By Musa Ilallah
Tuesday February 9th this year will remain very significant in the lives of Nigerians in general and Kano, Katsina. Kaduna, Jigawa and all the North West and North Central states in particular as it was the day President Buhari presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for the commencement of the construction of yet another vital transportation infrastructure in the country.
The virtual ground-breaking ceremony formally kicked off work on the 284km Nigeria-Niger standard rail gauge project to be undertaken by Messrs Mota-Engil Nigeria Ltd, a Portuguese firm at the cost of $1.96bn.
The feasibility study for the Kano-Maradi railway started in 2012, and was concluded by 2015. Following the support, interest and intervention of President Buhari, the Federal Executive Council presided over by the President in September 2020 approved the contract for construction of the rail line.
Traversing Kano-Dambatta-Kazaure-Daura-Mashi-Katsina-Jibiya and Maradi in Niger Republic, the line has been designed to pass through major cities, towns and villages, without dividing them, to facilitate public transportation and stimulate the development of the agricultural economy and manufacturing industries along the corridor.
Planned to have 15 stations including Maradi which comprises two main stations in Kano and Katsina; three medium stations in Kazaure, Daura and Jibiya; three small stations in Shargalle, Dambatta and Mashi, with other Halt stations at Kano Airport, Kunya Dube, Muduru, Daddara, Anoal Mata and Maradi. The rail line which has a branch line to Kano-Dutse is important because of its potential in harnessing raw materials and agro products along the corridor.
It is a well known fact that Jibiya and Maradi cities constitute a significant trading hub between Nigeria and Niger Republic, a tradition dating back many centuries ago.
This vital infrastructure line will establish an end-to-end logistics supply chain in railway transport services between Northern and Southern regions of the country, reaching Nigerian southern ports of Lagos and Warri.
The entire route encompasses territory inhabited by close to 80 million people across 10 States of the country. This project has a branch line to Dutse the capital of Jigiawa state to open up this corridor with a long history of vast agro allied resources.
The Kano – Maradi rail line has been identified as viable and one that will significantly enhance the movement of passengers and freight to the hinterland, especially raw materials from both agricultural and mineral resources for our industries.
On completion, the project would serve import and export of goods for Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports. This is in addition to becoming a revenue earner for the country through expansion of trade and commerce, while the people of Niger Republic will benefit from ease of transportation logistics at affordable cost for importers and exporters.
Most significantly and strategically, the connection to Niger Republic through rail will also foster Trans-Sahara trade and contribute to the expected gains in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA.
As part of the contract, the construction company handling the project, Messrs Mota-Engil Nigeria Limited is supporting knowledge and technology transfer by investing in the establishment of a learning Institution for Transportation and Railway Science.
Speaking at the ceremony held virtually in Abuja and physically in Katsina, President Buhari had stated that “in clear recognition of the challenges posed to Nigeria’s economic growth by absence of strong and effective infrastructure, has remained consistent in efforts at closing this gap”.
Currently, PMB adminstration has embarked on the completion of the 1,424 Kilometre Lagos – Kano rail line to join the one being flagged-off this year for the country’s Western axis.
As part of PMB administration’s nationwide massive railway infrastructure development agenda, the Eastern corridor of the country comprising of the Port Harcourt – Enugu – Makurdi – Maiduguri rail line with branches to Owerri, Imo state and Damaturu, Yobe State have been awarded for reconstruction to include a deep sea port in Bonny Island and a Railway Industrial Park in Port Harcourt to achieve a vibrant and functional railway infrastructure in the Eastern part of the country.
The Federal Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Finance have been directed to vigorously act on engagement and concluding financial arrangement with appropriate co-financiers to partner with the Federal Government for the development of the West – East Coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar and linking Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenegoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo.
Furthermore, the contract for the important Central Railway traversing Itakpe – Baro – Abuja with connection to Lokoja and a new seaport in Warri has been signed and is expected to achieve appreciable level of completion during the tenure of this administration.
President Buhari was of the view that “when all these initiatives of our Administration are realized, the country would have overcome the infrastructural deficiency in the Transportation sector”.
He further enjoined the private sector to invest and participate in the realization of these very promising economic opportunities.
From all indications, the PMB administration is poised to record another significant milestone in it’s infrastructural development of the country. All hands must therefore be on deck to support the laudable efforts by PMB to bridge key development gaps and transform the country.