President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday virtually inaugurated the 326 Km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation and directed the Ministry of Transportation to ensure that all the nation’s ports are linked to the rail line.
He listed the ports of origin and destination to be linked to the rail network to include Apapa, Tin Can, Warri, Onne, and Calabar Ports.
The presidential aide also quoted the President as saying that he had approved the prioritisation of viable railway routes in the country.
He also directed that the Itakpe-Warri rail line should be extended to the northern region of the country before the expiration of his tenure in 2023.
The President said, “Accordingly, I have approved the prioritisation 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.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement titled “After 30 years in limbo, Buhari inaugurated 326Km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation.”
“At the virtual opening of the rail line linking Itakpe to Warri, Buhari directed 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 in order to significantly improve 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,” the statement read.
According to the statement, the President expressed confidence that the project, which serves as a vital link of South-South geopolitical zones of the country to the Northern zones, would be completed during the tenure of this 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.
Buhari enjoined all Nigerians in the transportation industry, especially the railway sub-sector, to continue to support the government in its stride to achieve other railway infrastructure projects.
He also enlisted the support of all at realising this milestone of a functional and full-fledged central railway, after more than 30 years during which the project has suffered several setbacks and false starts.
”I implore those who work on this line to uphold the 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.
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, Rotimi Amaechi, and his team on successfully completing the project, the President recognised 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 of 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.