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Rail transport , key to transforming Nigeria’s economy — Osibanjo

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Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo with Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on the train ride from Iju, Lagos State to Kajola, Ogun State for the ground breaking ceremony of the Rail Wagon Assembly Plant

…Performs ground breaking of wagon assembly plant in Kajola, Ogun State
…Plant to create job for 5000 Nigerians

By Evelyn Usman

Expectations on the completion of the recent awarded contract for a Wagon Assembly Plant in Kajola, Ogun State, are high. This is because when completed,  it will not only address the  increasing demand of both passengers and freight on the new Nigeria Standard Gauge Railway Service but would also have the capacity to produce 500 wagons annually as well as generate jobs for Nigerians.

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Aside these benefits, it is also expected that in the long run,  Nigeria would be able to manufacture rolling stock for Nigerian use and for other African countries. By extension,  the country would be able to conserve its much needed foreign exchange which could  be deployed to other areas of development.

To set the ball rolling for these transformational dividends , the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at the ground – breaking ceremony of the plant, described the project as  an important one  for so many reasons.

He said, “ It is central in the production of rolling stock spare parts and maintenance equipment needed for the railway modernization programme being implemented by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari.

“This ceremony is not just another event, it is a historic turning point. For us, the railway is not just an alternative and comfortable mode of travel, 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 and out of Africa’s largest market will be completely transformed. When completed, it is expected that the plant would not only 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 prioritizing Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in the innovation, production and procurement of engineering projects and services.

“The plant would offer an important platform for engineers, technicians, artisans and other professionals to gain the specialized skills required for the production and maintenance of rolling stock. This will invariably conduce to spin-off businesses in the region of operation in particular and across the country wherever rail networks are in existence. The plant  is expected to generate about five thousand (5,000) direct and indirect jobs”.

He urged the contractors to be quick and move  to the next phase of the project which is the assembly and construction of coaches and locomotives, reminding that the federal government and Nigerians were awaiting its total completion.

He informed that federal government had embarked on other railway projects. For instance, the VP said, after completing the Abuja – Kaduna Railway project in July 2016, the administration,  commenced construction works on the Lagos – Ibadan Railway modernization project in March 2017, as well as initiated the rehabilitation and completion of the abandoned Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri rail line which was started over three decades ago.

He further disclosed that last month the federal government  signed an agreement with Messrs China Railway Construction Company International to construct the Itakpe – Ajaokuta rail line which would  be extended from Itakpe to Abuja through Baro Inland Water Port in Niger State, with a branch line to Lokoja in Kogi State. This rail line according to the VP, would link into the new Warri sea port being constructed under the agreement, adding that “ we are also optimizing the Lagos-Ibadan rail modernization 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 depressurize our roads in the process”.

He called on the need for the host community to support the federal government by   cooperating with the contractors in safeguarding and protecting the  investments , to ensure that  all intended objectives and mutual benefits were attained.

The VP also commended the Minister  of Transportation, Rotimi  Amaechi, over what he described as  hard work and commitment he  demonstrated from the inception of the  rail modernization project, as well as the Chinese government, particularly the investor, CCECC Nigeria Limited for its  significant and strategic investment.

In his remarks at the ground breaking ceremony, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, described the  occasion as  epoch making , hinting that this segment held  the key to the development of the economy of the nation from the commercial city of Lagos to the commercial hub of Northern Nigeria, Kano.

In an effort to meet the increasing demand of both passenger and freight on the new Nigeria Standard Gauge Railway Service, the Federal Government , he said, awarded contract for the procurement of Rolling Stock, that is,” Locomotives, Coaches, Wagons and contemporary Diesel Multiple Units to serve movement of passengers and freight on the Abuja-Kaduna, Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri train services as well as the ongoing Lagos – Ibadan Railway. It will also serve any railway service in the West-African sub-region.

He recalled that  the Vice President performed the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the segment 2 of the Lagos – Kano Railway Modernization project: the Lagos – Ibadan segment with Extension to Lagos Ports Complex at Apapa ,which he said was nearcompletion.

But he pointed out that the Ministry of Transportation on realizing the need of the advantage to set up this type of plant, upon considering the potential need in view of the on-going rail projects in the country and the sub-region , encouraged Messrs CCECC to establish this plant.

He said” 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.

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“The project when completed, would be able to generate about 5,000 jobs and in the long run Nigeria would be able to manufacture rolling stock for Nigerian use and for other African countries. Among all these, it is cardinal to mention that the sustainability of our railway modernization projects would depend on our ability to develop local capacity to construct, maintain and manage our new railway system. It is on this note that we feel that this project is germane to the railway development in Nigeria and that Messrs. CCECC should be given every reasonable support to actualize this investment”.

Vanguard

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