Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says establishing a rolling stock plant in Nigeria will help transform commerce across Africa.
Osinbajo said this in his address at the ground breaking ceremony of Kajola Wagoner Assembly Plant established by the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in Ogun.
According to him, the plant is central to the production of rolling stock needed for railway modernisation programme of President Muhammadu Buhari.
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“The railway is not only an alternative and comfortable mode of transportation; it holds the master key to transforming commerce in Nigeria and across the continent.
“By linking our ports to rail lines and now, building the rolling stock locally, import and export business within, into and out of Africa’s largest market will never be the same.
“When completed, it is expected that the plant would produce some parts of the wagons for the Lagos – Ibadan and Abuja – Kaduna rail lines, but also for the central rail lines and to satisfy the needs of other rail operators within the West- African sub-region.
“Secondly, the citing of the plant here in Nigeria and the commitment to hiring Nigerians and Nigerian businesses affirms the president’s directives in Executive Order 5 on prioritising Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in the innovation, production and procurement of engineering projects and services,” he said.
Osinbajo said the plant would offer an important platform for engineers, technicians, artisans and other professionals to gain specialised skills required for the production and maintenance of rolling stock.
He added that it would invariably conduce to spin-off businesses in the region of operation and across the country wherever rail networks are in existence.
“After completing the Abuja – Kaduna railway project in July 2016, this administration commenced construction works on the Lagos – Ibadan railway modernisation project in March 2017.
“Following which, we initiated the rehabilitation and completion of the abandoned Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri rail line which was started over three decades ago.
“Also, we are optimising the Lagos-Ibadan Rail modernisation project by extending it to the Apapa Port, the nation’s busiest port for the efficient movement of cargo from the port to various destinations.
“This will expedite import/export flows, decongest the ports, and depressurise our roads in the process,” Osinbajo said.
He however called for the support of the host communities to continue to support government efforts by effectively cooperating with the contractors in safeguarding and protecting the investment.
He said this would ensure that all intended objectives and mutual benefits were attained.
Earlier, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi said the Federal Government, in order to address increasing demand on the new Nigeria Standard Gauge Railway Service, awarded contract for the procurement of Rolling Stock.
“It will also serve any railway service in the West-African sub-region.
“The Ministry of Transportation realising the need of the advantage to set up this type of plant considering the potential need in view of the on-going rail projects in the country and the sub-region encourage CCECC to establish this plant.
“It is expected that the plant would generate job opportunities for Nigerians and as well facilitate the much-desired objective of the government towards the local content capacity development.
“This project is therefore a direct investment of CCECC Nigeria Ltd in the country and would remain as part of the gains from the contract signed for the supply of rolling stock.
“This will be the first of its kind in Nigeria and the first batch of the wagons to be assembled from the production line of this plant will form part of the rolling stock for Lagos – Ibadan and Abuja – Kaduna Railway operations.
“Subsequently, other rolling stock would be produced as its production capacities increase.
“More so, we would be able to conserve our much needed foreign exchange which can be deployed to other areas of development.
“It is cardinal to mention that the sustainability of our railway modernisation projects would depend on our ability to develop local capacity to construct, maintain and manage our new railway system,” Amaechi said.
Managing Director, CCECC, Mr Micheal Jiang, said the company was committed to making Nigeria self-sustaining in the technology of rolling stocks.
He added that the country was moving to greater heights in the industry.
The plant is expected to generate about 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Alhaji Ibraheem Alhassan, Chairman, Board of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), called on entrepreneurs and youths to take advantage of the rolling stock to create wealth.