The federal government at the weekend stated that the freight services on the Warri-Itakpe standards gauge railway line would create more jobs for Nigerians and promote the ease of doing business in the country.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, stated this during the flagging-off of the freight service of standard gauge railway line at Ujevwu community, near Warri in Delta State.
He noted that the development and modernisation of the railway system had been a major focus of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.
According to Amaechi, “We are here today to flag off commercial freight services on the standard gauge route that was abandoned for over 30 years but rehabilitated by this administration and put into operation.
“It has been one of the strategic aims of the present administration to ensure that all critical infrastructure abandoned by the previous administration, particularly those that would benefit the citizenry, are completed and inaugurated.
“It is universally acknowledged that a developing country with a large population such as Nigeria must develop a robust transport system such as modern and functional rail system. which is undeniably instrumental to creating much needed socio-economic transformation and industrial development.
“The freight service will enhance more efficient, land-based and affordable mode for mass transit and freight services.”
He stated further that: “We also promised to embark on wealth creation projects through various interventions and projects execution that will provide direct and indirect employment opportunities to our citizens.
“Only recently, precisely September 2020, President Buhari virtually inaugurated the Warri-Itapke standard gauge passenger train service.
“Reports available suggests that patronage on this route has increased by over 200 per cent in the last few months and its becoming a preferred means of transportation for communities along this route in Delta, Edo and Kogi States.”
The minister urged the people in Warri and neighbouring communities to cooperate and support the federal government and the oil companies to enable the freight service project flourish.
Amaechi said that the gesture would attract more federal government development to the area, adding that 90 per cent of the employees were from Delta.
In his remark, the Chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Alhaji Ibrahim Musa, said the rail construction started in 1987, adding that it was designed for the transportation of Iron Ore from Itakpe to Ajaokuta and Aladja Steel Rolling Mills in Delta.
Musa said the railway line was also designed to transport processed steel to the port in Warri, adding that it was initially planned to be completed within five years.
According to him, the project was, however, stalled for over 30 years due to paucity of funds.
He said that the railway network consists of existing 3, 505 kilometres of single track routes of the 1,067 mm narrow gauge on the Western and Eastern lines.
Similarly, about 655 km of standard gauge of 143 mm lines on the Abuja – Kaduna, Lagos to Ibadan and Warri to Itakpe lines.
“The first 198 kilometers of rail line constructed in Nigeria by the colonial government was from Lagos to Ibadan in 1898-1901 and was 1,067 mm narrow gauge classification.
“The Lagos-Calabar coastal line and the Kano-Maradi standard gauge railway project are in view for financing and commencement.
“The re-construction and upgrades of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge line has already been awarded to Messer China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
“It is a prelude to the eventual construction of the standard gauge under the Strategic Railway Modernisation plan,” Musa said.
He noted that when properly integrated, the rail line would provide efficient services for high density flows of passengers, and cargo traffic over relatively long distance, including high volumes of containerised cargoes or bulk freight among others,” Musa said.
In his goodwill message, the Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, at the event, said the project would have ripple effect of massive job creation across the nation as well as domestic gas supply for power generation.
Kyari, who was represented by the Managing Director, Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), Mr. Seyi Omojowo, said the choice of exploring the rail option for the haulage of AKK line pipe was propelled by the desire to mitigate all identified projects and safety risks, “to as low as Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) while delivering the project in the right quality and time.
“Moving pipe line through Nigerian roads was the only option before the return of railway infrastructure.
“By this laudable achievement of resuming freight service via railway, NNPC’s global goal on health Safety and environment nicknamed Goal Zero incident and accident will be achieved,” Kyari said.
Also, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by his Commissioner for Transportation, Ovie Oghoore, assured Nigerians that the state government would protect the equipment.