How modular refineries can create over 100,000 indirect jobs – Wabote, NCDMB

*Adds: Modular refineries should refine at least 10% of Nigeria’s oil production

At least 10 per cent of Nigeria’s oil production should be refined through modular refineries as it has the capacity to create about 3,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs, according to the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote.

Wabote stated this on Tuesday during the commissioning of the 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) Waltersmith Modular Refinery, developed with 30 percent equity investment by the NCDMB.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday performed the virtual commissioning of the Waltersmith Modular Refinery, describing the role played by the Board as novel in concept and superb in delivery.

The President also performed the ground-breaking of the refinery expansion at the Ibigwe field, Ochia Community, Ohaji-Egbema Local Government of Imo State. The new phase will first add 25,000 barrels per day processing capacity, before the final phase of new 20,000 bpd, bringing total capacity to 50,000 bpd.

Delivering his address virtually, President Buhari stated that the deployment of modular refineries was one of the four elements of the Refinery Roadmap introduced the Federal Government in 2018 to meet local needs for petroleum products and eliminate importation.

According to a statement from the NCDMB, Wabote canvassed that at least 10 percent of Nigeria’s oil production should be refined through modular refineries, noting that an average of 10 direct jobs are created for every 1,000barrels/day capacity of modular refinery.

He said, “We believe that about 3,000 direct jobs and over 100,000 indirect and induced jobs can be created if 10 percent of Nigeria’s oil production is refined using modular refineries.”

The NCDMB boss also provided the basis of the Board’s equity investment in the 5,000bpd Waltersmith Modular Refinery. He hinted that Section 70(h) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act mandates the Board to assist local contractors and Nigerian companies to develop their capabilities and capacities to further the attainment of Nigerian Content in the oil and gas sector of the economy.

According to him, “This refinery creates job opportunities and business prospects, enhances availability of petroleum products, and provides ready market for some of our crude cargo within our shores. At current capacity, this refinery will utilize about 1.8million barrels of crude oil. At the completion of the expansion works, this will increase to more than 16million barrels of crude and condensates every year.”

The Executive Secretary confirmed that NCDMB was also in partnership with other investors for the construction of a 2,500bpd modular refinery in Edo State, which will later be expanded to 10,000bpd and another 12,000bpd hydroskimming refinery in Bayelsa State, that will produce a full slate of petroleum products to serve immediate and nearby markets.

In the same vein, President Buhari assured that Government was making good progress in the Rehabilitation of existing refineries, Co-location of new refineries, and Construction of greenfield refineries, with the firm goal of making Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products in a few years’ time.

He also commended the expansion plans of Waltersmith Refining & Petrochemical Company and directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and other relevant Government Agencies to provide the company all the necessary support with regards to access to crude oil and condensate feedstock for the timely delivery of the additional capacity.

In his speech, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva applauded Waltersmith and NCDMB for embarking on the project in 2018, considering the immaturity and uncertainty in the downstream sector as at that time. ”It is only investors who have faith and believe in Nigeria, with clear delivery strategy that would have had such boldness,” he emphasised.

He clarified that efforts to achieve sufficiency of locally refined petroleum products “has to be a combination of large-scale processing plants as well as small to medium modular processors which will be enabled by our progressive policies and regulations.”

He challenged other investors to take a cue from Waltersmith and speed up action on similar development efforts to jointly grow the nation’s economy.

The Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma while delivering a goodwill message lauded President Buhari for providing purposeful leadership and conducive investment climate that enabled the establishment of the Waltersmith Modular Refinery within two years of conception. He recalled that successive administrations had awarded licenses for similar projects, with none of them coming to fruition.

He assured that the Imo State Government will partner with the host communities to protect the investment, while charging the company to discharge its statutory obligations to government and perform its corporate social responsibility to the communities.

Modular Refineries will eliminate importation, make petroleum products available – President Buhari at commissioning of Waltersmith refinery

The establishment of modular refineries in the country will make petroleum products available in the country and eliminate importation, President Muhammadu Buhari stated on Tuesday.

According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President, Media & Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President spoke at the virtual inauguration of the 5,000 barrels per day Waltersmith modular refinery in Ibigwe, Imo State, as well as the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Phase-2 works to expand the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels/day.

President Buhari said the deployment of modular refineries was one of the four key elements of his administration’s Refinery Roadmap rolled out in 2018, adding that its implementation will make Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products.

