Paul Osuyi, Asaba
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday inaugurated Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line and Railway Ancillary Facility Yard at Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex, Owa-Oyibu, Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State.
The President, in a virtual inauguration ceremony, directed the Federal Ministry of Transportation to link all the nation’s seaports of origin and destination – Apapa, Tin Can, Warri, Onne, Calabar – to the rail network in order to significantly improve overall transportation and economic capacities.
He said 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 it 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,” he said.
The president expressed confidence that the project, which served as a vital link of the South-South geopolitical zone of the country to the Northern zones, would be completed by his administration.
”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.
He restated that to further give recognition to Nigerian sons and daughters who had distinguished themselves at nation-building and development, 11 railway stations and railway villages were named after some deserving citizens.
Buhari listed them as 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, Owa-Oyibu; David Ejoor Station, Abraka; Michael Ibru Station, Okpara; Alfred Rewane Station, Ujevwu and Michael Akhigbe Railway Village, Agbor.
In their separate remarks Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and his Edo counterpart, Godwin Obaseki lauded the President for completing the project which started in 1987 under the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida.
Okowa particularly commended the President for his bi-partisan approach to governance, and pledged that the state would collaborate relevant stakeholders, including the private sector, to initiate programmes and policies that would stimulate economic production in the adjoining communities and harness the untapped potential of the youth population.
Minister of Transport, Rotimi March had said that the project was fully funded by the Nigerian government, adding that eight of the 10 stations on the line were 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.
He added that 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.