Thursday, 4 February 2016

Holyfield praises Tyson

Former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield believes Tyson Fury has ‘brought the light back in to boxing’.
Fury (25-0-KO18) was recently warned by the British Boxing Board of Control over media comments but Holyfield, who held the WBC, WBA and IBF world titles himself, says the Mancunian is helping the sport.
‘The Real Deal’ told Sky Sports News HQ, “I think it (Fury) makes the game of boxing exciting. It’s something different. We’ve never really had a white fighter talk a lot like that. He brings something to the table. He’s a good fighter. Nobody’s accustomed to seeing someone 6’9” but he’s got heart.
“He’s a fighter. Everything he says, he lets you know. He practices, works out, his time came and he made the best of it. I think with most of those guys and what they were doing, I think he brought the light back in to the game of boxing. People are looking forward to seeing it.”
Fury, 27, snatched the WBA Super, WBO and IBF titles from the long-reigning Wladimir Klitschko in November with a points success that surprised many – and Holyfield warns the veteran Ukrainian he’ll need to change tactics to win the rematch.
Holyfield said, “The difference is that you can only hope. People look at experts but you’re not fighting. It’s obvious that Wladimir Klitschko had never fought a guy with arms longer than his. Tyson Fury has never fought a guy with arms longer than his. It’s different when someone has long arms and Fury had the longer arms.
“He has to get with his trainer and working on doing things that Fury can’t do. The art of the game is how to make an adjustment. I became heavyweight champion of the world four times because I made adjustments.”
The American also had words of encouragement for British hopeful Anthony Joshua, adding: “One thing is he has proven he was the best amateur. Now it’s time to stand up to fight for a world championship.

A civil rights organisation, Transition Monitoring Group, has expressed concern over what it described “a slew of verdicts and disturbing trend in the judicial pronouncements” on state governorship elections by the Supreme Court.
The TMG also described the Supreme Court judgments as “clear cut attempts at legalising electoral robberies.”
A statement by the Chairman of TMG, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said the court “has elected to give judgments, and not justice.”
According to it, in the face of unrepentant attempts to subvert the will of the people in a good number of the cases, the Supreme Court has curiously turned a blind eye to justice.
The statement read in part, “For us, it is absolutely shocking that the Supreme Court has decided to act as if it exists in another planet. The TMG is perturbed by the strange legal reasoning that has informed the blank cheque that the court has given to election riggers.
“We make bold to say that while the legal premise behind these judgments is best known to the apex court, the open reward for electoral impunity does not resonate with the Nigerian people.
“As the foremost election observation coalition in the country, we see the Supreme Court judgments as clear cut attempts at legalising electoral robberies. These judgments, particularly on Rivers and Akwa Ibom States, have merely given judicial imprimatur to the damaging mind set of rapacious politicians who would stop at nothing in their bid to subvert the will of the people.
“What these judgments what they have effectively done is to ridicule Nigeria in the eyes of the international community, while diminishing our country’s stature in the comity of lovers of democracy around the world.
“Painfully, the biggest losers are the ordinary people in the states who have been denied their democratic choices on account of the violence and impunity that characterised the polls in those states.
“In the end, what the Supreme Court has succeeded in doing is to spit on the graves of all those innocent Nigerians who lost their lives as a result of the activities of those hell bent on subverting the will of the people.”
The TMG, while acknowledging the scores of Nigerians whose lives were cut short by the activities of election riggers, said it took solace in “the fact that even beyond the justice of the Supreme Court; there is the justice of the Almighty”.
“And in due course, those who wilfully killed and maimed in the desperate bid to capture power, would be held to account,” it added.
The organisation with over 400 members, is however consoled by the fact that “even beyond the justice of the Supreme Court, there is the justice of the Almighty.”

Photos: Salvage of the Bristol Helicopter crash

The helicopter crashed into the ocean yesterday with 11 people on-board. All 11 survived.

Ray J dishes on Kim Kardashian's alleged female body odor issues

This is actually an old Ray J interview that was just dug by Hollywood Street King. In the interview, Kim's sextape partner can be heard explaining how he had to break the news to Kim that her lady parts had a bad odor. He said it smelt so bad he had to tell Brandy about it.
"I went to the doctor and I asked the doctor, ‘Is it me?’ And he was like, ‘Nah.’ And I’m like listen, ‘Check me first. OK, I’m good. What’s up with my girlfriend’s coochie? It’s ridiculous’. When I told Kim K, that was it. The next day the p*ssy was fresh.”. He said a whole lot more. Listen to the interview after the cut

Photo of a teenage Celine Dion with her late husband in 1982

This photo was reportedly taken in 1982 when Celine Dion was just 14 years old. That's her mum, aunt and late husband, Rene in Blue. Rene was almost 40 years old in this pic and already twice married. He discovered Celine Dion and invested in her career. He married her in 1994.

Former LAPD cop claims Diddy had Tupac murdered for $1m, Suge Knight retaliated and had Biggie Smalls killed

Did Diddy do it? New reports claim Sean 'Diddy' Combs put a hit out on Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur in 1996 and that Suge put a hit out on Christoper 'The Notorious B.I.G.' Wallace in retaliation.

From Huffington Post
The Los Angeles Police Department has solved the murders of rappers Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace and Tupac Shakur, according to a documentary featuring retired LAPD detective Greg Kading, who once led a special task force that investigated those two-decade-old shootings.

Based on his three years working the cases, Kading claims that Sean "Diddy" Combs hired Crips gang member Duane Keith "Keffe D" Davis to kill Shakur and his manager, Marion Hugh "Suge" Knight, for $1 million. He alleges that on the night of Sept. 7, 1996, Keffe D's nephew, Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson, pulled the trigger. Only Shakur was killed.

Kading alleges that in retaliation, Knight hired Bloods gang member Wardell "Poochie" Fouse to kill Biggie Smalls for $13,000. Biggie Smalls was shot to death on March 9, 1997, just six months after Shakur died.

Over the course of investigating, Kading says that he essentially trapped Keffe D into a situation where he had to give a verifiable confession about the events that led to Shakur's murder or else face severe charges for another crime.

"If his intention was to just get away with it, so to speak," Kading told HuffPost, "it would have been very easy for him to not include all the details that he did."
These extra details, according to the documentary, include the allegation that Combs hired Keffe D for the crime.

The documentary, titled "Murder Rap," originally premiered in 2015. Based on Kading's 2011 book of the same name, it's available on iTunes now and will debut on Netflix in the spring.

The LAPD assigned Kading to reinvestigate the rappers' murders in 2006, soon after Biggie Smalls' mother, Voletta Wallace, sued the department in federal court. Wallace's wrongful death lawsuit centered on a popular conspiracy theory that the police covered up an officer's involvement in her son's murder. The civil suit estimated losses at $500 million based on Biggie Smalls' earning potential. It was Kading's task to disprove the theory posited in the suit, along with many others swirling around.

Kading claims that once his team found enough evidence to exonerate the LAPD, the re-investigation of the murders was essentially dropped. In 2009, the department took Kading off the task force due to an internal affairs investigation on a separate matter. Though he was eventually cleared in the internal matter, the image of a "rogue cop" stuck.

In truth, over the course of his 25-year law enforcement career, Kading received the LAPD's Medal of Valor and its Police Star for heroic action. He also achieved the highest ranking for an investigator that the LAPD gives. In 2010, he retired from the department. The next year he published his book about the rappers' case.

Kading now alleges that the LAPD chose not to pursue formal charges in the case because of Combs' celebrity and because the evidence pointed to two killers who were already deceased. Anderson and Fouse have both died of apparently unrelated causes.

The LAPD offered no comment about Kading's claims or the documentary when contacted by HuffPost. HuffPost could not reach Combs for this story, but left multiple messages for his manager and publicist, which were not returned.

Knight's lawyer likewise did not immediately respond to messages from HuffPost. And HuffPost could not find contact information for Keffe D.

In 2010, before Kading's book came out, radio show host DJ Jojo surprised Combs with questions about Biggie Smalls' murder. Combs answered as if he seemingly had some knowledge of what had happened, declaring, "Those are street issues."

The following year, Combs told LA Weekly that Kading's claims were "pure fiction and completely ridiculous."

Kading, of course, disagrees. "You want to believe you are a good enough investigator to rise to the occasion," he told HuffPost.
He said he had been chosen for the task force due to his experience in gang-related and narcotics crimes, along with cold-case homicides. But the effort ended before any suspects were brought to court.

Since then, the case has grown even colder. Additional people who might have known something about the rappers' murders have died. Kading's claims appear unlikely to ever go to court.
That is, unless he's sued by one of the accused, such as Combs or Knight. "I don't think any rational person looks forward to getting sued," Kading said, laughing. "But if I did, I would not shy away from it. I am very, very confident in the case. I'm confident in the evidence."

In the meantime, he's making his arguments directly to the people. Kading's book ends with these words, "Maybe this story would never hold up in court. But maybe it will hold up in the court of public opinion. You decide."

'Michael Schumacher's condition isn't good' - his ex-boss reveals

Seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher is still receiving treatment at his home in Switzerland following head injuries he suffered in a skiing accident in France in December 2013 and his former boss at Ferrari, Luca di Montezemolo, today briefly spoke to reporters telling them that the formula one legend is in a bad condition. 

"I  have news and unfortunately it is not good,' Montezemolo told reporters without giving any further details. 'Life is strange. He was a fantastic driver and only had one accident with Ferrari in 1999.' Italian newspaper LA Gazzetta de la sport reported. "He was a great driver and we shared a great personal and professional relationship, we also had the pleasure of having our children at similar times. Unfortunately a fall while skiing, an accident, has broken him,' 
With an accumulated wealth estimated to be well over half-a-billion pounds, Schumacher's family is well capable placed to provide the expensive medical care that his situation demands.

The F1 Champion was holidaying with his wife Corinna and children Mick and Gina Maria on December 29, 2013, when he smashed his head on rocks during a ski-run at the resort of Meribel.
He was immediately airlifted and placed on emergency treatment, had a lot of surgeries and was on coma for a long period of time. 

Word came out in 2014 that he has made some progress with his recovery but the statement of his former boss today is certainly not encouraging.

ECOWAS parliament gets new speaker

The Fourth Legislature of the Economic Community of West African States Parliament, was on Thursday inaugurated in Abuja with Moustapha Cissé Lô from Republic of Senegal unanimously elected as Speaker.
Lô who is the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Senegal, will serve four years.
His emergence was based on a rotational system in alphabetical order in accordance with Article 15 of the Supplementary Protocol establishing the Parliament, which necessitated the Fourth Parliament electing a Speaker from the Republic of Senegal following the end of the mandate of its former Speaker from Nigeria, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
A memorandum signed by all members of the Senegalese Delegation had announced Honourable Lô as the country’s sole candidate and urged other Members of Parliament to support their choice.
The new Speaker said he would continue to work for the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Lo added that he was aware of the challenges facing the Parliament, noting that “the challenges are numerous especially at a time when resources are dwindling.”
Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, President Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall in his message, expressed confidence that the parliament would address the challenges facing the the sub-region in its four year tenure.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Ouedraogo said the inauguration of the Fourth Legislature demonstrated the people’s increased participation in the progress of member states and the realisation of the regional integration agenda.
In his goodwill message, Senate President Bukola Saraki charged the Parliament to do more to raise the living standard of the people of the sub-region.
“This is what our people yearn for and this is what I charge you today, to recreate the West African sub-region. This Parliament must lead the way again for us to make the sub-region a major market hub,” Saraki said.
Ekweremadu, in his valedictory address said the adoption of the Supplementary Act on the Enhancement of the Powers of the ECOWAS Parliament by the Community Decision Making Bodies remains the most significant achievement of the Third Legislature.

Amaechi inspects project in Osun, lauds Aregbesola

The Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, on Thursday inspected some federal projects in Osun State and the MKO Abiola International Airport, Ido Osun, which is a joint project of the Federal Government and the state.
The minister lauded Governor Rauf Aregbesola, for prudently managing the meager resources available to the state due to the steady fall in the price of crude oil.
Amaechi said, “Initially, when the economic meltdown started, I was very worried for states like Osun because of the of meagre resources.
“Am I still worried? The answer is yes, because the economy hasn’timproved. But I commend him for he has been able to manage  to continue what he started.
“I thank God for the kind of leaders Osun has in him and his deputy for their being able to manage their  little resources.”
The minister said he would inform President Muhammdu Buhari about what he saw, adding that the President would  make a decision based on the information the council passes on to him.
“We are inspecting federal roads. Some of the states have constructed federal roads and are asking for refund. So we are going round. We have a committee set up by Federal Executive Council headed by Raji Fashola, who is in charge of South South. I am in charge of South West. There are others too going round the country,” he added.
Aregbesola  appealed to the Federal Government to pay its 50 per cent commitment on the airport project.
He said the airport, when completed, would be one of the lucrative ones in the country because of its cargo and hanger facilities, which was the first of its kind  in Nigeria.
The governor said, “We want you to convey our message to the Federal Government on its commitment to jointly fund the airport with our state base on 50/50 sharing of the cost of the project.
“We believe that the airport has huge economic and aviational value to both the country and the state.
“In this regard, we want you to intimate the Federal Government to assist the state with its counterpart funds for the speedy completion of the project.”