He expressed delight that Waltersmith refinery in Ohaji Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State was coming on stream within two years of the commencement of the Roadmap, after many years of granting licenses for the establishment of modular refineries with nothing to show for it.

”Furthermore, there is increased momentum in the other three focus areas under the Roadmap covering the Rehabilitation of existing refineries, Co-location of new refineries, and Construction of greenfield refineries.

”The realization of the Refinery Roadmap will ultimately lead us to becoming a net exporter of petroleum products not only to our neighbouring countries but to the worldwide market.

”This modular refinery is the largest commissioned modular refinery in the country today.

”The role played by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in going into collaboration with Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company is novel in concept and superb in delivery,” he said.

The President described plans to commence the expansion of the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels per day to refine crude oil and condensates as an important part of economic reforms the country is undergoing.

”I look forward to seeing this new phase completed within the target timeframe,” he said.

President Buhari, therefore, directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), NNPC, as well as all relevant Government Agencies to provide Waltersmith Company all the necessary support to access crude oil and condensate feedstock for the timely delivery of the additional capacity.

In line with his administration’s agenda on jobs creation, the President said he was pleased to note that hundreds of direct and indirect jobs were created during the construction of the first phase of the project in addition to the various business opportunities.

Equally, he expressed hope that the construction of the second phase of the project will create bigger additional employment opportunities.

President Buhari thanked the local community and the people of Imo State for hosting the refinery, which, he stressed, will bring prosperity and economic development to the area.

The President commended the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, the Chairman and members of the Governing Council, and the management and staff of the Nigerian Content Development Board for making the public-private partnership a success.

He also commended the Chairman, Board, Management and Staff of Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Limited for their professionalism and focus in getting the project completed.

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and the Minister of State, Petroleum, cut the tape on behalf of the President, at the event which was also attended by the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, the Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Wabote and the Chairman of WalterSmith, Abdulrazaq Isa.

#NDNewVision: President Buhari to commission 5,000bpd Modular Refinery on Tuesday

**WalterSmith project in line with President Buhari’s vision to boost Nigeria’s oil refining capacity – NCDMB

President Muhammadu Buhari will tomorrow formally commission the WalterSmith 5,000 barrels per day modular refinery at Ibigwe, Ohaji/Egbema local government area of Imo State.

The Modular Refinery project is part of the initiative of the Buhari administration to boost local refining of petroleum products to end importation and create jobs and opportunities for people in the Niger Delta region.

The President will be supported at the event by the minister of state for Petroleum Resources, Timpre Sylva and Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, among other top government officials, oil industry regulators and stakeholders. The president will also perform the ground-breaking ceremony for the 45,000 barrels per day refinery also initiated by Waltersmith.

The event will also feature goodwill messages from top industry players, partners and community leaders. At a recent pre-commissioning visit to the refinery, Yusuf Usman, Chief Operating Officer, Gas & Power, said, “It is a landmark achievement and it shows that we can actually refine our crude oil in-country.” The modular refinery has a crude oil storage capacity of 60,000 barrels and is projected to deliver over 271million liters per annum of refined petroleum products, including Kerosene, Diesel, Naphtha and Heavy Fuel Oils, to the domestic market. The bulk of crude oil supply for this phase will come from Waltersmith’s upstream business, with backup from the OML 53 (Ohaji South) Seplat/NNPC JV third party crude currently processed at Waltersmith Ibigwe Flowstation and additionally from the 2020 Marginal Fields Bid Round for a nearby asset.

The company then partnered with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) to raise the required financing. NCDMB are 30 per cent equity partners while AFC committed senior secured credit facility towards the project.

“From the very day we keyed into this project in line with the President’s aspiration to grow the country’s oil refining capacity, we felt very happy that we are associated with Waltersmith, a serious-minded company”, said executive secretary, NCDMB, Simbi Wabote.

The Chairman, Waltersmith Group, Abdulrazaq Isa, said, “The first module to be commissioned tomorrow is 5,000bpd refining capacity. We are looking at 50,000bpd refining capacity that will come with the planned additional two modules; 25,000bpd and 20,000bpd refining capacity respectively which will then add PMS, Aviation fuel and LPG to the product slates.” Waltersmith obtained the ‘License to Establish’ the modular refinery from DPR in June 2015 and got the ‘Authority to Construct’ in March 2017.

 

Uniport student wins N1m in Nigerian Content Essay Competition

A second-year student of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Mr. Abasiekeme Edet, has won N1 million in the 4th edition of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) Annual National Undergraduate Essay competition.

