President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday commissioned the Abuja-Kaduna railway track with expression of delight that train services were back in Nigeria as was the case in the 80s.
The commissioning of the Abuja – Kaduna railway track coincided with the flagging off of the Abuja-Kaduna at Idu Industrial layout located within the precinct of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Buhari said that the project would impact on the lives of the Abuja residents as well as Kaduna State.
Buhari said the rail project was initiated by the administrations of his predecessors but completed and delivered by his government.
He said the decision to complete the project and deliver same to the good people of Nigeria was in line with the agenda of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
It would be recalled that an agreement was signed between Nigeria and the CCECC of China for construction of a standard gauge Lagos-Kaduna rail line, costing $8.3 billion.
The project was for upgrade of the entire rail system to standard gauge, covering a 25-year period.
The project included the Port Harcourt-Kano line and the additional, Lagos-Calabar line (East-West).
Contract for the Abuja-Kaduna standard rail project was awarded in 2010 under the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Indeed, the actual construction did not start until 2011.
It is an $874 million project with an Exim Bank China facility of $500 million.
Nigeria was expected to pay the balance of the total sum.
The Project was scheduled for completion in 2014. But the PDP governments could not deliver the projects until the baton of leadership got to Preskdent Muhammadu Buhari whose administration completed the project.
According to him: “I am delighted to be here today to commission the Abuja – Kaduna railway track and flag-off the Abuja-Kaduna train services (Passengers & Freight) on Nigeria’s first ever Standard Gauge Rail track to go into operation.
“This project was conceived by a previous administration, started by the last government and I am pleased to complete and commission it.
“It is on record that between 1963 and early ‘80s, Nigeria had a vibrant rail system which conveyed agricultural and livestock and solid mineral resources to Lagos and Port Harcourt sea ports from where they were exported to other parts of the world.
“It is our vision and hopes that those good old days will soon be back with us and indeed in a more prosperous way with the restoration of rail transport system which today’s occasion symbolises.
“The construction of the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge rail track commenced in 2009 and happily, sixteen years after, we are on the threshold of presenting to Nigerians a Standard Gauge Railway Train Service that will be safe, fast and reliable.
“The Abuja-Kaduna train service will provide the much needed alternative transport link between the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna State, a corridor which has a huge potential for industries, agricultural activities and a growing labour force.
“Completion and Commissioning of this project is indeed in keeping with our vision of bringing about the desired change to make life easier for the generality of Nigerians through the development and provision of the necessary social and physical infrastructure,” he said
While commending the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi for a job well done, president Buhari remarked that most State Capital would be linked to the gauge rail.
He hoped that the new project would improve the lives of the rural dwellers that he said could easily evacuate their farm produce to the city centres for sale.
The president also promised to give due attention to the old 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and other rail lines including the major Lagos-Calabar and Kano-Lagos lines.
“The Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi and his team have put great efforts in the last few months to ensure the successful completion of this project under this Administration”
“In this regard, I wish to assure Nigerians that most State capitals and major commercial and production centres will be linked with railway system as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of the Nigerians and promoting social & regional integration.
“I wish to also reassure Nigerians that due attention will be placed on pursuing the 25-Year Strategic Railway Master Plan which is aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country.
“As we celebrate the symbolic return of rail service today, I wish to reiterate the commitment of this Administration to pursue with greater vigour and determination rehabilitation and construction of other rail lines including the major Lagos-Calabar and Kano-Lagos lines.
“As we get down to work, I look forward to flagging off many more lines outlined in our transport policy programme”, he said.
In his opening speech, the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi who undertook a test-ride of the train service from Idu Main Station to Kubwa in Abuja with Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and FCT Minister Abubakar Bello along other dignitaries.
According to Amaechi, “This rail line will no doubt impact on housing as the poor are able to live in their houses in Kaduna and come to work in Abuja. As the same time, it will impact on agriculture and the economy as agricultural produce is conveyed from Kaduna to Abuja at much cheaper rates.”
“Transportation is also provided for majority of Nigeria who live between Kano and Abuja at a cheaper rate. I hope that when the Kaduna-Abuja road is maintained, it would last longer as heavy cargoes are now conveyed by rail.”
Amaechi further said, “We recall that the contract for Lagos to Kano railways was awarded by President Olusegun Obasanjo, partially executed by President Goodluck Jonathan and completed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Under the directives of President Buhari, the stations, the signalling, the communications and part of the tracks were completed by this administration.”
“The locomotive and coaches arrived in May and between June and July, we had commenced trial runs.
“We conveyed over twice a day for a month and two weeks free of charge.”
Commenting on the collaborative efforts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), The FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello said the Abuja light rail project which has been conceived in 6 blocks is currently under phase 1 which is approximately 77% completed and by the grace of God will hope to be here sometime in December 2017 that we will flag off the entire system.
“We also pray for a successful flag off of this project and also the beginning of massive standard gauge rail construction across the country in the years to come.”.
Also, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai in appreciation of the flag-off as witnessed by him said that the vision of the Obasanjo administration at the time was to have a brand new standard gauge rail system for Nigeria, running from north to south, east to west, covering the entire country.
“The first phase was the Lagos-Kano rail at a price of about $8billion if I recall and it was supposed to be completed in 4years.
“Sadly our successors did not fight, understand or share in this vision and the project was suspended and the result is that 10 years after awarding this contract, we are standing here today to commission a fraction of that project.
“As governor of Kaduna state, I am grateful and gratified that the Abuja-Kaduna segment of the Lagos-Kano rail system is being commissioned today.
“The impact of this rail line to Kaduna cannot be easily quantified in terms of social and economic benefits, he added”.
Continuing he said, “For us in Kaduna, this rail system has effectively made Kaduna a satellite town of Abuja because our citizens can live in Kaduna and commute to Abuja to work which is a major advantage for the state.”
The kaduna Governor stated, “The Kaduna state government has already declared the entire right of way within Kaduna state of this rail line a planning area and our intention is to create new satellite towns at Jere, Rijana and Rigasa; our hope is to take away people that currently live in Kubwa, Lugbe and other satellite towns of Abuja, to live in Kaduna state and commute and work in Abuja.”
On his part, the Managing director of CCECC, Mr Jack Li said that the construction company attached the great importance to the actualization of this first section of Nigeria railway modernization project.
“During construction, more than 1,000 sets of machinery and equipment were mobilized, over 5,000 jobs created during the construction period and during its operation. More than 1,000 permanent jobs were created additional to over 10,000 job opportunities that will come as a result of this train operation.”
“This no doubt will boost the economy and it will contribute immensely to the job creation scheme of the present administration.
“Beside the operation of this railway line, it will play an important role to improving the welfare of the people, upgrading the local investment environment and promoting coordinating economic and social environment in the region.
“The operation of this railway line will no doubt release the traffic tense between Abuja and Kaduna and perhaps promote the building of modern railway network in Nigeria.”
According to him, “The successful execution of Abuja to Kaduna railway project has endowed the CCECC in value and experience and has prepared us for better implementation of Lagos to Calabar railway and also Lagos to Ibadan railway project.”