By Adeyinka Aderibigbe, Oyebola Owolabi and Faith Yahaya
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday opened the 157 kilometre-Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway Line for full commercial operations.
He described the project as another milestone to revitalise the rail infrastructure and improve socio-economic activities.
The president called for stakeholder engagement on the commencement of the Ibadan-Kano corridor.
The opening ceremony held at the Mobolaji Johnson Station in Ebute Metta.
Shortly after he inaugurated the project, President Buhari took a ride from Mobolaji Johnson station in Ebute Metta to Energy Nature Light (ENL), Terminal, Apapa Port, Lagos.
The President, who reiterated that his administration had prioritised railway infrastructure development, thanked the Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi for his tenacity to achieve the milestone.
He said: “This signals yet another milestone in the drive of this administration to revitalise the railway system, establish it as a choice mode of transportation for both passengers and freight, and position it as a transportation backbone that can transform industrial and economic activity in the country.
“This vital line establishes an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport within its short corridor, Lagos – Ibadan.
“Goods to the hinterland would now be transported by rail directly from the Apapa port Quayside straight to the Inland Container Depot in Ibadan from where it can be distributed to other parts of the country.
“Further to other ongoing railway infrastructure projects, we have embarked on the completion of the outstanding segment of the Lagos-Kano railway (Ibadan-Kano).
“The Lagos-Kano railway project, when completed, will link the Kano-Maradi line at Kano, and a rail link from the southern ports of Lagos to Maradi in the Niger Republic will be achieved.
“The connection through rail would position Nigerian ports as the choice for import and export business of the people of landlocked Niger Republic
“This would be beneficial to the economy through employment from new business opportunities and wealth creation.
“The Federal Ministries of Transportation and of Finance have been directed to vigorously act on engagement and reaching financial agreements with appropriate co-financiers to partner the Federal Government for the development of the Ibadan-Kano railway and the connection to the Tin Can Island port, as well as the West-East Coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar linking Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo…”
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who spoke for his Ogun State (Dapo Abiodun) and Oyo State (Seyi Makinde) counterparts, said the railway project is a testament to the Buhari administration’s commitment to delivering transformational infrastructure in every part of the country.
He said Lagos had been working closely with the Federal Government in its efforts to provide qualitative infrastructure development for the people’s socio-economic benefit.
Sanwo-Olu thanked President Buhari, Amaechi and others for their contributions in making the project a reality.
Amaechi said approval to begin construction of the Kano-Kaduna rail line has been secured.
According to him, stations along the Lagos-Ibadan rail line were named after notable personalities, and 1,000 houses were demolished in Ogun State in the course of construction.
Chairman of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Board, Alhassan Ibrahim, said the event was the first time a rail project would be started and opened by the same administration.
He said Nigerians share a common interest in the infrastructure for their benefit.
The Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China to Nigeria, Ciu Jianchun, and Chairman of CCECC, Nigeria, Jiang Yigao, thanked the government of their country for providing funding for the project, saying the infrastructure would enhance socio-economic development and improve the quality of life of Nigerians.
President Buhari also inaugurated the Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency’s (NIMASA) deep blue security project in Apapa.