By Nats Odaudu
President Muhammadu Buhari has on Thursday flagged off the commercial operation of the 157km double track Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line.
During the epoch making event, the President disclosed that the project signals another milestone in the drive of this Administration to revitalize the railway system, establish it as a choice mode of transportation for both passengers and freight and position it as a transportation backbone that can transform industrial and economic activity in the country.
He said the project is vital and establishes an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport within its short corridor, Lagos – Ibadan, as goods to the hinterland would now be transported by rail directly from the Apapa port Quayside straight to the Inland Container Depot located in Ibadan from where it can be distributed to other parts of the country.
He said, ‘in clear recognition of the challenges posed to our economic growth by absence of strong and effective infrastructure, ppwe have in the rail sector, further to other ongoing railway infrastructure projects, embarked on the completion of the outstanding segment of the Lagos – Kano railway, which is Ibadan – Kano.
“The Lagos – Kano railway project when completed will link the Kano – Maradi line at Kano and a rail link from the Nigeria southern ports of Lagos to Maradi in Niger Republic will be achieved.
” The connection through rail would position Nigerian ports as the choice for import and export business of the people of landlocked Niger Republic.”
He added that the rail projects would be beneficial to the economy through employment from new business opportunities and wealth creation.
” The Federal Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Finance have been directed to vigorously act on engagement and reaching financial agreements with appropriate co-financiers to partner with the Federal Government for the development of the Ibadan – Kano railway and the connection to the Tin Can Island port as well as the West – East Coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar linking Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo.
“This is already yielding the desired result as construction activities on the railway segment, Kaduna – Kano has commenced with back-end engineering activities.”
The President emphasised that from the beginning of this administration, railway infrastructure development has been given the priority it deserves and various milestones have been reached, right from when the Abuja – Kaduna railway was flagged-off for commercial operation in 2016 to this Lagos – Ibadan railway project being commissioned today for full commercial operation.
President Buhari took time to praise the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, for his drive and tenacity in achieving the milestone. He said he has a wonderful team in the Ministry that is helping in achieving this feat. “Well done to you all,” he added.
Speaking earlier, the obviously elated Minister of Transportation said the rail project is the third one President Muhammadu Buhari is commissioning: Abuja – Kaduna, Itakpe – Warri and Lagos-Ibadan rail lines. “Mr. President, this was started and commissioned under this administration,” he emphasised.
Amaechi who ascribed his sterling achievements to the President said it was because the administration was focused on and funded transportation.
He also praised both current and past governors of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo which are the host states of the project.
Amaechi announced that all attention will be shifted to Kaduna – Kano rail line assuring that that too will be completed and commissioned by this administration.
Speaking on behalf of the governors of the South West region, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State said Lagos was proud to host the president on his first visit to the region since his reelection.
He described the project as a testament of how the national and the sub-nationals can work together.
“The corridor of Lagos-Ibadan is the most important economic zone in Nigeria being home to the biggest and busiest sea port located in Apapa.
“It will ease living for the people as one can now live outside Lagos and work Lagos,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu described the project as a big boost to national integration “which is dear to the President “. He also praised Minister Amaechi who revealed comes to Lagos almost every two weeks to supervise the project himself.
Others who spoke at the ceremony were the Chairman Board of the Nigerian Railway Commission, Engineer Alhassan Ibrahim, Chairman of the contracting firm, China Civil Engineering and Construction Company Nigeria Limited (CCECC), Jiang Yigao, Ambassador Extra-Ordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Peoples Republic of China to Nigeria and ECOWAS, His Excellency Cui Jianchun.
The occasion was witnessed by very eminent personalities -they include Ministers of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, his Youths and Sport Development counterpart, Sunday Dare, Minister of State for Transportation Gbemisola Saraki, and Ithe Speaker, House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila.
Others are the Chairman of Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State Dr Kayode Fayemi, his colleagues from Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Seyi Makinde and Dapo Abiodun.
Royal fathers led by the representatives of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Gbadebo were also in attendance.
Also in attendance were top government functionaries and eminent personalities among them Africa’s first Nobel Laureate Prof Woke Soyinka, captains of industries and members of the civil society.
It was Buhari’s first state visit to Lagos is six years and a major major milestone project which linked the nation’s economic capital to Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State and political capital of the Southwest.