The Minister of Transportation, Engr. Mu’azu Sambo has revealed that the Federal Government is fully committed to developing the nation’s railway transportation sector to provide an alternative that is cheaper, faster, safer and complements other modes of transportation.
The minister, represented by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, stated this on Tuesday in Abuja at the 2nd International Railway Conference and Exhibition themed “Powering African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with Sustainable Railway Development”.
He noted that railway transportation is practically the “commonwealth of the masses all over the world as it provides the most important linkage inter-modal transportation system”.
Speaking on the evolution of railways in the country, Sambo said before the inception of the present administration, full implementation of the railway vision plan suffered setbacks due to discrepancies in government policies, inadequate funding of the rail sector, absence of adequate, capable and experienced private investors, amongst others.
“Only President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration took railway development as one of its cardinal projects to ensure that it actualises its Infrastructure Development Master Plan.
“[The ministry has] completed and currently in operation, the 1st and 2nd segments of Lagos-Kano standard gauge railways, the ongoing rehabilitation and reconstruction of the existing Eastern narrow gauge rail line with extension to Bonny Deep Seaport, as well as the commenced construction of the double track standard gauge railway from Kaduna to Kano which is the 3rd segment of Lagos-Kano railway project. Also in progress is the construction of the Kano-Maradi (Niger Republic) standard gauge railway with a branch line from Kano to Dutse, amongst others.
While pointing out that “these milestone projects are the outcomes of the president’s determination to develop, upgrade and modernise [the] Nigerian transport infrastructure, Sambo pointed out that more can be done with “[the] injection of institutional or private investors’ fund either in form of direct foreign or local investment on PPP basis or through concessionary or commercial loans”.
In his opening remarks, the president, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar described the conference as a timely one which will allow all stakeholders to brainstorm on fast-tracking rail connectivity to meet the demands of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
According to him, the signing of the AfCFTA agreement is a landmark development requiring complementary growth and development in logistics and infrastructure sectors of the continent. Therefore, “harmonising the development of railway at national and continental levels hold the critical key to trade facilitation and human connectivity which are imperative for the success of the AfCFTA”.
The conference, organised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in collaboration with the ACCI and the African Railway Consulting Limited, drew participants from Chad, Guinea, Algeria, Tunisia and Niger Republic.