*Rail project’ll boost regional integration, economic growth –Ambode
By Adeyemi Robinson-Adefioye, Lagos
Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday said that the Federal Government was committed to delivering a fast and efficient rail service system between Lagos and Ibadan within a projected time frame of December 2018.
Osinbajo, who spoke at the Ground Breaking Ceremony of the Segment II Lagos-Ibadan Rail Project with Extension to Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, held at the Nigerian Railway Corporation compound, Ebute-metta, recalled that President Buhari, during his visit to China in January 2016, reopened negotiation on the Chinese support for the project under the Lagos-Kano modernization project.
He said the ground breaking ceremony marked the commencement of the government’s plan to move speedily to improve transport links with Lagos, the national economic nerve centre and major port to other state capital across the country.
“An active and vibrant railway system confers many benefits on the society. 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 up to 3.2 million tonnes of cargo per annum.
“It will also reduce the burden on national high ways, thus reducing deterioration of the road networks and increasing the life span of our roads. Railway network will support efforts to diversify the economy and enhance our export potentials. Just as several of our cities became known as railway towns in the past we expect to boost economic activities within the railway lines that will eventually cut across the entire country,” Osinbajo said.
In his goodwill message, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode said that the proposed extension of the Lagos-Ibadan Rail Project would go a long way to open up the economy of the South West region as well as facilitate regional integration and growth.
He said the project also marked a new dawn in the transformation of the nation’s transport infrastructure, especially for the South West region.
Expressing delight that the take-off had become a reality, the Governor said aside boosting regional integration, the agricultural sector would receive the long awaited boost as the rail line will be a fast and convenient means of transporting farm produce from the hinterland to the city thereby increasing the economies of the States.
He said: “A direct benefit of this project is that containers and goods from the Apapa Port will now be transported by rail thereby reducing the number of trailers and other heavy duty vehicles on our roads.
“A direct consequence of this project would be less productive man hours wasted on the roads due to traffic gridlock and bad roads due to heavy duty vehicles. In addition, we expect government to expend fewer resources on road repair and maintenance once the rail line takes off and reduce the pressure of articulated vehicles on our roads.”
While thanking President Buhari for approving the Right of Way for the proposed Red Line Light Rail Project by his administration, Governor Ambode also implored the Nigeria Railway Cooperation to cooperate with the State Government during the construction of the Red Line.
“We thank the Federal Government of Nigeria under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari for prioritizing this landmark project which will greatly complement our efforts to deliver a transport system that is befitting of a modern city state. It is also important to note that the Lagos Red Line rail will share the same corridor and Right Of Way with the Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan Rail Line.
“We thank the Federal Government for grating approval for the Right of Way for the Red Line. I want to use this opportunity to implore the Federal Government particularly the Nigeria Railway Corporation to cooperate with us during the construction of the Red Line as we work with them to make the Lagos Abeokuta Rail a big success,” Governor Ambode said.
Earlier, Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, said on assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari prioritised the completion of rail projects across the country and challenged the Ministry to hit the ground running to ensure that the project is delivered in record time.
The ceremony was witnessed by several dignitaries including the Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, his Oyo State counterpart, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, members of the Federal Executive Council, members of the State Executive Council, members of the Diplomatic Corps, traditional rulers, stakeholders in the transport industry, among others.