Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi has defended the 284-kilometre cross-border Kano – Katsina – Jibia – Maradi rail line, describing the project as being executed in the interest of international trade.

Speaking against the backdrop of accusations of tribalism leveled against President Muhammadu Buhari with regards to the project, the transport minister noted the President’s approval for the Kano – Katsina – Jibia – Maradi rail line was stalled for about three years and the President only approved it in compliance with the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme.

Mr. Amaechi was the Speaker at the 2021 Annual Public Lecture of the Department of Economics, University of Lagos which held on Friday, September 24, 2021.

In his lecture titled; “Nigeria’s National Rail Transport Project: Networking, Financing, Challenges and the way forward”, the former Rivers State Governor reaffirmed that the goal of his Ministry is to bequeath a rail transportation system which will be efficient and self-sustaining by 2023.

While reeling out the progress so far made in the Rail Transport subsector, Mr Amaechi noted that the 186-kilometre Abuja-Kaduna line has been a huge success as revenues generated are being used to augment proceeds from the 157- Kilometre Lagos-Ibadan rail line and the 326-kilometre Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway.

The Transport Minister’s presentation which saw him giving an overview of railway projects across the country and its financing strategies as contained in a 25-year Strategic Vision for the Railway decried the over politicization and ethnicization of railway projects in Nigeria.

He also identified environmental issues, decayed infrastructure, obsolete legal framework, dearth of requisite railway professionals and lack of sustainable funding as some of the major challenges impeding the federal government’s efforts in revamping railway transportation in Nigeria.

Mr. Amaechi placed on record that of all railway projects scheduled to be funded with Chinese government loan facilities, only the Lagos-Ibadan rail line has so far been actualized, he added that the Ibadan-Kano rail line is currently being executed from the $200 million budgetary provision as against the expected $5.3 billion Chinese government loan facility.

Discussants at the public lecture which held at the J. F. Ade Ajayi Auditorium of the University included the Chairman of the occasion and retired Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor Ayo Ogunye FAEng, former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor Iyiola Oni, Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, among others, they stressed the need for proper integration of Nigerian experts in all railway construction projects to ensure transfer of knowledge and technology.

In their separate addresses, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Host of the event, Prof. Olufunlayo Bammeke alongside the Head of Department of Economics and Convener; Prof. Wakeel Isola described the annual lecture as part of efforts aimed at driving both academic and practical dialogue towards generating ideas which would further advance the course of development in the transport sector thereby stimulating National development.

The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi was earlier hosted in the office of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos; Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe FAS.

Prof. Ogundipe who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor; Professor Oluwole Familoni alongside other management staff of the University, lauded the giant strides of the Transport ministry describing the achievements so far recorded as a huge feat.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development Services; Professor Ayo Atsenuwa, in her remarks, solicited the support of the Federal Ministry of Transport in further advancing the University’s Centre for Multimodal Transport Studies.

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