Tony Ailemen, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that his administration remains committed to the nation’s Strategic Rail Master Plan designed to develop over 3505 kilometers of standard rail gauge.
The President, who also assured that most Nigeria’s capital cities, and commercial towns, would be connected to the new standard gauge rail system, declared this, Tuesday at the flag off of the commercial activities on the newly constructed Abuja – Kaduna standard rail, at Idu, Abuja.
” I am delighted to be here today to commission the Abuja – Kaduna railway track and flag-off the Abuja-Kaduna train services (Passengers & Freight) on Nigeria’s first ever Standard Gauge Rail track to go into operation. This project was conceived by a previous administration, started by the last government and I am pleased to complete and commission it”, President Buhari said.
The President recalled that between 1963 and early 1980s, Nigeria had a vibrant rail system which conveyed agricultural and livestock and solid mineral resources to Lagos and Port Harcourt sea ports from where they are exported to other parts of the world.
He assured that “those good old days will soon be back with us and indeed in a more prosperous way with the restoration of rail transport system which today’s occasion symbolizes”.
He noted that the construction of the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge rail track commenced in 2009, adding that seven years after, his administration is on the threshold of presenting to Nigerians a train service that will be safe, fast and reliable.
“The Abuja-Kaduna train service will provide the much needed alternative transport link between the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna State, a corridor which has a huge potential for industries, agricultural activities and a growing labour force.
“Completion and Commissioning of this project is indeed in keeping with our vision of bringing about the desired change to make life easier for the generality of Nigerians through the development and provision of the necessary social and physical infrastructure.
“I wish to assure Nigerians that most State capitals and major commercial and production centres will be linked with railway system as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of the Nigerians and promoting social & regional integration.
“Furthermore, I wish to also reassure Nigerians that due attention will be placed on pursuing the 25-Year Strategic Railway Master Plan which is aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country.
“As we celebrate the symbolic return of rail service today I wish to reiterate the commitment of this Administration to pursue with greater vigour and determination rehabilitation and construction of other rail lines including the major Lagos-Calabar and Kano-Lagos lines”, he said.
Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi in his opening remarks, said the Abuja-Kaduna rail has been taking 500 passengers daily free, since it was completed early this year, adding that the flag off was to formally commence its commercial activities.
The Minister noted that apart from conveying agriculture produce from Kaduna to Abuja, the rail will also assist workers who want to reside in Kaduna state while working in Abuja.
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Musa Bello, also commended the federal government for its commitments to the development of the rail system which he said will go a long way in complimenting the Abuja light rail project, which now about 77 percent completed.
Governor Nasir el- Rufai, of Kaduna State, recalled that the project which commenced in 200, was envisioned to develop brand new standard gauge railways system in Nigeria that was to cover the entire country.
He however, regretted that successors of Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, who did not understand the project, had put it temporarily on hold, until it was resuscitated by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Governor who also commended the federal government for the new zeal to finish the project, said it will now make Kaduna a town of Abuja.
He also assured that the government of Kaduna will take full advantage of the project for the maximum benefits of those who may wish to relocate to Kaduna, while working in Abuja.
The flag off was witnessed by the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, top government officials and representatives of the Chinese government, including the construction company, Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC.