Chris Steven, Abuja
Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Wednesday said President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to modernising the rail network in the country.
He said this while performing the groundbreaking ceremony of the Lagos-Ibadan axis of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail network in Lagos which is awarded at N458 billion.
Osinbajo noted that the project signalled the determination of Buhari administration to modernize the rail network in the nation and ease transportation of goods and people from one point to the other.
His words: “The project signals the determination of our President and Commander-in- Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari to modernize the national rail system in keeping with his promise to the Nigerian people. If there is a project close to the heart of the president, it is the rail project which he promised the nation upon assumption of office.
The President himself made a visit to China, and reopened the negotiations on the Chinese support for this project.
Secondly, this ceremony also marks the commencement of our plan to move speedily to improve links between Lagos which is the national economic nerve center and major port to other state capitals and towns across the country.
Thirdly, our ground breaking today reflects the plans of the Federal Government to build a globally competitive economy with first grade infrastructure. The critical role of infrastructure, and for this purpose railways, in this strategy is underscored by our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, as well as the 2016 and 2017 budgets.
We have made provisions for matching funds in the 2016 budget to complement the concessionary loans taken from the Peoples Republic of China, and our appreciation goes to the Chinese Government and the Chinese Exim Bank, who are, and have always proved to be reliable partners to Nigeria.
And some may be aware that we have the entire Lagos-Kano standard gauge track as well as the Lagos-Calabar railway track in the 2017 budget, negotiations on the Kaduna-Kano portion of the track is now completed and this phase is next in line.
We have already provided our portion for funding Lagos-Calabar rail as well and we expect that negotiations on the foreign component of the funding will be finalized in the next three months and that the Lagos-Calabar project as well will come on stream.
An active and vibrant railway system confers many benefits on the society and our ultimate goal is to restore a railway-using culture for both commercial and personal transportation. We are confident that the national rail project will create up to half a million jobs and facilitate the movement of over 3.2 million tonnes of cargo per annum.
It will also reduce the burden on national highways, thus reducing the deterioration of the road network and increasing the lifespan of our roads. Indeed by helping to reduce freight cost, the railway network will support efforts to diversify the economy and enhance our export potential”.
Osinbajo stressed that the project would also boost economic activities in the towns it would pass.