By Garba Shehu
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday laid the foundation stone of the Kano-Abuja sector of the Lagos-Kano railway modernization project.
The Lagos-Kano rail project is part of the 25-year vision approved by the Federal Government for the rail transportation in 2002.
The contract for it was signed on October 30, 2002 and assigned to a Chinese company, China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).
On October 22, 2009, CCECC and the Federal Ministry of Transportation signed a supplementary agreement for the implementation of the Abuja-Kaduna segment, which was completed, commissioned and put to use by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
On August 28, 2012, the government signed another supplementary agreement for Lagos-Ibadan, the second segment of the corridor for the construction of double track railway of 156.8 kilometers.
In addition to this, the CCECC and the government of Nigeria agreed on December 26, 2016 for the extension of this rail line to Apapa port, adding a distance of 8.57 kilometers.
Given the seriousness attached to the provision of super critical infrastructure projects, the Buhari administration dusted off these agreements and commended actual execution.
In June this year, the President was in Lagos to commission this project and officially place it at the service of Nigerians.
In the same vein, the proposed Kano-Ibadan was signed in April 2019, and the segment traverses Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Niger, Abuja, Kaduna and Kano States.
This segment, it was agreed, will be implemented in three addendums: Ibadan-Minna, 460 kilometers, Minna-Abuja, 127 kilometers and the now to be commenced, Kano-Kaduna segment covering a distance of 203 kilometers.
This is an important passenger transportation corridor to connect the Northern and the Southern parts of Nigeria. The Kano-Kaduna segment of this project passes through important cities and towns in the North like Kaduna, Jaji, Zaria and Kano, and there is a dense population along the line.
This line will undertake passenger exchange in various cities and towns between the capital of Nigeria and the largest city in the North, Kano. Therefore, this project is an important passenger transportation corridor to connect the main cities in the Northern Nigeria, and in due course, the major towns down South.
This project is going to form an important part of the West African railway network. The 15 ECOWAS states are committed to a subregional railway network. It is hoped that it will connect to the Niger Republic railway through the Kano-Maradi rail standard gauge rail line which construction the President kick-started a few months ago.
This project will be a trunk railway line in Nigeria and also an important part of the West African railway network. Upon completion, this project will promote development in the north and rest of the country, and will create a condition for economic cooperation, material and personnel exchange with the surrounding countries.
The completion of this line is therefore significant to Nigeria and the Western African subregion.
As stated above, this project is a trunk line of the national railway of Nigeria, an important part of regional network backbone system, a convenient channel and important passenger transportation corridor for passenger and freight exchange between cities in the country and an important part of the West African railway network.
When completed, this line is expected to meet the demands for the development of national economy, and it will open an efficient and convenient railway channel for import and export of goods in Nigeria and passenger exchange along the line.
It will provide an efficient and high-quality traffic means for the sustainable and rapid development of regional and the national economy, strengthen the cooperation and exchange between regions and further drive the development of traditional industry and domestic industrialization process, so as to promote the sustainable development of economy along the whole line and even in the whole nation.
This line connects Kano, the important industrial city in the north of Nigeria and passes through Zaria and connects to the capital Abuja and the coastal city Lagos via the modern railway. At present, there is an existing narrow gauge railway in the channel of Lagos-Kano, but it has a poor line condition and limited transportation capacity.
The passenger and freight transportations between the South and the North are mainly undertaken by highway. The economic contact between cities in the North and all other parts of the country is restricted by unwanted conditions, forming a situation of limiting transportation.
The South of Nigeria has relatively developed economy and high urbanization rate, while the north is dominated by agriculture and animal husbandry, with a weak economic foundation.
This line will strengthen the contact and exchange between the areas with backward economy and the external economic environment, drive the economic development in the backward area and play an extremely important role to make up for the unevenness of economic and social development between regions.
Therefore, the construction of this line should hopefully strengthen the economic contact between the north and south of Nigeria and realize the exchange of materials and personnel, and strengthen the coordinative development of regional economy in the north.
Another important aspect of the new railway which the construction starts today is that it meets the demand for the formation of a green transportation channel in Nigeria. There is a relatively fragile ecological environment along the line in this project, and highway transportation does not only have low transportation capacity and high transportation cost, but also high energy consumption and emission of environment-polluting waste gases.
The existing narrow gauge railway has low traveling speed of trains and low transportation capacity, which mars the railway transportation efficiency. With this project, it is expected that the standard gauge railway technology, in comparison with the expressway, will offer with a large-capacity, convenient, land saving, energy saving, environment-friendly, safe and green way of transportation. This should improve the atmospheric quality substantially, improve water quality and reduce pollution greatly along the line.
Lastly, it is to be noted that completed Abuja-Kaduna Railway is only 186km long, which seriously restricts the transportation capacity. The Kaduna-Kano Railway will provide the northward extension of Abuja-Kaduna Railway, and after completion, the length of Abuja-Kano will be 390km, which will greatly improve the transportation efficiency of Abuja-Kano Railway, and meet the demand for medium to long-distance and large-density transportation service.
The Kano-Kaduna Standard Gauge railway will improve mobility in the country as well as ensure seamless movement of passenger and freight trains on the Lagos-Kano rail link.
Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity.