EIA carried out? If at all it was carried out, was it acceptably agreed upon?

Our fears:

i. From the existing understand, it seems it is the results of the BRT project’s survey that is dubiously transformed to be that of Light Rail project survey, which will indeed translate to disaster if implemented.

ii. There is no timeline to which this loan can be repaid, and this will mean mortgaging the future of many generations of our dear State for unknown years. The disaster can only be imagined.

iii. The company given the contract is the same Company that is the investor, this indeed very disturbing. I cannot imagine the confusion in this case.

iv. If Lagos state government that has an established BRT system and IGR of more than N20 billion per month cannot finish even Lot-1 of its proposed Light Rail project which is only 26 km for more than 10 years now, and despite the fact that the company handling their project is a renowned Light Rail construction company world over, then how do we think of our project that is given to an unknown company in any construction industry and with a dwindling IGR of less than N3 billion per month? Ab initio the project is built on a very shallow foundation and public mistrust due to so many shady and not so clear unresolved issues, when do you think this project will be completed if at all it is started?

v. Public Transport system all over the world are done to compliment one another, but in our case and from the looks of things, this particular project will end up competing with one another which will spell doom for the system because ultimately one of them will be relegated and forgotten or killed.

vi. The project is too costly for our dwindling revenue, $1.7 billion loan is too risky for a State like ours. It is not a viable project indeed.

Suggestions:

I think the KNSG government with its sincere intention, should look for alternative and cheaper way of doing this Light Rail project. For example, for many years there are existing rail routes in some areas within Kano, and these places have a very long history of Bus transport presence since as early as between 1951-1960, places like Panshekara – Bata, T/Wada(Brigade) – Bata, Jakara – Asibiti, etc. I believe the state government in conjunction with the National Railway Corporation can explore the possibilities of rehabilitating those Rail routes like those of T/wada, kwana hudu – bata and Panshekara – Bata. I am sure if they can sit down on the table with the National railway Corporation management, I believe things can be done differently with a much cheaper and more economical approach.

For this much talked about project, the KNSG government must come out clean.

I am worried and I know I am not alone.

We have a moral burden.

May Almighty Allah save Us from Us, Amin ya rabbi

Kabir Dalha Kabir
Wrote from Kano.

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