By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Ministries of Transportation and Finance to conclude financial arrangements with appropriate co-financiers that will partner with the Federal Government for construction of West-East Coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar, linking some major cities in South East and South South.
The president, who gave the directive at the virtual groundbreaking ceremony for the Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi Rail Line in Abuja on Tuesday, said the West-East Coastal rail line would connect Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenegoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo.
He said: “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.’’
On the Kano – Jibiya – Maradi rail line, Buhari noted that the cities of Jibiya and Maradi constitute a significant trading core between Nigeria and Niger Republic – a tradition dating back many centuries.
According to him, 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.’’
He, therefore, described the Kano–Maradi rail line as a viable line that would significantly enhance the movement of passengers and freight to the hinterland especially raw materials from both agricultural and mineral resources for industries in both countries.
“The rail line traverses the major commercial and administrative centre of Kano and passing through other economic hubs of the country including Kazaure, Daura, Katsina and up to the border town of Jibiya and the Niger Republic city of Maradi, “ the President stated.
He said Kano-Maradi project, when completed, would serve import and export of goods for Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports.
“The country would 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.’’
Buhari commended the construction company handling the project, Messrs Mota-Engil Nigeria Limited, for supporting knowledge and technology transfer by investing in the establishment of an Institution for Transportation and Railway Science.
“We have in the rail sector embarked on the completion of the 1,424 Kilometer Lagos – Kano rail line to join the one being flagged-off 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, 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.”
In his remarks, Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State, appreciated the president for bringing the life-long dream of the state to reality with inclusion on the Kano-Maradi rail line.
Masari, accompanied by the Governors of Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje and Jigawa, Badaru Abubakar, urged the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to work towards completion and inauguration of the project by 2023.
The Minister of Transportation said the feasibility study for the Kano-Maradi railway started in 2012, and was concluded by 2015, thanking the President for support and regular intervention. (NAN)