According to a statement from the NCDMB, the prize giving ceremony was held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Wednesday and the essay by the 18-year-old was adjudged the best amongst over 6,000 entries submitted by undergraduates who must be within their first and 2nd year in the university.

The topic for this year’s essay contest was “Research & Development as a key lever for Local Content Implementation in Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry.”

Miss. Oluwadamilola Elizabeth Oluwafela, a 200-level Medical student, Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State emerged the first runner up and won a cash prize of N500,000, while Mr. Somtochukwu Samson Eze, a 100-level Medicine and Surgery student of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State placed third and won a cash prize of N300,000.

Other finalists received HP laptops as consolation prizes.

In his keynote address, the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote disclosed that the competition was geared towards developing human and material capacities, which is one of the key mandates of the Board.

He explained that the Board sponsored the contest to create local content awareness among our vibrant youths and make them advocates of Nigerian Content, which is critical to sustainable development of our local economy, job creation and national security.

The Executive Secretary who was represented by the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr. Patrick Daziba Obah commended the choice of the topic for this year’s competition, hinting that Research and Development is pivotal to national development and the bedrock of sustainable Local Content.

Obah indicated that the Board’s developed a 10-year R&D roadmap to help promote the culture of research and innovation in Nigeria and support local content development in the oil and gas industry. He identified some key initiatives under the R&D roadmap to include the establishment of a US$50 million Nigerian Content R&D Fund, sponsorship of research prototypes, commercialization of research findings and setting up of R&D Centres of Excellence (CoE) in five Nigerian Universities.

While congratulating the finalists for their hard work and dedication, he expressed excitement with the increase in the level of participation in the Essay Contest from undergraduates in various tertiary institutions across the country.

In his remarks, the General Manager, Corporate Communication and Zonal Coordination, NCDMB, Dr. Ginah O. Ginah mentioned that the competition is one of the Board’s interventions to improve the standard of education in Nigeria. He added that it aims to promote proficiency in writing, increase the participants’ awareness of local content and engender citizen engagement from undergraduate level.

Ginah who was represented by the Manager, Corporate Communication, Barr. Naboth Onyesoh Onyesoh stated that the contest is also intended to promote analytical and critical thinking among Nigerian youth which is vital for enrich problem-solving and for effective citizen engagement.

“Enlightened citizenry is required for local content advocacy and to nudge public institutions to be more accountable, transparent and alive to quality service delivery, hence this competition is oriented to encourage reading and writing, promote analytical and critical thinking among Nigerian youth,” he added.

The chairman of the occasion and Vice Chancellor, Federal Medical University, Prof Ebitimitula Etebu, represented by the Registrar, Dr Akpos Adesi, pointed out that national competitions such as this helps to foster national unification and boost academic excellence. He applauded the Board for sponsoring the competition and sought for its sustainability.

Mr. Abasiekeme Edet, the winner of the competition thanked the Board for organizing the competition, which provided a challenge for students to research extensively and proffer solutions around the issues of local content.

PIB: Oil Firms’ licences may be revoked over neglect of host communities

Oil firms that neglect their obligations to host communities risk losing their operating licenses if the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) presently before the National Assembly sails through.

The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) seeks to increase government revenue from oil, establish strengthened legal and regulatory framework for the Nigerian oil industry, and promote transparency in the administration of Nigerian petroleum resources.

According to Leadership newspapers, in the new bill, the power to revoke oil licenses is vested on the Minister of Petroleum Resources. It reported that according to the bill, the action will be taken with the recommendation of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, among other powers.

It defines host community as “any community situated in or appurtenant to the Area of Operation of a Settlor (oil company), and any other community as a Settlor may determine.”

It said that any oil and gas company that fails to incorporate the Host Communities Development Trust would have its license revoked.

It stated that on its constitution, the Host Communities Development Trust would be empowered to manage and supervise the administration of the annual contribution of the settlor (oil companies) contemplated under the Act and any other sources of funding.

The bill further proposed that the objectives of the trust shall include financing and executing projects for the benefit and sustainable development of the host communities.

“It will undertake infrastructure development of the host communities within the scope of funds available to the Board of Trustees for such purposes; and facilitate economic empowerment opportunities in the host communities, among others,” it said.

Other powers granted the minister of Petroleum in the new bill include the revocation and assignment of interests in the petroleum industry, and approval of the fees for services rendered by the upstream, midstream and downstream regulatory authorities.

