We’ll connect ECOWAS, Nigerian cities with rail –Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari has commissioned two new locomotives and 10 new standard gauge passengers coaches for the Abuja-Kaduna rail service, just as he promised that the Federal Government will connect the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Nigerian cities with railways.

Speaking at Rigasa Train Station in Kaduna, yesterday, the president, who also commissioned the Kaduna Dry Port, expressed happiness that the rail project, the country’s first ever standard gauge train service he commissioned in July 2016, has been boosted with the deployment of new locomotives and coaches.

“I am glad that this service has become very useful to commuters and has since become the preferred mode of transport for the journey between Abuja and Kaduna.

“In response to the increased demand for this service, we are launching and commissioning two additional locomotives and 10 additional passenger coaches to improve the service.

“At the same time, we are flagging off the other leg of the journey. Trains are scheduled to take off at the same time from Kaduna and Abuja.

“You may also recall that during the commissioning in 2016, I restated our resolve to vigorously pursue rail development in Nigeria through the implementation of the 25-year Strategic Railway Masterplan.

“I am happy that a number of the projects are progressing very satisfactorily.

“The Lagos to Ibadan segment of the Lagos-Kano double track standard gauge rail line project is targeted to be completed by the end of the year. The Itakpe to Warri standard gauge central line is expected to be commissioned by July, this year, and the extension from Itakpe to Abuja is being pursued vigorously. Additional critical projects which I am particularly keen to start include the Coastal Rail line (Lagos-Calabar) with branches to Benin, Agbor and Onitsha; Port Harcourt to Maiduguri Standard guage rail line with branches to Owerri, Awka, Abakaliki, Yola and Damaturu; and Kano–Kazaure–Daura–Katsina–Jibiya, to link with Maradi, in Niger Republic, as part of regional railway interconnectivity in the ECOWAS sub-region.

“Other supporting projects which have been approved are the procurement of more locomotives, coaches, wagons, workshops and equipment that will be used for new standard gauge lines.”

The president also appealed to the private sector to support into the projects

“By way of encouraging private sector participation in our rail development, negotiation for concession of the narrow gauge railways, with a consortium led by General Electric, is in progress.

“We are looking forward to a more efficient rail service on the narrow gauge lines, to be driven by the private sector.

“It is on the basis of this that we are creating a more conducive environment for private sector participation by strengthening our legal and regulatory frameworks.

“The necessary bills, namely: Nigeria Railway Authority and National Transport Commission are already before the National Assembly.”

The president specifically showered encomiums on his Minister of Transportation, who is also, former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi.

“I acknowledge the great efforts and hard work of the Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi and his team, for ensuring that we realise our objective of providing a functional and efficient rail system to Nigerians.”

On his part, the minister disclosed that the federal government will need $30 billion to $40 billion, to prosecute all railway projects lined up by the administration.

Speaking on the sidelines of the commissioning of the newly-procured locomotives and coaches deployed to Abuja-Kaduna railway route, yesterday, the minister said:

“We will do everything possible to ensure that we complete the Lagos-Ibadan railway.

“We are already negotiating with contractors that will fund the project. If we are able to complete the arrangements again taking into consideration the Nigeria law, we will start many of them this year. That includes many of them.

“We need between $36 billion to $40 billion. Only God knows where we are going to get it.

“But, I like applying what I did as Rivers state governor. When there was a project, we put on the table how much we had and award the contract, believing that God will do it for us.

“You will say that it is naive but, at the end of the day, we got the money to pay the constructors,” he said.

On his feelings about the commissioning of the locomotives and coaches, he said: “I’m very elated and I thank the president for his support.

Asked if he is under any form of pressure to deliver on government’s railway mandate, he replied: “I don’t think that I am under any pressure.

“Once he (the president)provides the money, you will know that I have the capacity.”

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