…Commends FG for investing heavily in transportation infrastructure
By Dirisu Yakubu & Joy Abijah
A functional transportation sector is instrumental to the realization of the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement AfCFTA, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said in Abuja yesterday.
The Minister stated this at a two-day international conference with the theme, “The role of transportation in the implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area, organised by the Nigerian Institute of Transportation, NITT, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation.
Represented by the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Amaechi commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s government for its huge investment in transportation infrastructure since its assumption of office in 2015.
“The transportation sector is the most critical in implementing trade facilitation, enhancing regional integration and key to every other AfCFTA protocol, hence the Nigerian government has embarked on huge transport infrastructure investment across the country to ensure efficiency in the transportation sector.
‘’These interventions include massive construction of roads, rail lines with access roads, inland water ports, seaports, new terminals in existing ports, dry ports with access to rail and roads, inland container depots/freights all geared towards building a modern and efficient transportation system that guarantees sustainable socio-economic development of Nigeria, regional integration and trade liberalization.
“Transportation and AfCFTA are like Siamese twins as they are intricately linked. Transportation provides the vehicle through which the major objective of AfCFTA thrives; that is, creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses, persons and investments, promoting regional and continental integration, market access and resources reallocation across sectors and countries,” the minister said.
The Ministry, he noted, was making concerted efforts in improving inter-modal transportation and trade facilitation by linking major seaports in the country with rail line, adding that with the Apapa Port Complex, goods will move from the ports to the dry port complexes in Ibadan, while those Kaduna and Kano-bound would continue to either use the Kaduna or Dala dry ports.
He also assured of the commitment of the Ministry to improve digital infrastructure by automating train, marine and road operations, completing ongoing transport projects and upgrade through the completion and making operational the Abuja – Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri standard gauge rail lines; rehabilitation of narrow-gauge lines, groundbreaking of the Kano-Maradi rail lines, commissioning of the deep blue sea project, commencement of the wrecked removal exercise; among others.
He noted also that under his watch, the Ministry was “making giant strides to protect rail and other infrastructure in order to provide an enabling and competitive environment.”
Speaking in her capacity as the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Saraki noted that the primary objective of the African Continental Free Trade (Area) Agreement was to create a single continental market for goods and services, ensuring free movement of businesses, persons and investments and paving way for accelerated economic growth and inclusive shared prosperity among African countries.
To realize these lofty goals, Saraki said the National Action Committee, NAC, was constituted to coordinate the activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, private sector and other stakeholders to successfully execute the AfCFTA readiness interventions.
The federal government, she noted, had upgraded the road stock “by deploying innovative funding approaches for strategic road projects, which include the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, PIDF, which is investing over a billion dollars in three flagship projects, including the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway and the Highway Development and Management Initiative, HDMI.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Director General of NITT, Dr. Bayero Farah, said Transport infrastructure was widely seen as an enabling industry that facilitates national, regional and international integration and trade, stressing that “an effective transport system promotes competitiveness, market accessibility and economic growth.”
Nigeria, he noted, must begin to take advantage of being the largest economy in Africa to make the most of transportation for the benefit of her people.