The bill is also proposing to empower the minister to order a cutback of the levels of crude oil or condensate production in the context of international oil pricing agreements supported by Nigeria.

It stated: “The minister is also empowered to, upon the recommendation of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, or the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, direct in writing the suspension of petroleum operations in any area.

“The suspension, according to the bill will persist until arrangements to prevent danger to life or property have been made to his satisfaction or where in his opinion, a contravention of the Act or any regulation made under the Act has occurred or is likely to occur”.

The bill has passed second reading at the Senate and a committee was constituted to work on it for further deliberation.

2020 Marginal Oilfield bid still on, says DPR

*600 companies applied to bid for 57 marginal oil fields

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) says the bid round process for its 57 marginal oilfields in the country is still ongoing.

The Head, Public Affairs, DPR, Mr. Paul Osu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos that the bidding process has not been completed.

“The 2020 marginal oilfield bid round process is still ongoing in line with our published timelines on DPR website and bid portal.

“Over 600 companies have applied to be prequalified for the bid rounds which began on June 1. However, the DPR had put measures in place to ensure that the awardees would be credible investors with technical and financial capability.

“The objective of the 2020 marginal field bid round was to deepen the participation of indigenous companies in the upstream segment of the industry and provide opportunities for technical and financial partnerships for investors.”

According to Osu, the last time the country conducted marginal field bid rounds was in 2003 “with 16 of the fields now contributing two per cent to the national oil and gas reserves while bringing development to their host communities in the Niger Delta.”

NAN reports that a marginal field is any field that has reserves booked and reported annually to the DPR and was unproductive for a period of over 10 years.

NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojoughoh, (right) during a visit to the Coventry University in UK

We’ll begin payment of outstanding scholarship claims soon – NDDC

The Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has reassured the beneficiaries of its Foreign Post Graduate Scholarship programme in the United Kingdom that the remaining scholars will be paid within one week.

According to a statement by the Commission, the NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, was in London on Thursday, September 17, 2020, with relevant officers of the Commission, to carry out physical verification, monitoring and evaluation of legitimate students on the scholarship programme.

The statement read, “Having concluded the verification exercise, which involved the registration of all scholars and the confirmation of their claims with the various universities, payment of the outstanding fees were to commence immediately.

“Unfortunately, some unforeseen circumstances, including the upheavals that followed the EndSARS protests by youths, constituted stumbling blocks for the speedy implementation of the payment plan.

“Before the protests, which slowed down activities, the NDDC Interim Management Committee, IMC, had released $5,910,000 million through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to offset all the verified outstanding foreign scholarship obligations, despite the non-passage of NDDC 2020 budget by the National Assembly.

“Obviously, the CBN was not immune to the sad realities bedeviling the nation in the past few weeks. However, the bank has promised to treat the case of the scholarship beneficiaries with utmost dispatch.

“We appeal for understanding and patience from the students. We urge them not to allow themselves to be used as tools by those sponsoring devious campaigns to discredit the IMC through protests at the Nigerian Embassy in London.

“We re-affirm our commitment to the Post Graduate scholarship Scheme, which is part of our efforts to develop professional manpower to help in the transformation of the Niger Delta region.”

5,000 bpd Waltersmith Modular Refinery Ready for Operations – DPR

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has said that the 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) Waltersmith Modular Refinery project is fully ready for operations.

The Director of DPR, Mr Sarki Auwalu, stated this during a pre-commissioning visit to the project site located in Ibigwe, Imo State recently.

The refinery had been officially scheduled for inauguration on Monday, October 26, 2020, but had to be put on hold due the nationwide protest.

Auwalu said the purpose of the visit was to make sure that Waltersmith Refinery was ready to start operations. “We can confirm that the refinery is very much ready to commence operations. We have seen all the preparations. To us, the plant is alive. The commissioning is just symbolic. Everywhere is ready to start off. My overall assessment is excellent.

“We have been to other modular refineries but we have not seen anything like this: the space, the way it is arranged and the way it will work”, Auwalu said.

The DPR director, however, urged Nigerians to start seeing the agency as an enabler and not a regulator, stressing that their focus was on how to create opportunities for Nigeria’s vast oil and gas resources to be properly managed for the betterment of Nigerians.

According to him, “The role we play is to enable businesses and create opportunities. When DPR issues you a license, it enables you to invest. It is that opportunity we create that enable businesses to grow.”