Avoid blood donations from people in Zika areas

The World Health Organisation on Thursday advised countries against accepting blood donations from people who had travelled to regions affected by the Zika virus.
“With the risk of incidence of new infections of Zika virus in many countries, and the potential linkage of the Zika virus infection with microcephaly and other clinical consequence, it is estimated as an appropriate precautionary measures to defer donors who return from areas with Zika virus outbreak,” the WHO toldAFP in a statement.
Canada and Britain have already moved to protect their blood supplies.
Canadian blood agencies earlier Wednesday announced that anyone who had travelled to a Zika-risk area will be ineligible to give blood for three weeks upon their return.
The 21-day waiting period also applies to cord blood and stem cell donors who have travelled to Zika-affected areas.
In Britain, the National Health Service Blood and Transplant agency has said that from Thursday, anyone returning from Zika-affected countries will be made to wait 28 days before being allowed to donate blood, as a “precautionary measure”.
“The safety of the blood supply is paramount and it is important we implement any precautionary blood safety measures agreed here as a result of an increasing prevalence of infectious diseases found around the globe,” a spokeswoman said.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has spread to 26 countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean. It holds little danger for most people but has been linked to a surge in cases of microcephaly, a condition which causes babies to develop abnormally small heads, leading to permanent disability or death.
Zika symptoms resemble those of a mild case of flu — headache, muscle and joint pain, mild fever, and a rash. In 70 to 80 percent of cases, the disease goes unnoticed.

AGF not aware of plot to abduct Kashamu – Aide

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, on Thursday said he was not aware of any plan by the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency to abduct the Ogun East Senator, Buruji Kashamu, in order to extradite him.
There is a pending appeal by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Justice to extradite Kashamu to the United States of America for him to face trial on narcotics related offences in the country.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Salihu Isah, the AGF said he was not aware of any plan to abduct Kashamu as alleged in his recent petition to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
“I have spoken with him (AGF), he said he is not aware of any plan like that,” Isah told our correspondent on the telephone Thursday.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on Wednesday cautioned against any act of illegality that could lead to Kashamu’s abduction.
The senate panel gave the directive while treating a petition forwarded to it by the Senator, who appeared physically at the venue with his lawyer.
Appearing before the senate panel alongside his counsel, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, Kashamu alleged that the plan was to export him out of Nigeria with the active connivance of the NDLEA officials.
Reacting to the petition, the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, asked the NDLEA to maintain status quo on the issue, pending the outcome of his panel’s investigation.
“It is obvious that when we make our investigation we will put down our report to the entire senate. We have to invite the parties involved and not in representative capacity to answer to the allegations,” he said.
He added that the allegation was against the Former Chairman of the agency, Ahmadu Giade, and that he was equally going to be affected by whatever decision the senate will arrive at, hence the need to also hear from him.

