President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that most state capitals as well as major commercial and production centres will be linked with rail lines.
This, according to him, is to ensure rapid socio-economic development, improve the quality of life of Nigerians and promote social and regional integration.
The president gave the assurance in Abuja yesterday at the commissioning and flag-off of the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge Train Service.
Describing the event as the symbolic return of rail service in the country, Buhari said he was pleased to complete and commission the project which he noted, was conceived by a previous administration and started by the former one.
“It is on record that between 1963 and early 80’s, Nigeria had a vibrant rail system which conveyed agricultural, livestock and solid mineral resources to the Lagos and Port Harcourt sea ports from where they were exported to other parts of the world.
It is our vision and hope 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, 16 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,” he said.
Buhari said the completion and commissioning of the project was in keeping with his administration’s 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 also assured that due attention would be placed on pursuing the 25-Year Strategic Railway Master Plan aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across Nigeria.
He reiterated his administration’s commitment to pursuing, with greater vigour and determination, the rehabilitation and construction of other rail lines including the major Lagos-Calabar and Kano-Lagos lines.
President Buhari said he looked forward to the flag-off of many more lines outlined in his administration’s transport policy programme.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the National Assembly had passed the Railway Bill and the constitution would be amended to allow states and the private sector invest in the railways.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Amaechi, noted that with the new rail service, people could live in Kaduna and work in Abuja.
He assured that other rail projects would be completed in record time even as he assured of the security of passengers.
Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir El-Rufai, who was the minister of the FCT at the time the project was conceived 16 years ago, said the state government would develop commercial centres in the major towns along the rail line.
“The Kaduna State government has already declared the entire right of way within the 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” he said.
The chairman of the firm handling the project, CCECC, Mr. Yuan Li, said over 5,000 jobs created during the construction period and its operation while more than 1,000 permanent jobs were created in addition to the over 10,000 job opportunities that would emerge as a result of train operation.