The Federal Government on Tuesday took a step further in its bid to link different states of the country by rail with the ground breaking of Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan section of the proposed Lagos-Kano rail line.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government announced the release of N72bn as its counterpart fund for the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line, representing 15 per cent of the cost of the project while the Chinese government will pay 85 per cent through the Export-Import Bank of China followed with the approval of $1.275bn loan for the project on behalf of the Chinese government.
Seen as one of the most viable routes, the rail line which will link three commercially viable cities in the southwest, is projected will move about 3.2 million tonnes of cargo per annum. The target completion date, according to the government, is December 2018.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who did the ground breaking at the Nigeria Rail Corporation (NRC) compound in Ebute Metta, Lagos, said that the project on completion would boost economic and commercial activities along the route, and create not less than 500,000 thousands job opportunities as immediate direct impact.
Osinbajo, who disclosed that 13 other routes across the country had been identified by the ministry of transportation, said the Federal Government remains steadfast in its drive to use rail transportation as a catalyst for economic development, which, according to him, is why the Railway Act of 1955 had to be repealed to allow for the robust participation of the private sector.
He stated that the project signals the strong determination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to modernise the rail system as a viable transportation mode of moving cargo and passengers from one part of the country to another.
He said that a functional railway system will have a great economic impact that will help diversify the economy, expand trade relations, and help in social and cultural integration among the citizenry.
“The president in his January 2016 visit to China reopened negotiation on the Chinese support for this project. This ceremony also marks the commencement of our plan to move speedily to improve link with Lagos which is the national economic nerve centre and major port to other state capital across the country.
It also reflects the plans of the Federal Government to build a globally competitive economy, the critical roles of infrastructure and for this purpose, railways in this strategy underscores our economic recovery and growth plan as well as 2016 and 2017 budget.
“We made provision for matching funds in 2016 budget to complement the concession loans obtain from the people Republic of China. Our appreciation goes to the Chinese government and the Chinese Exchange bank who have always proved to be a reliable partner to the Nigeria government. We have the entire Lagos Kano rail track as well as the Lagos Calabar railway track in the 2017 budget.”
Osinbajo hinted that negotiations on the Kaduna –Kano portion of the track is now completed, saying this phase is next in line.
“We have already provided our portion for funding for the Lagos- Calabar route as well and we expect that negotiations with the foreign component of the funding will be finalized within the next three months of and the Lagos calabar projects as well. An active and vibrant railway system conferred many benefit on the society. Our ultimate goal is to restore a railway using culture for both commercial and personal transportation.”
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, on his part, expressed the delight of Lagos State for the project, stressing that the infrastructure will transform the southwest states, aid their economic integration bid and boost agriculture.
“We are excited about this project because it would further open up the economy of the South West region and facilitate regional integration and growth.’’ said Ambode.
The governor reiterated that the agricultural sector will receive the long awaited boost as the rail line will be a fast and convenient means of transporting farm produce from the hinterland to the city thereby increasing the economies of these places.
Ambode further added that the project will breathe a new lease of life into roads and highways by reducing the pressure presently being exerted on the roads by container carrying trucks moving goods out of Apapa, once the rail line commences operation.
Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, noted that the scope of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project involves ancillary facilities which include construction of eight railway stations at Apapa and Ebute-Metta and intermediate stations at Agege, Kajola, Papalanto, Abeokuta and Omi Adio.
He pointed out that the standard gauge line is a move in the right direction to optimize the Federal Government’s Change Agenda in the Transportation Sector as an economic index for growth and development.
Under the planned project, the station at Olodo will be a passing station while that of Ibadan is an intermediate station with technical operation, while the services for locomotive workshop, rolling stock depot and marshalling yards will be located at Kajola, Ogun State.
Amaechi disclosed that Lagos-Ibadan rail line is based on the traffic volume forecast in the first year of operation that estimated to handle the movement of over 3.2 million tons of goods and cargoes per annum while the passenger services can take 16 passenger trains.
When completed, the ralway line will be extended from Ibadan to Ilorin, Minna, Kaduna and Kano to link the Federal Capital Territory via Kaduna.