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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.

FG, firm sign $100m concession agreement for Warri Port Terminal

Spurred by the desire to boost efficiency in port management, the Federal Government and Ocean & Cargo Terminal Services Limited, on Tuesday, signed a concession agreement for Terminal B of Warri Old Port.

This is sequel to the National Council on Privatisation’s approval of the technical and commercial bid of $100.78m submitted by Ocean & Cargo Terminal Services Limited on June 18, 2018.

Mr Alex Okoh, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, noted that the objective of the Federal Government in port concessioning, was to achieve efficiency in the country’s port management, with the ultimate aim of improved service delivery.

The BPE boss who signed the document on the government’s behalf also observed that the process was geared towards the modernisation of port facilities, while achieving reduction in the cost of shipping and clearing goods, an arrangement that would relieve the government of the encumbrances of financing the sector.

Okoh said, “In fact, the concession of the seaports in Nigeria represents one of the success stories of the privatisation and commercialisation programme in Nigeria.

“The concessionaire is expected to focus on these objectives as they perform their business. The government expects nothing less than strict adherence to the terms of the concession agreement from the concessionaire.”

“Consequently, the pursuit of your business objectives must be tailored in a way that will also assist in the realisation of these objectives,” he told the concessionaire.

Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, chairman, Ocean and Cargo Terminal Services, however, expressed his happiness as he signed on behalf of his company, the PUNCH reports.

Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), who was present during the ceremony also expressed delight at the conclusion of the concession of the terminal, noting that the concession of the port ‘is an important milestone in the economic development of the country.’

This crucial development once again reiterates the federal government’s unwavering commitment to the development of the Niger-delta, a region, which president Buhari’s administration has accorded great importance and initiated many critical projects.

Niger Delta: Navy destroys 1,000 illegal refineries in creeks

The Nigerian Navy Ship, DELTA, on Wednesday said it had destroyed over 1,000 illegal refineries with swamp buggies in the Delta creeks.

Speaking with newsmen in Warri, the Commander, NNS DELTA, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, said the illegal refineries were destroyed in the last 29 days in its ongoing raids.

He said the illegal refineries and the equipment were destroyed in Otumara, Ogbegugu, Okpuku creeks and Bennett Island with the aid of swamp buggies, amphibious vehicles used in traversing swamps.

“We decided to apply swamp buggies because they are more environmental friendly and make it difficult for the perpetrators to resuscitate the illicit businesses after crushing their facilities.

“So far the exercise has been successful and we will not rest on our oars until the illicit trade is completely eradicated in our maritime domain,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the navy had in the past relied heavily on the use of fire to destroy illegal refineries.

The commander said the use of swamp buggies would bring a lasting solution to the ongoing economic sabotage.

On Tuesday, the commander led some navy personnel and journalists to Bennett Island in Warri South Local Government Area of the state to monitor the operation.

He told newsmen that the oil thieves had adopted a new method to prevent his men from carrying out the operation.

“The perpetrators in Bennett Island set fire round the illegal refineries to prevent us and the swamp buggy from gaining access.

“However, we were able to find our way into the sites and crushed their equipment despite the thick smoke and rain.

“Since we started clamping down on the illegal refineries with the aid of swamp buggies, the perpetrators have been restless’’, the commander said.

Dewu said the saboteurs were already feeling the impact of the destruction.

“This might have generated the recent campaign for the removal of the Commander, Joint Task Force (JTF), code name “Operation Delta Safe,’’ Rear Adm. Suleiman Apochi, by the people.

“The campaign against JTF is a distraction; we will not be deterred,’’ he said.

He warned the saboteurs to desist from the illicit act or be made to face the full wrath of the law.