Auwalu added: “Waltersmith is one of our success stories. We consider the project as ours. We have been tracking their growth and we are happy to see that our child is growing. It is our plan that they expand and they have the potential.”

The 5,000bpd modular refinery has a crude oil storage capacity of 60,000 barrels and is projected to deliver over 271 million litres per year of refined petroleum products comprising of Diesel, Kerosene, Naphtha and Heavy Fuel Oils to the domestic market.

The bulk of the crude supply for this phase will come from Waltersmith’s upstream business with backup from nearby third-party crude.

“What you see here is a proof of the absolute faith we have in our country. We want to demonstrate that it is practically a waste of resources to produce crude oil and just sell it. It is more impactful to add value and make more significant impact on the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of our nation”, Chairman of Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company, Abdulrasaq Isah, was quoted as saying during the visit.

“This is the first phase of a series of refinery development which will culminate in the delivery of up to 50,000bpd refining capacity that will expand the product slate to include petrol, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Aviation fuel”, he said.

Isah added that the expansion plan consists of 20,000bpd crude oil refinery and a standalone 25,000bpd condensate refinery both of which are at early stages of project development.

On the sustainability of the refinery project, Managing Director/Chief Executive of Waltersmith, Mr. Chikezie Nwosu, said domestic consumption was more sustainable than crude export.

“With export, there are things you do not have control over and for every dollar you gain by exporting crude oil as a commodity, you gain multiples of those dollars in terms of GDP growth by consuming the energy within the economy”, Nwosu said.

Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company obtained License to Establish from DPR in June 2015 and obtained Authority to construct in March 2017.

The company partnered with Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) who are 30 per cent equity holders while the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) committed significant financing to the project.

#EndSARS protests: Shun violence, embrace peace – Akpabio to N’Delta youths

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, has appealed to the youth of the Niger Delta region to shun violence and embrace peace in the wake of the nationwide #EndSARS protests.

Akpabio, who led a Federal Government delegation to Uyo, Akwa Ibom, made the appeal at the stakeholders’ conference comprising the youth in Uyo on Saturday.

He said that he was saddened by the violence that was caused by hoodlums, who hijacked the #EndSARS protests to cause wanton destruction and looting of public and private properties.

The minister called on Niger Delta youths to shun acts capable of truncating the peace in the region, while urging the youth to embrace programmes and policies rolled out by the President aimed at addressing the challenges of the region.

The Nation reported that Akpabio, who was accompanied by other government officials from the state including Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, said they were in Akwa Ibom at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking, the minister urged youths of the state to embrace peace as President Buhari was committed to meeting their demands with regard to police reforms.

Akpabio mentioned that the FG was doing a lot in terms of job creation and development of key economic infrastructure in the state and the Niger Delta region.

He asked youths of the state to take advantage of social and economic job intervention programmes of the FG, adding that the Buhari administration is desirous of combating poverty and unemployment in the country.

Akpabio said the #EndSARS protest was capable of scaring away existing and expected investors with the negative economic effects on the state and the region.

He commended Governor Udom Emmanuel and other governors for setting up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to address concerns of victims of SARS brutality, adding that the FG was ready to work with governors to achieve justice for victims.

The Minister urged all those who have lost their properties in the Thursday carnage to channel their petitions to the judicial commission of enquiry.

The Minister said, “We have gone round and seen the level of destruction in the state, it is a sordid sight. People were working in all these places they destroyed. This is very sad and regrettable. This must stop. I am constrained to address you on the #EndSARS protests which started peacefully but turned into mayhem and criminality.

“The Federal Government is very serious in addressing the yearnings of the proper #EndSARS protesters but condemned the wanton destruction and looting of public and private properties. The youth should know that they are the leaders of tomorrow and should not cut short their life through criminality.

“We are appealing to the youth to cease the protest and come to the table and go into dialogue. We are very proud of our youths.”

In the same vein, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta, Sen. Ita Enang, condemned the wanton destruction of lives and properties by miscreants under the guise of the “EndSARS. He urged the youth of the region to maintain the peace and avoid any destruction of public or private property.

Enang urged all those with genuine complaints to avail themselves of the Judicial Committee of Inquiry to address them.

 

 

 

 

ICYMI: What President Buhari said during Itakpe-Warri rail line commissioning

*Govs Okowa, Obaseki commends Buhari administration

President Muhammadu Buhari, On Tuesday, September 29, inaugurated the 326 km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation, as well as the ancillary facilities yard, at the recently named Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex in Agbor (Owa-Oyibu), Delta State.

