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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.

President Buhari to inaugurate Itakpe-Warri rail line today

President Muhammadu Buhari will today commission the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge rail line, running through Kogi, Edo and Delta states, with commercial operations on the line expected to commence.

The rail service has 12 stations with two located between Itakpe, Ajaokuta and Warri. They include Itakpe; Eganiy; Adobe; Itogbo; Agenebode; Uromi; Egehen; Igbanke; Agbor; Abraka; Okpara and Ujewu.

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is expected to  lead the Federal Government delegation to the event.

The 276 kilometres rail line, otherwise known as the Central Railway line, was originally designed for the transportation of Iron ore to Ajaokuta (Kogi) and Aladja Steel Rolling mills (Delta State). It was also designed to transport processed steel to the port in Warri, Delta.

The Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway project was first awarded in 1987, the project was initially planned to be delivered in 5 years. However it was abandoned for 33 years due to paucity of funds. The construction of the Itakpe-Warri railway line was abandoned after 254 kilometres had been constructed.

The inauguration of the Itakpe-Warri rail line is a significant feat worth celebrating, as the rail line was mooted about 33 years but was abandoned. Although in 2009, the construction of the Itakpe-Warri railway line was reactivated, with the Goodluck Jonathan led Federal government then approving the redesign and completion of the remaining 22 kilometers. But under President Buhari’s administration, it has been completed and will be running. This has set the pace for many more projects to be completed in the Niger Delta region.

It is another demonstration of the commitment of the Buhari administration to develop the Niger Delta.  The Warri-Itakpe rail line is one of the achievements under the Niger Delta New Vision of the Buhari administration.

The contractors who constructed the rail line are China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCEC), Technique Engineering Architecture Marketing (TEAM) and Julius Berger who have lived up to expectations in terms of quality delivery on the project. They have since concluded their jobs, which they did well and met the desired structure for the rail line, of which the project will be effectively managed by the Nigeria Railway Commission (NRC).

In July, the largest station on the Itakpe-Warri route – the Agbor railway facility and station, was named after former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The rail station will resume commercial activities after the commissioning as soon as discussions are concluded between Dangote and Bua cement. Also, the Ajaokuta steel company and other manufacturers around the railway area are also expected to move their products through the train.

FG, China sign $3.9b agreement for Itakpe-Abuja railway, Warri seaport

The Federal Government has signed a $3.9 billion agreement with a Chinese firm for the construction of railway from Itakpe to Abuja and construction of seaport in Warri.

The agreement, which is Public Private Partnership (PPP), will have Nigeria cover 15 percent of the entire cost of the project while China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) will cover 10 per cent.

The Nation reported that remaining 75 per cent, according to the Federal Government, will be borrowed by the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).

To repay the 75 percent loan, the Federal government revealed that the rail would be managed by the CRCC for 30 years after which it would be handed over to the federal government.

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi explained that the government decided to opt for PPP agreement so as to reduce the debt from loans borrowed.

He disclosed these in Abuja on Thursday during the signing of PPP railway agreement for Abuja- Lokoja rail project and construction of Warri seaport between the federal government and a delegation from CRCC led by its Vice President, Wang Wenzhong

Amaechi said: “The signing ceremony that we have today is the first PPP railway agreement for Abuja- Itakpe or Abuja-Baru-Itakpe and Lokoja and it is between Nigeria and CRCC. The agreement is to be 15% Nigeria equity and 10percent CRCC equity and then we will borrow 75 percent as SPV from the Chinese bank.

“We will give them sovereign guarantee and they will give us performance bond that protects our sovereign guarantee. When they finish construction, they will manage for 30 years. When they recover their money, the ownership of the asset will revert back to the government of Nigeria. The 15 percent covered by us will be paid gradually.

“The entire railway for now in Nigeria is constructed by CRCC. I think that the good working relationship we have had with CRCC is the reason we have not been able to engage other companies.”

On transfer of technology and knowledge, the Minister said there was need for the Chinese firm to engage Nigerian engineers and contractors.

He said: “We need you to work with us to develop the knowledge of Nigerians and that is why we emphasized on the universities we are asking you to build. We are expecting that not only will you build, you will provide us with lecturers until we can train our own lecturers.

“Literally, all the railway activities in Nigeria are handled by Chinese firm. The Abuja-Kaduna that is completed was done by CCECC, and the Lagos Ibadan that is nearing completion is also handled by the Chinese.”

Giving update on the Lagos-Ibadan rail, Amaechi said: “I hope they (CCECC) will be able to complete the project before the deadline. We need you to complete it quickly and we have told you that by February, legally by law, the contract signed would have expired. I hope you will complete before that time so that we can commence commercial activities.”