By Dirisu Yakubu, Abuja
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi on Friday said economic consideration informed the decision for the approval of the construction of railway line from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic.
Amaechi, who made the clarification in Abuja urged Nigerians to consider the huge employment opportunities the project would generate as well as the mileage of import and export between Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
“The decision to invest in Kano-Maradi rail line is purely economical, no politics. People are the ones politicising it. I made that decision because there is a competition between the coastal states of Nigeria, Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana.
“The other three countries are able to move cargoes from these landlocked countries to their seaports for either exports or imports. They are able to do those businesses but we are not able to do them because the landlocked countries are complaining of crimes. Road are not safe in Nigeria. There is custom interference as well as Police checkpoints here and there.
“Therefore, they find it difficult to do business in Nigerian seaports. So to be able to attract those cargoes, we decided to construct a rail line from Kano to Maradin, a village in the Niger Republic and we will also build warehouses there to be able to attract cargoes from neighbouring countries and transport it effectively to Tin-Can or Apapa seaport for movement onward or outside the country.
“Or make them import through our seaports and we drop it off at Maradin where they can use their cargoes. Nobody has talked about the employment this investment will generate, nobody has talked about the economic benefits, that we would raise funds for the country and that the economic interest, by far outweighs the current investment.”
According to the Minister, the Ministry of Transportation would continue to work in sync with the Ministry of Finance to expand railway projects across the country even as he assured that debts incurred as a result would be repaid.
“We need about 36 to 40billion dollars to connect the whole country through the state capitals with rail. We are doing so much with little. So, what happened in other countries won’t happen here because we will pay back the loan.
“We have had debt forgiveness before but that is not the aim. Our aim is to be able to pay back. We are constructing new seaports in Lekki, Bonny via Port Harcourt.
“We can also pay back if we begin to push manufactured cargoes to different areas of the country and run it efficiently to be able to generate some funds which we can also use to pay back.
“If we don’t mismanage our crude oil investment, we should also be able to pay back from there but what is critical is the cost of building this infrastructure now because it will not be the same in the near future if we don’t build now,” he explained.