By Aisha Cole / Edeki Igafe
Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi said freight services on the Warri-Itakpe Standards Guage railway line would create more jobs and make it easier to do business in Nigeria.
Amaechi made the disclosure on Friday during the inauguration of the freight service of the Standard Guage railway line in the community of Ujevwu, near Warri.
He said the development and modernization of the rail system had been a top priority for the federal government.
“We are here today to report commercial freight services on the standard gauge route which has been abandoned for over 30 years but rehabilitated by this administration and put into service.
“One of the strategic goals of the current administration was to ensure that all critical infrastructure abandoned by the previous administration, especially those that would benefit citizens, were completed and put into service.
“It is universally recognized that a developing country with a large population like Nigeria needs to develop a robust transport system such as a modern and functioning rail system.
“Which is undeniably essential to create the necessary socio-economic transformation and industrial development.
“Freight service will improve a more efficient, land and affordable mode of transit and freight services.
“We also promised to embark on wealth creation projects through various interventions and the execution of projects that will provide direct and indirect employment opportunities to our citizens.
“It was only recently, precisely in September 2020, that President Muhammadu Buhari practically brought the Warri-Itapke Standard Gauge passenger train service into operation.
“Available reports suggest that favoritism on this route has increased by more than 200 percent in recent months and has become a preferred mode of transportation for communities along this route in Delta States, d ‘Edo and Kogi,’ Amaechi said.
The minister urged residents of Warri and neighboring communities to cooperate and support the federal government and oil companies to allow the freight service project to flourish.
Amaechi said the move would attract more development from the federal government to the region, adding that 90 percent of the employees were from Delta.
In his welcoming speech, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Alhaji Ibrahim Musa, said that construction of the railway began in 1987.
He said it was designed for transporting iron ore from Itakpe to Ajaokuta and Aladja Steel Rolling Mills in the Delta.
Musa said the railway line was also designed to carry the treated steel to the port of Warri, adding that it was initially expected to be completed within five years.
According to him, however, the project was stalled for more than 30 years due to lack of funds.
He said the rail network consists of 3,505 kilometers of existing single track, narrow gauge of 1,067mm on the west and east lines.
Likewise, approximately 655 kilometers of 143mm standard gauge lines on the Abuja – Kaduna, Lagos to Ibadan and Warri to Itakpe lines.
“The first 198 kilometers of railway line built in Nigeria by the colonial government ran from Lagos to Ibadan in 1898-1901 and was 1,067mm narrow classification.
“The Lagos – Calabar coast line and the Kano Maradi standard gauge railway project are to be financed and started.
“The reconstruction and modernization of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Narrow Guage Line has already been awarded to Messer China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
“This is a prelude to the eventual construction of the standard gauge as part of the strategic railway modernization plan,” Musa said.
He said that when properly integrated, the railway line would provide efficient services for high density passenger flows.
“And freight traffic over a relatively isolated distance, including high volumes of containerized cargo or bulk cargo, etc.,” Musa said.
In his goodwill message, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Managing Director Mallam Mele Kyari said the project would have a ripple effect of massive job creation across the country as well as domestic gas supply for electricity production.
Kyari was represented by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), Mr. Seyi Omojowo.
The GMD said the choice to explore the rail option for transporting the AKK pipeline was motivated by a desire to mitigate all identified projects and safety risks.
“As low as Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) while delivering the project in the right quality and on time.
“Relocating the pipeline on Nigerian roads was the only option before the return of the rail infrastructure.
“With this commendable achievement of resuming rail freight service, NNPC’s global health, safety and environment goal, dubbed the Zero Incident and Accident Goal, will be met,” Kyari said. .
In addition, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, represented by his transport commissioner, Ovie Oghoore, assured that the state government would protect the equipment. (NOPE)
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