President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the 326 KM Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation as well as the ancillary facilities yard, at the recently named Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex in Agbor (Owa-Oyibu), Delta State.
At the virtual opening of the rail line linking Itakpe to Warri, President 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.
He said he had 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 President enjoined all Nigerians in the transportation industry, especially the railway sub-sector, to continue to support Government in its stride to achieve other railway infrastructure projects.
He implore those who work on the line to uphold maintenance and safety culture necessary for long-lasting service in this difficult terrain.
President 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 Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his team on successfully completing the project, the President recognized the host communities on this corridor for their patience during the long wait of over 30 years for the realization of the project.
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.
Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa commended President Buhari’s bi-partisan approach to governance, saying ‘‘it is a thing of pride and joy that this rail line was completed under your watch.
Okowa urged the private sector to take advantage of the historic corridor by establishing investments that will create jobs for locals, curb youth restiveness and stem the tide of criminality.
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki congratulated the President on the feat of completing the project, saying it is quite fortuitous that few days to the country’s 60th independence celebration, the President has achieved the completion of this critical infrastructure.
The Edo Governor appealed to the minister of transportation to extend the rail line to the industrial park in Benin City to facilitate the movement of goods to the northern part of the country.
In his remarks, Minister of Transport Mr Rotimi Amaechi said the project was fully funded by the Nigerian government, adding that 8 of the 10 stations are in the Niger-Delta/ South South region of the country.
According to the Transportation Minister, 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.