Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday justified the decision of his regime to construct a rail line linking Nigeria with Niger Republic despite criticisms that trailed the announcement of the plan.
He said connecting Niger Republic through rail would, among other benefits, foster trans-Sahara trade and contribute to the expected gains in the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
Buhari made the justification while virtually presiding over the groundbreaking for the commencement of the rail line from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The rail line is known as Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi (Niger Republic) rail line with branch line from Kano.
Describing the rail line as ‘another vital transportation infrastructure’, Buhari noted that it traversed the major commercial and administrative centre of Kano and passes through other economic hubs including Kazaure, Daura, Katsina and up to the border town of Jibiya and the Niger Republic city of Maradi.
According to the President, the cities of Jibiya and Maradi constitute a significant trading core between Nigeria and Niger Republic, adding that the tradition dated back many centuries.
Buhari said, “This vital infrastructure line will establish an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport services between Northern and Southern regions of the country, reaching Nigerian southern ports of Lagos and Warri.
“The entire route encompasses territory inhabited by close to 80 million people across 10 states of the country. This project has a branch line to Dutse the capital of Jigawa State to open up this corridor which is endowed with vast resources.
“The Kano – Maradi rail line has been identified as a viable line that will significantly enhance the movement of passengers and freight to the hinterland especially raw materials from both agricultural and mineral resources for our industries.
“The project, when completed, will serve import and export of goods for Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports. The country will earn revenue through expansion of trade and commerce, while the people of Niger Republic will benefit from ease of transportation logistics at affordable cost in their import and export business.
“The connection to Niger Republic through rail will also foster trans-Sahara trade and contribute to the expected gains in the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.”
Reeling out his regime’s feats in rail construction, the President added, “We have in the rail sector embarked on the completion of the 1,424 Kilometre Lagos – Kano rail line to join the one being flagged-off (sic) today for the country’s Western axis.
“On the Eastern corridor of the country, the Port Harcourt – Enugu – Makurdi – Maiduguri rail line with branches to Owerri, Imo State and Damaturu, Yobe State have been awarded for reconstruction to include a deep-sea port in Bonny Island and a Railway Industrial Park in Port Harcourt with the objectives of achieving a vibrant and functional railway infrastructure in the Eastern part of the country.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Finance have been directed to vigorously act on engagement and concluding financial arrangement with appropriate co-financiers to partner with the Federal Government for the development of the West – East Coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar and linking Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo.
“Furthermore, the contract for the important Central Railway traversing Itakpe- Baro – Abuja with connection to Lokoja and a new seaport in Warri has been signed and is expected to achieve appreciable level of completion during the tenure of this administration.” Buhari said when all the initiatives of his regime were realised, the country would have overcome the infrastructural deficiency in the transportation sector.