The Federal government has inaugurated commercial freight services on the Warri – Itakpe rail line.
The minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, while commissioning the project at the UJevwu rail station, in Delta state on Friday said the freight service is a partnership between the Nigeria Railway Corporation ( NRC) and Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC) .
According to the minister, the rail line would facilitate the movement of materials for the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipe project.
This was as he further disclosed that the partnership would hasten the completion of the project and improve the electricity supply for domestic and industrial usage.
According to the minister, “This laudable achievement will definitely boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and equally enhance the socio-economic development of the communities living along the route. The project is for the benefit of these communities and Nigeria generally, irrespective of political affiliation.
“The modernization of railway in Nigeria is not confined or restricted to any geographical location in the country. It is the intention of this present administration to ensure that every part of the country is linked with standard gauge railway lines.
“Whilst, the Federal Government will continue to rehabilitate and maintain the existing narrow gauge, other state and zones will be availed with the opportunity of railway modernization project within their geographical zone.
“It is universally acknowledged that a developing country with a large population such as Nigeria must develop a robust transport system like modern and functional rail system, which is undeniably instrumental to creating much needed socio-economic transformation and industrial development and in enhancing more efficient, land-based, affordable mode for mass transit and freight services
“It has been one of the strategic aims of the present administration to ensure that all critical infrastructure abandoned by previous Governments that would benefit the country and citizenry will be completed and commissioned by this administration
Amaechi recalled that the federal government had promised to embark on wealth creation projects, through various interventions, including execution of projects that would provide direct and indirect employment opportunities to citizens.
Commenting on the patronage level on the Warri-itakpe rail service, the minister said, “Reports available suggests that patronage on this route has increased by over 200% in the last few months and is becoming a preferred means of transportation for communities along this route in Delta, Edo and Kogi States”.
He called on the communities where the facilities are sited, to make the best use of them by protecting the critical Federal Government infrastructure from vandalisation.
The Group managing director of NNPC , Engr Mele Kyari , who was represented by the MD, Nigeria Gas company limited, Sheyi Omotawa said, the project was designed to improve domestic gas supply for power generation.
He added that the project would have a ripple effect on job creation in the country.
According to Kyari, “Our choice to of exploring the rail option for the haulage of AKK line pipes was propelled by our desire to mitigate all Identified project and safety risk as low as reasonably practicable(ALARP) while delivering the project in the right quality and time. moving line pipes through human roads as the only option before the return of tall way infrastructure.
“By this laudable achievement of resuming freight services via railway. NNPC’S global goal on HealthSafety & Environment nicknamed Goal Zero (zero incident and accidents) will be achieved. With special considerations to Safety of people and assets, the rail option has been Identified as a cheaper, safer and fastest means to deliver the line pipes from Nigerian Ports to Project sites In Ajaokuta and Kaduna.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman Joint house committee on land and transport, Senator Buhari Abdulfatai assured the Minister of the National Assembly’s avowed commitment towards the realisation of a functional, nationwide rail network through the instrumentality of appropriation and effective oversight.
Abdulfatai, who was represented by Istifanus Gyang, senator representing Plateau North Senatorial District said, “The Senate looks forward to the speedy completion of more rail line arteries. This will relief our roads from heavy duty haulage that shortens the lifespan of our roads. It also provides a cheaper and safer alternative to road transportation.
“It is no doubt a milestone as it is a major step in our quest to have a functional Rail Transportation in Nigeria. It is also significant as it addresses the huge infrastructure deficit confronting the nation, the transportation sector inclusive,” he said.
On his part, the Managing Director NRC Fidet Okhira thanked the President Muhammadu Buhari for keeping railway alive through the rehabilitation and modernization of the entire system.
The event had in attendance, the Permanent Secretary ministry of transportation, Margaret Ajani, Royal fathers, senators and members of the national assembly, management of NRC among others.