Nigerian railway: A tale of failed contracts, dashed hope

After a prolonged neglect of the nation’s railway, recent efforts by the government to revive and modernise the transport mode have not yielded the desired results, RASHEED BISIRIYU writes
Fifty-five years after independence, Nigeria still struggles to operate part of the 3,505km of railway inherited from the British colonial masters amid failed numerous contracts.
There are high expectations that a weekly train from Lagos to Kano will be doubled after the rehabilitation of its dilapidated track, which costs the Federal Government over N24bn to fix. But this turns out to be a dashed hope as only the single train resumes operation after three years of inactivity. The train still suffers intermittent breakdown.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, after undertaking a visit round some agencies under the ministry, including the Nigerian Railway Corporation, shocks his audience when he declares that he does not know a functional train really exists in Nigeria.
Amaechi obviously speaks the minds of many people who have never had a ride on the train within the country.
But trains still run in Nigeria, although they are irregular and unattractive.
Investigations show that available few trains are mainly used for either short-trip excursions or mass transit by peasant farmers, rural traders and junior workers.
Only recently, the corporation deployed its latest refurbished rolling stock in the weekly Lagos-Kano route. And this expectedly attracted a number of curious passengers, some of who shared their experiences with our correspondent.
Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi
Alimah Omodele, a self-employed lady, is on a visit to Ilorin. She is encouraged by her mother-in-law, who resides in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, to travel by the train.
She says, “My mother-in-law told me it would be fun and promised to pick me up at the railway station in Ilorin when we arrive. But I’ve not seen any fun except the AC.”
Omodele is not sure of taking the train back to Lagos, saying she is not really impressed.
Yomi Goncalves, a student of the Federal Technology Minna, pays N3,000 to secure a seat in the first-class section of the Lagos-Kano train. He is happy, having saved about N1,000 by not using the road travel option. But he has to endure spending more hours on the train. It is his first experience on the train and hopes to take it again if it will be regular and timely.
But an employee of the Nigerian Navy, Yakubu Abdullahi, who is heading for Zaria in Kaduna State for a medical checkup, cannot hide his disappointment in the first-class sleeper coach. “What I saw on the NRC website fascinated me. It gave an indication that the train is next to the airplane experience. But I’m seeing a different thing now. The AC, the toilet, the bedding and the whole place looks old-fashioned and unattractive. It is not worth my N6,050.”
Mr. Kayode Agboola is from Offa in Kwara State. His mother is travelling to Kano after paying him a visit in Lagos and she opts for the train.
“When I heard about the train going up North, I decided my mum should take it and she agrees because it is cheaper and safer,” he says.
Mr. Mike Itseghosimhe, a health consultant, says it is his sixth trip on the Lagos-Kano train in the last one year. To him, it has been a mixed feeling of excitement and frustration.
The excitement, for instance, comes from the opportunity it offers to relax maximally and the fascination of touring several cities and villages that are along the Lagos-Kano railway in one journey without having to leave one’s seat on the train.
He, however, recalls one nasty experience when a coach was detached from a train in motion in a remote village near Offa. It caused a delay of about 24 hours, he says.
“Sometime, the gas supply to the AC on the train will be cut off; the train is delayed at the departure and this affects its arrival. And no announcement or information is given. They just leave everyone in the dark,” says itseghosimhe.
                        Nigerian Railway Corporation
The development of railway began in Nigeria with a 32km line of 1067mm gauge from Iddo (Lagos) to Ota (Ogun). This was in 1901 extended to Ibadan, a distance of 193km, according to ‘Facts and Figures’, a handbook produced by the NRC in 2006.
“Subsequently, railway construction experienced continual extension from Ibadan to Jebba (295km) 1901-1910; Kano–Baro (562km), 1907-1911; Jebba–Minna (252km), 1909-1915; Port-Harcourt-Enugu (243km), 1914-1916; and Kafanchan-Jos (17 km), 1922–1927,” it states.
For 31 years, from 1927 to 1958, there was no railway development. It was the construction of Kafanchan-Bauchi rail line (238km) from 1958 to 1961 and the Bauchi-Maiduguri line (302km) in 1961–1964 that brought the total rail route of the Nigerian railway network to 3,505km.
Many Nigerians were excited by the establishment of the NRC in 1955 with an Act of Parliament. And indeed the corporation is credited to have performed reasonably well between 1955 and 1979.
Analysts also credit the Nigerian railway as playing a pivotal role in increasing the tempo of commercial activities in the many towns along the rail routes. It has also boosted inter-ethnic marriages, acquisition of new dressing habits, food and languages and caused the emergence of mega towns referred to as railway towns such as Lagos, Umuahia, Zaria, Kano, Kafanchan, Jos, Enugu, Aba and Port Harcourt.
