By Dirisu Yakubu
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his achievements in the transportation sector since he came into power in 2015.
Amaechi said linking different transportation infrastructure like rails to seaports and roads as is being done by the current administration will quickly revamp the nation’s economy for the benefit of Nigerians.
The minister stated this while delivering the Founders’ day lecture at the University of Port Harcourt, Monday, titled, ‘The role of Transportation in nation building.’
He noted that the duty of transportation is to contribute to the different spheres of economic development, adding that its absence will cripple an economy and dwarf human and economic development.
“Transportation in Nigeria is a means of economic and political growth in the development of Nigeria. The impact is felt in tourism, real estate development, agriculture and others. Transportation currently contributes about 3 percent of the gross domestic product according to the Nigerian Bureau for statistics”, he said.
Outlining the work being done in connecting the country for ease of transportation of products, goods and people, Amaechi said the Eastern rail line would be connected to the Western line via Kafanchan, while the Warri-Itakpe line would be connected to the same line via Abuja and onward to Kaduna-Kano.
“The Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line was extended to Bonny. On the way to Bonny, it will pass through the Ogoni axis and terminate at Onne Seaport; then from Port Harcourt to Owerri, it will pass through Ubima with a connecting line to the Western line at Kafanchan. The Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line is also extended to Damaturu and Gashua in Yobe State. What makes this line unique is that you will have a University and an Industrial Park in Rivers State.
“Hopefully the segment from Ibadan to Kano will commence this year”, he added.
For seaports, Amaechi said, “you can’t have an efficient transportation system without seaports. You must have seaports for importation of goods and exports to boost your economy. For this reason, President Buhari has approved the construction of three major seaports.
“The first one is Lekki deep seaport. It’s under construction and will be completed in 2022. The second one is at Bonny, and we’ll commence construction later this year.
“We chose Bonny because it is right there in the ocean. So we don’t have a problem with the draft. The deepest in Nigeria, for now, is the Onne seaport with 11-12 metres draft. But these days, vessels of 11 metres draft have been abandoned for those of 16-17 metres.
“That’s the reason we go to the high sea for transfer of cargoes to vessels with lower draft size. So these three new seaports will have the capacity to take vessels of 16-17 metres draft. The third seaport is at Warri and another one is being done by the Akwa Ibom State government with a private investor.
“I believe that with these seaports and rail lines, we’ll move from three percent Gross Domestic Product, GDP contribution to between six and ten percent”, Amaechi said.
He also noted plans for sustainability of the projects being put in place by the Buhari administration.
“When Nigerians ask of our plans for sustainability and maintenance of these projects, my response is ‘transfer of technology.’ So the Chinese cannot just come here and dump the technology on us. We insisted that they create a Transportation University for us. We told them, for 5 years, you hire lecturers, pay the lecturers, let them train our people who will take over from them, and that is what we’re doing in Daura, Katsina State.
“For the one in Rivers State, I felt that Transportation University in Daura is enough, so we told the Portuguese Company that will build the Kano-Maradi line to come to Port Harcourt and build a multi-disciplinary university with different faculties, including a transport faculty. Before September, we will start construction,” Amaechi further said.