The Vice President, Arc Mohammed Namadi Sambo has laid the track of the Abuja-Kaduna fast train, signifying the official commencement of the track laying of the Abuja-Kaduna railway modernization project.
Vice President Sambo who performed the ceremony at the Idu area of Abuja on Thursday, stressed that the project was part of President Goodluck Jonathan's people oriented projects aimed at touching the lives of Nigerians, emphasising that “as you are fully aware, this Administration accords top priority to the development of infrastructure as a component of the Transformation Agenda as well as the Vision 20:2020.”
“In that regard, several projects covering critical sectors in transportation like Roads, Waterways, Aviation, and in Power Supply, Housing and the development of critical projects and programmes are being undertaken by this Administration and are at various stages of completion. This is an administration that keeps to its promises, he further said.
According to Vice President Sambo the funding of the project had been steady, particularly enhanced through the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) and also with the $500 million concessionary loan from China EXIM Bank, which is co- financing the project.
The Vice President expressed regret over the neglect of the rail sector, spanning over 30 years. He however, maintained that with the articulation of the 25 years Strategic Rail Vision and in partnership with the private sector, the railways would return back to its glorious days.
“Therefore in our efforts to ensure adequate funding for the Transformation Agenda, Government has created the enabling environment for the private sector to play significant roles. This Administration is determined to concession the railway facilities upon completion. Similarly, opportunities abound for Foreign Direct Investments in this important sector,” he stated.
Vice President Sambo commended Messrs China Civil Engineering & Construction Company (CCECC) Nigeria Limited, the project handlers on their efforts at ensuring its timely completion.
In his remarks the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, stated that the project was part of the Strategic plan to rejuvenate, modernise and revitalise the comatose rail transport system. He noted that the Kaduna-Abuja Rail project is the first segment of the Lagos to Kano Standard Gauge Rail line, adding that when completed and operational it would enable people to live in Kaduna and work in Abuja.
He said that the project had reached 68 per cent completion stage, comprising of earthworks, hydraulic structures (concrete drains and culverts) railway bridges; box bridges; precast T-beams for bridges; and over pass bridges.
Senator Umar, also said that seven new standard gauge lines are being developed, using the Public-Private Partnership strategy. He enumerated them to include, the Lagos-Benin City (300km); Benin-Abakiliki (500km); Benin Obudu Cattle Ranch (673km); Lagos-Abuja high speed (615km); Zaria-Birnin Koni (520km); Ega nyi-Otukpo (533km); and Ega nyi-Abuja. He further stated that other projects in the pipeline were the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri; Ogoja-Maiduguri; Kano-Gamboru Ngala; Kano-Jibia and Ilela-Minna rail lines.
He used the opportunity to express gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Sambo for their commitment and support to the revitalisation of the rail system in the country.
Highlights of the event include goodwill messages from the National Assembly and the Managing Director of CCECC. In his goodwill message, the Senate Committee Chairman on Land Transport, Senator Sahabi Yau, said that the legislature and the executive are partners in progress, adding that the project was a testimony that government under the leadership of President Jonathan was working. On his part the Managing Director of CCECC, Mr. Shi Hongbing, said that the project had employed over 4000 Nigerians and would on completion provide jobs for over 5000 Nigerians who would be trained in various skills relating to the operation and maintenance of facilities.
The event was graced by several government functionaries from the executive and legislative arms of government including the private sector.