Sustainability as a Critical Criterion for Success in the Current Nigerian Railways Projects


By O. Chima Okereke, PhD

UK and Nigeria



The UN Sustainable Development Goal number 9 is: “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation ..”  This Goal addresses three important aspects of sustainable development, namely: infrastructure, industrialization and innovation. Infrastructure provides the basic physical facilities essential to business and society, while industrialization drives economic growth and job creation. Most of the projects by national governments, especially in developing countries, are on infrastructure and industrial developments. The current projects on the Nigerian Railways should come under this description. Inevitably, ­­­­­sustainability is an essential criterion for their success in order that they can contribute to national economic development.

Following this brief introduction, other points that will be considered in this paper, are as follows:

  1. Some of the current developments in the Nigerian Railways under the present President Buhari’s government.
  2. Failure to sustain major and strategic projects by various past Nigerian governments.
  3. Some examples of programmes that help to achieve sustainability of projects in some advanced countries, and a look at the Nigerian Ministry of National Planning.
  4. Some suggestions to achieve sustainability of projects in Nigeria


  1. Some of the developments in the Nigerian Railways under the current President Buhari’s government.

On July 26, 2016, President Buhari commissioned the Abuja – Kaduna railway track and the Abuja-Kaduna train services on the first ever Standard Gauge Rail track in operation in the country. The project was conceived by President Obasanjo’s administration, started by the President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, completed and commissioned by his government.

The President said: “… I wish to assure Nigerians that most State capitals and major commercial and production centres will be linked with railway system as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of the Nigerians and promoting social and regional integration.

Furthermore, I wish to also reassure Nigerians that due attention will be placed on pursuing the 25-Year Strategic Railways Master Plan which is aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country”.

Chief Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, revealed that about $16billion was needed to actualise some of the Federal Government’s plans for the railways sector, especially the construction of two deep seaports in Bonny, Rivers State and Warri, Delta State; as well as the Port Harcourt Railway Industrial Park.

He said: “Let me express my gratitude to the Ministry of Transportation and the Chinese government and the China Exim Bank for their financial support. The same gratitude goes to my colleague, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, for discharging her responsibility as directed by Mr. President. Most importantly, it is the priority attached to transportation by the President, of which we are very grateful. …”

Speaking in August 2017 on the new railways projects, the Minister, explained that the projects are to be partly funded by the China Exim Bank. He stated that the Lagos-Kano and Calabar – Lagos rail lines will include state-of-the-art train stations, digital signalling and communications systems and high-speed trains. According to a Nigerian newspaper, THISDAY, the Lagos-Kano and Calabar-Lagos lines could cost an estimated $6 billion and $11.1 billion respectively to construct[1]. The minister reportedly said: “We are building four large modern stations that will have shops and facilities for commuters to buy their tickets through e-channels. Two will be in Lagos – one in Apapa and the other at Ebute Metta – then one in Abeokuta and another one in Ibadan….”


Whilst the initiatives and projects by the Minister and his team appear attractive, the sustainability of the project deliverables should be the determinant of the success of these endeavours. It is necessary to request that efforts are made at this inception stage of the projects to ensure that long-term sustainability plans have been made for the operation of the project deliverables. In all the publicity given to these Railways projects, there has been no statement on medium-to-long term plans for the sustainability of the project deliverables. Without being overly pessimistic, the facts of our industrial history have been that a few years after project deliverables have been commissioned with fanfare, they are abandoned because we cannot support them. A review of this experience is the subject of the next section.


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About the Author

O. Chima Okereke, PhD, PMP

Herefordshire, UK


Dr. O. Chima Okereke
, Ph.D., MBA, PMP is the Managing Director and CEO of Total Technology Consultants, Ltd., a project management consulting company working in West Africa and the UK.  He is a visiting professor, an industrial educator, a multidisciplinary project management professional, with over 25 years’ experience in oil and gas, steel and power generation industries. For example, On December 26th 2013, he completed an assignment as a visiting professor in project management; teaching a class of students on Master’s degree in project management in the Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok, Russia.  In August and September 2013, he conducted an innovative, and personally developed training programme for seventy six well engineers of Shell Nigeria to enhance the efficiency of their operations using project and operations management processes.

Before embarking on a career in consulting, he worked for thirteen years in industry rising to the position of a chief engineer with specialisation in industrial controls and instrumentation, electronics, electrical engineering and automation. During those 13 years, he worked on every aspect of projects of new industrial plants including design, construction and installation, commissioning, and engineering operation and maintenance in process industries.  Chima sponsored and founded the potential chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, acting as president from 2004 to 2010.

Dr. Okereke has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos, and a PhD and Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Bradford in the UK.  He also has a PMP® certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI®) which he passed at first attempt.  He has been a registered engineer with COREN in Nigeria since 1983.  For many years, Total Technology has been a partner for Oracle Primavera Global Business Unit, a representative in Nigeria of Oracle University for training in Primavera project management courses, and a Gold Level member of Oracle Partner Network (OPN. He is a registered consultant with several UN agencies.  More information can be found at http://www.totaltechnologyconsultants.org/.

Chima is the publisher of Project Management Business Digest, a blog aimed at helping organizations use project management for business success.  Dr. Okereke is also an international editorial advisor for the PM World Journal and PM World Library. He can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected].

To view other works by Dr. Okereke, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-o-chima-okereke/