But a steady process of decline was said to have crept into its operation in the late 1970s. This, according to experts, became worse with the systemic decay of the corporation’s entire infrastructure and manpower.
For instance, statistics on passenger and freight traffics from the corporation show that in 1964, the NRC carried 11,288,000 passengers and 2,960,000 tonnes of freight. Ten years later, the figures dropped to 4,342,000 and 1,098,000, respectively.
Before the rot set in, a former President of the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers, Mr. Ado Maigoro, recalls, “In those good old days of the railway, we had trains moving on a daily basis from Lagos to Kano; Kano to Lagos: Port Harcourt to Kano; Kano to Port Harcourt and Jos to Port Harcourt; while Lagos-Maiduguri train ran four times weekly, apart from the mass transit in Lagos and other towns.”
Although successive governments have shown concerns about the parlous state of the nation’s railway system by allocating funds to turn around this all-important transport mode, analysts lament that this has not really translated to the desirable improved train services.
They attribute this to lack of maintenance, policy inconsistency, corruption, management inefficiency and inadequate marketing.
In the late 1970s, the military regime headed by Olusegun Obasanjo had to invite the Rail India Technical and Economic Services to manage the NRC. The Indian experts met only 20 functional locomotive engines in the system. By the time they were leaving in the early 1980s, the number had increased to 173.
Maigoro says, “The Indians did not perform any magic. They succeeded only because they received adequate funds from the government to put things right. What the railway needs even now is adequate funding to replace and repair obsolete rolling stock.”
The administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha must have heeded Maigoro’s advice when it awarded a $528m railway contract in 1995 to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation for the rehabilitation of rail infrastructure, supply of 50 locomotives and other rolling stocks, as well as the training of critical NRC personnel.
Although this project is not listed among the N1.68tn railway contracts currently under probe by the House of Representatives, the continued breakdown of the supplied locos and the furore generated by the outcome of the project almost led to a diplomatic row between Nigeria and China.
The CCECC’s alleged shoddy execution of that contract became a bad publicity for the company. For instance, a public affairs analyst, Dr. Mutali Musa, in a report, urged Amaechi to avoid the CCECC if he must move the railway forward.
But other analysts have argued that the same company is currently handling the construction of a light rail along the CMS-Mile 2-Okokomaiko route for the Lagos State Government.
The Director of Public Transport, Lagos Area Metropolitan Transport Authority, Mr. Gbenga Dairo, says the CCECC has successfully executed a number of road projects in many parts of the country and is involved in other more complex railway projects in and outside Nigeria. So far, the firm has not been found wanting in the Lagos light rail project.
So, what went wrong between the Chinese company and the Abacha regime concerning the N52bn NRC revival project remains shrouded in mystery.
The civilian administration of Obasanjo was applauded when it conceived the idea of a 25-year strategic vision for the railway in 2002. This was meant to be a systematic development of the railway system. It was specifically designed to provide a global framework and benchmark for rail expansion and modernisation for over 8,000 kilometres linking all state capitals and major centres and industrial areas in the country. And the government reportedly paid a princely sum to a panel that delivered the package.
A report by an author and journalist, Tokunbo Oloruntola, describes it as an ambitious plan for the nation’s railway expansion projects whose funds are expected to be sourced from the private sector and multi-lateral bodies.
“Among others, it will involve the conversion of the nation’s narrow gauge rail tracks to a standard gauge and the construction of new 4,984 kilometres of rail lines to link the West and East of the country,” the report states.
It was, however, at the twilight of that administration (November 28, 2006) that Obasanjo inaugurated the construction of a new Lagos-Kano standard gauge line, spanning 1,315km at the Kajola Railway Station, Ogun State. The contract was awarded to the CCECC.
The project was later abandoned by the Umar Yara’adua administration after the Chinese firm had pocketed the sum of $250m, being the initial payment made by the government for the job.
Giving reasons for the suspension of the project, an erstwhile Minister of Transport, Ibrahim Bio, says, “The Chinese government was able to stimulate the interest of the Federal Government by proposing to give a soft loan of $2.5bn and that attracted the government. When we went in for it, they retracted and said they only had $500m and that we should go and source for the balance from Chinese banks at their prevailing interest rates.”
Another project, a new Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line, was awarded to a Korean firm at a cost of $10bn then. But it was never executed.
The appointment of Alhaji Waziri Muhammed as the NRC chairman in 2001, an influential and wealthy member of trustees of the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, by the Obasanjo administration brought some hope to the industry.
Waziri was obviously passionate about the railway and wanted its transformation to be accelerated. He took the risk of taking a nationwide tour on the train, just to get firsthand information on the state of railway facilities and get the support of state governments, irrespective of their party affiliations. He was said to have given the railway a new hope, bringing the transport mode to national limelight.
His death in the Bellview plane crash on October 22, 2005 literally halted the development programmes lined up for the Nigerian railway, according to Maigoro.
Romanian railway experts came after the Indians and were reportedly paid $17m to supply wagons and workshop equipment. The supplied facilities are still reportedly gathering dust at the NRC workshop in Lagos, uninstalled and may never be installed due to what an official calls ‘manual blunders’.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration also gave a considerable attention to the railway, making it one of the cardinal points of its Transformation Agenda. It received funds in essence of N1tn, which is currently under investigation at the House of Representatives.
For instance, a total of 25 new locomotives purchased by the Federal Government from the General Electric Transportation South America at a cost of N114bn were delivered to the NRC between February and October 2010 and deployed to boost train services across the country’s railway routes.
But a recent survey of all the fit locos at the corporation, according to the Secretary General of the NUR, Mr. Segun Esan, shows that less than 30 engines are still standing.
Apart from the locomotives, 366 coaches and wagons were refurbished for the NRC’s use.
It also procured two sets of diesel multiple units (trains) with a capacity for 640 passengers and six modern air-conditioned coaches with a seating capacity of 68 passengers each.
As follow up to the supply of locomotives, the GE also got the offer to assemble 200 locomotives for the NRC over a 10-year period at a plant to be established in the country. It is, however, not clear if the project has taken off.
The Managing Director of the NRC, Mr. Adeseyi Sijuade, who admits the industry still suffers from the criminal neglect of over two decades by the government, says the corporation has had to look inwards to bring back some grounded rolling stocks by way of cannibalisation.
He says, “The railway sector is one sector that has benefited from the programme (SURE-P of the Jonathan administration). Without the SURE-P intervention, there was actually no way the Lagos to Kano line would have been completed in 2012.”
In 2013, the Jonathan administration specifically promised to invest N1.6tn in the railway in two years. About 15 different railway projects were penciled down for completion by 2015.
And 13 of the projects were listed for attention in the capital projects of key federal ministries for that year.
Although the old Lagos-Kano rail line was inaugurated in December 21, 2012 after its rehabilitation, it received a vote of N1.4bn in the 2013 budget for maintenance purposes. The breakdown shows the Lagos-Jebba end and Jebba-Kano end got N700m each.
The rehabilitation of the narrow gauge Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line (an ongoing project then) was allocated N67bn; it approved N225bn for the construction of a rail line from Aba to Ajaokuta, linking Enugu, Asaba and Agbor. The government also pledged an initial sum of N48bn for the construction of the 360km rail line from Ajaokuta to Abuja through Jakura and Baro.
Similarly, the government voted N5bn for the commencement of the East-West rail line construction, expected to Lagos to Calabar.
Another long stretch of rail line, spanning 650km, received N97bn. It is a standard gauge line to cover Lagos, Ife, Ilesha, Owo, Benin, Onitsha and Enugu.
It indicated about N50.9bn would be spent to construct a 604km rail line linking Zaria-Kaura Namoda-Sokoto and Ilela.
The Abuja mass transit trains, Lot 1 & 2 projects, got N85.7bn; while the construction of the Abuja light rail received N66.3bn.
Six stations being constructed between Itakpe and Warri were allocated N475.7bn.
But the Centre for Social Justice, in its analysis of the development projects, faults the allocation of funds. For instance, it notes a difference of over 50 per cent between what was proposed in the Transformation Agenda for the railway in 2013 and the amount prepared for this in that year’s budget.
It also gives some examples of the performance pattern of government in railway project execution.
It states, “The rehabilitation of the rail track from Lagos to Jebba commenced in October 2009 and was expected to end in October 2010 at a cost of N12.29bn. There was a time overrun but despite the new completion time of July 2011, as of September 2011, only 90 per cent of the rehabilitation had been completed.”
It recalls that N1.09bn was allocated to the project in the 2011 budget; N626.69m was released but only N195.47m was utilised at the end of the third quarter of 2011.
“That it was listed in the 2013 budget suggests that it will not be completed in 2012. The impact of inadequate releases and poor utilisation of released funds on this project, as in others, informs poor implementation, leading to time and likely cost overruns, which unduly inflates the cost of projects.”
Similarly, CSJ recalls that the Jebba-Kano track rehabilitation commenced in December 2009 and was expected to end in February 2012.
It says, “N7.6bn has been committed to the project since inception and had N2bn allocation in 2011 budget with N1.6bn released as at end of the third quarter of 2011, achieving only 67 per cent level of completion.
