FG to link 36 states with rail lines

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…To reopen Kaduna-Abuja passengers lifting

…Promises constant surveillance, monitoring to prevent attacks

…As Ministry of Transportation seeks FEC approval for executing Itakpe-Warri Railway Line

The Federal Government is set to link 36 state capitals with railways so as to promote ease of doing business in Nigeria. This proposed project is part of the positive measure to reassure Nigerians that rail transport will be promoted  eight months after the closure of Abuja-Kaduna rail line following attack by bandits.

The Federal Government said efforts are being  made to  resume passenger lifting on the Kaduna-Abuja train route before the end of November, a development coming eight months after the train corridor suffered a terror attack.

The attack which recorded bombing and kidnapping of scores of passengers who were held hostage for months had led to suspension of operations along the route.

The development appears to be coming after the protracted negotiations to get the victims of the March 2022 attack released, have been officially confirmed.

The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, who made the announcement in Abuja on Monday while giving an update on the achievements of the ministry between 2015 and 2022, said also that the Federal Government also plans to link up the 36 state capitals in Nigeria with rail network in order to provide seamless means of transportation for the citizens.

Sambo, who admitted the pains thrown up by the March 2022 attack on the Kaduna-Abuja train route, said that the government had learnt many lessons from the atrocity and also adopted many measures to prevent future attacks and to give the users of the service a sense of security and safety.

Assuring that all the kidnapped passengers had been released and reunited with their families and loved ones, Sambo stated that the rail line had been provided with 24-hour security monitoring system to ensure constant real time surveillance and control.

The Minister said, “The Abuja-Kaduna tragedy shall not happen again not only because we have committed it to God but we have taken steps to prevent any further attack again. We have learnt lessons from the attack.

“The lesson leant is to provide constant surveillance, constant monitoring on a daily basis, weekly, monthly as each train leaves and returns. It should be possible for what goes on within the rail line to be monitored real time going forward.

“We shall resume that service this month. I told you we would only resume service after all the kidnapped passengers might have been released.

“By the Grace of God and through the instrumentality of our security agencies under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, that has been successfully done and we are going to resume operation on the Kaduna-Abuja rail route before the end of November 2022,” Sambo said.

On the suspension of operation on the Itakpe-Warri route, the Minister explained that being one of the most important corridors on the national rail line, efforts are being made to ensure that it returns to full operation and serve the people maximally.

According to the Minister, the ministry is to secure the approval of the Federal Executive Council to complete the work on the Itakpe-Warri rail corridor on the basis of Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing model to address the challenges currently being faced on the route.

“The Ministry of Transportation wants to go back to FEC for approval for executing the Itakpe-Warri Railway Line on the basis of Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing model because it is one of the most important rail projects in Nigeria as it remains in the central line in Nigeria.

“With it, one can travel from Abuja to Warri with ease. It is important and the Federal Government is mindful of that. It is important for all Nigerians to know that the Federal Government’s Railway Modernization Programme is aimed at linking each state capital in Nigeria with rail with the goal of making life easier for all Nigerians who want to travel from one point to the other,” he said.

The Minister also defended the extension of the Katsina rail line in Nigeria to Maradi in Niger Republic, saying that the move would promote international trade between Nigeria and other countries through that corridor, adding that there was no need to sign an agreement with such countries before such a project is done.

Sambo also denied insinuations that the Federal government approved narrow-gauge rail line for the South East, while it implemented standard gauge for other parts of the Country, stating that the choice of narrow gauge from Maiduguri through Jos and other parts of the north to the South, was due to the paucity of funds at the disposal of the government and not restricted to any part of the country.

Sambo explained that the time the decision for narrow gauge choice was made before his appointment, the choice was between picking the narrow gauge at the cost of $3 billion or standard gauge for $12 billion and that the Federal government picked the cheaper option due to funding constraints.

The Minister also explained that the prolonged delay in dredging the Calabar River Port which has been featuring in many budgets for decades was due to the number of litigations instituted by interested parties, which predate the Buhari administration.

He, however, said that President Buhari had directed that necessary steps be taken to sort out the legal hurdles and get the vital port dredged for the interests of maritime operations and create jobs for Nigerians.

He boasted that the Buhari’s administration had lifted the transport sector with key projects and services that have transformed the sector and created millions of job and strengthened maritime security since the inception of the administration in 2015.

“Within the period under review, the moribund commercial railway services in Nigeria were resuscitated by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari; locomotives and coaches were procured and others refurbished. The Abuja–Kaduna rail corridor commercial operation was flagged off in July 2016 while the Warri–Itakpe corridor started commercial operation in April 2021 with the Lagos–Ibadan double track standard gauge beginning commercial operation in June 2021.

“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has made giant strides in bridging the infrastructural deficit in the transportation sector – the railway modernization programme, the deep sea ports development programme, the inland dry port initiative, job creation, introduction of favourable policies to mention but a few.

“The sector is far from perfect, but the interventions on ground will serve as a veritable template for the incoming administration to build upon,” he said.

On his part, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that the present administration has completed at least three standard gauge rail-lines.

“Indeed, the Buhari administration is spoilt for choice in celebrating its achievements. As I said, we have completed the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan and Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail-lines; we have commissioned brand new airport terminals in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt; we have completed housing projects in 35 states; we have constructed or are constructing road projects in every state,” he said.