The President, who declared the rail line open for commercial operations at a virtual meeting in State House, instructed the Federal Ministry of Transportation to link all the nation’s ports of origin and destination – Apapa, Tin Can, Warri, Onne, Calabar Ports – to the rail network to enhance overall transportation and economic capacities.

The President declared that his administration recognised the importance of the railway mode of transportation as a vital backbone to support industrialization and economic development.

“Accordingly, I have approved the prioritization of viable railway routes for either new rail lines or the reconstruction and rehabilitation of some, to achieve effective and efficient train services supporting the country’s trade and commerce.

“The Railway Infrastructure that I have the honour to commission today is the rail line from Itakpe via the steel town complex of Ajaokuta to Warri, and is an important link for the country’s economy as the central rail line.

“This Government has also approved to link this line further from Itakpe to Abuja, thereby, connecting the Northern Zone of the country and also extending southwards to link the Warri Ports.”

“It will link people across the cultural divides and expand the frontier of trade and commerce, which will lead to better standards of living for our citizens,” he said.

President Buhari recalled that to further give recognition to Nigerian sons and daughters who have distinguished themselves at nation building and development , 11 railway stations and railway village were named after some deserving citizens.

He listed them as follows: Adamu Attah Station, Itakpe; Abubakar Olusola Saraki Station, Ajaokuta; Augustus Aikhomu Station, Itogbo; George Innih Station, Agenebode; Anthony Enahoro Station, Uromi; Tom Ikimi Station, Ekehen and Samuel Ogbemudia Station, Igbanke.

Others are Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex, Agbor, Owa-Oyibu; David Ejoor Station, Abraka; Michael Ibru Station, Opara; Alfred Rewane Station, Ujevwu; and Michael Akhigbe Railway Village, Agbor

“I implore those who work on this line to uphold maintenance and safety culture necessary for long-lasting service in this difficult terrain.

“By the same token, I urge other sectors who will be primary beneficiaries of this transportation backbone, including, the iron and steel sector, stakeholders in agricultural and mining sectors on this corridor, as well as the host communities to protect and sustain this infrastructure and maximize the benefits that could be derived from it and which is readily available at their doorsteps.

“This project will increase the volume of their trade and kickstart and resuscitate the iron and steel complexes.

“All these, I hope will improve our industrial potentials and capacities as well as boost employment,’’ he said.

President Buhari said projections indicate that the commencement of operation of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line will account for close to one million passengers annually and also unleash approximately 3.5 million tonnes capacity of freight annually that will service all off-takers on the corridor and beyond.

Congratulating the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his team on successfully completing the project, the President recognized the host communities on this corridor for their patience during the long wait of over 30 years for the realization of the project.

He also commended the host communities for their cooperation during the completion works by the Federal Government.

He assured Nigerians that his administration would continue, within available resources, to judiciously connect commercial and industrial hubs to boost trade, generate wealth and create employment.

In his remarks, Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa commended President Buhari’s bi-partisan approach to governance, saying ‘‘it is a thing of pride and joy that this rail line was completed under your watch.’’

“Deltans are excited that this day has come,’’ he said, adding that the Ika nation is glad of the recognition accorded former President Goodluck Jonathan, in naming the railway complex in Agbor after him.

Okowa urged the private sector to take advantage of the historic corridor by establishing investments that will create jobs for locals, curb youth restiveness and stem the tide of criminality.

“It is imperative that the Federal Government in collaboration with the States provide adequate security cover for this rail line corridor,” he said.

In his remarks, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki congratulated the President on the feat of completing the project, saying it is quite fortuitous that few days to the country’s 60th independence celebration, the President has achieved the completion of this critical infrastructure.

“For us in Edo State we are excited that we have a few stops that have been completed and we are going to be working with you to utilise this infrastructure,” he said.

The Edo Governor appealed to the minister of transportation to extend the rail line to the industrial park in Benin City to facilitate the movement of goods to the northern part of the country.

Also speaking, Amaechi said the project was fully funded by the Nigerian government, adding that 8 of the 10 stations are in the Niger-Delta/ South South region of the country.

“There is no loan on this project, it was funded from the budget and I had the directive of the President to go and revive it and complete it as soon as possible,’’ he said.

According to the Transportation Minister, the project started under the military era in 1987 but ‘‘underwent protracted hiccups, prolonged abandonment and massive vandalisation,’’ before it was resuscitated by the Buhari administration.