“A time overrun is noticed in this project, which was supposed to have ended in February 2012 but still receiving budgetary allocation in 2013.”
One of projects in that year’s budget was the construction of new Lagos-Ibadan rail line on standard gauge. It received a vote of N8.6bn. The plan is to take the new line to Kano. The contract for the new Lagos-Ibadan line was later awarded to the CCECC at the cost of $1.5bn. Construction work has, however, yet to commence.
The government also provided N3.56bn in the year’s budget for the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line. A total sum of N243bn was voted for the project under the Transformation Agenda.
In 2014, the Federal Government and the China Railway Construction Corporation Limited signed an $11.9bn contract to build a coastal 22-stop railway that will stretch for 1,402km linking Lagos to Calabar with the maximum speed of 120km/hour. It is said to be the China’s single largest overseas contract.
But the announcement does not appear to elicit the desired applause and excitement from the citizens, according to a public affairs analyst, Akinwumi Adedoyin, while contributing to an online report on the project published by ‘Economic Confidential’.
He says, “Nigerians have become immune to celebrating further announcements of activities aimed at the resuscitation of the rail transport due to disappointments in the past.
“Railway transportation in other parts of the world contributes immensely towards the attainment of economic and social goals but for a long time, that has not been the case for Nigeria as the sector is suffering from monumental neglect and corruption.”
Renowned economists, including Dr. Ayo Teriba and Prof. Pat Utomi, express worry about the deplorable state of the Nigerian railway despite the huge sums reportedly sunk into a number of projects meant to improve the system.
They wonder why elected leaders and government appointees have chosen to play politics with an all-important infrastructural facility like the railway that should have been the springboard for the transformation of the economy.
Teriba says no nation with the population of Nigeria can ever hope to attain economic development without an efficient railway system.
He expects the government “to do to its rail transport sector what it has beneficially done to its telecommunications sector, and has recently done to its power sector; namely, end government monopoly, carve out the country into zones and allow private firms to bid for the rights to build and/or operate rail lines under the oversight of a new regulatory body. Not just rail, but pipelines, gas, and refineries.
“If these are successfully done, manufacturing should be expected to become spontaneously competitive and manufacturing exports should grow. Not just manufacturing will benefit. All other sectors will benefit from the competitiveness and scale that functioning cargo rail transport system will afford.”
The President, African Railway Workers’ Union, Mr. Raphael Okoro, blames the Federal Ministry of Transport for preparing contract terms and executing the execution without the imput of relevant experts from the NRC.
“All railway contracts are initiated and executed by the Ministry of Transport. For instance, you go to purchase railway locomotives and leave out NRC engineers. Lack of proper monitoring has been largely responsible for the failure of many railway projects,” he says.
The Secretary, NUR, Segun Esan, also says, “As a union, we’re not in the know how the railway rehabilitation package is put in place. But whenever we notice that something is wrong in the execution of any project, we raise a query through the NRC management.
“There is a need for the government to always carry the workers along in the planning and execution of vital railway projects.”
Like Okoro, Esan urges the government to constitute a high-powered team made up of respected railway experts, trusted opinion leaders, human right lawyers and workers’ leaders that will be saddled with the task of assessing railway project proposals and monitor the execution of the job.
The multi-billionaire light rail project of the Lagos State Government cannot be operated unless the Railway Act, 1955 is repealed or amended. This Act gives the NRC the exclusive right to run railway services in Nigeria. A bill seeking an amendment to the Act has reportedly undergone the second reading at the Senate, many years after it was sent there by the Executive.
Okoro advises the state governors across the six regions in Nigeria to pool resources together for the establishment of regional railway using the vehicle of Pubic Private Partnership for effective delivery and management. For instance, he advises that the new Lagos-Ibadan rail line can be funded by the South-West governments since the line will pass through states in this region.
The governors are also enjoined to lobby the National Assembly to speed up the Railway Act amendment 

Olisa Metuh pictured in court today

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Photos: Former Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho meets Pope Francis

Pope Francis on Wednesday, February 3, met with members of the Pontifical Foundation ‘Scholas Occurrentes’- an international project based in Argentina that brings together schools and educational networks from different cultures and religious backgrounds. Among those who took part in the meeting were a number of well-known sports personalities, including the top former Brazilian footballer, Ronaldinho. See more photos after the cut...