President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday inaugurated 326 km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation.
Buhari performed the inauguration ceremony at the recently named Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex in Agbor (Owa-Oyibu), Delta State, joining video link.
The commissioning which include ancillary facilities yard, came about 30 years after it was conceptualized.
The President in his address approved the prioritization of viable railway routes for either new rail lines or the reconstruction and rehabilitation of some, for the purpose of achieving effective and efficient train services.
He therefore 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 further asserted that his administration recognised the importance of the railway mode of transportation as a vital backbone to support industrialization and economic development.
Buhari disclosed that Government has also approved to link the rail line further from Itakpe to Abuja, thereby, connecting the Northern Zone of the country and also extending southwards to link the Warri Ports.
According to him, ”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”
President Buhari congratulated the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his team on successfully completing the project and as well recognized the host communities on this corridor for their patience during the long wait of over 30 years for the realization of the project.
Minister of Transportation in his welcome address said that the project commissioned by Presiddeent Buhari started in 1987 during the Military era, saying it underwent protracted hiccups and prolonged abandonment which attest to more than 3 decades of investment.
According to the Minister, “The project suffered a lot of setbacks even as Government was giving out the railway as collateral element in the iron ore mining and steel plants concession agreement”
“The project was however transferred from Federal Ministry of Mines and Power in June 1996 as a result of Government decision to transform the Itakpe Ajaokuta -Warri Railway to the Nigeria Railway Central line and assigned to it multifunctional role to provide freight movement services to industries in the corridor including agricultural, manufacturing and mining as well as cover passenger services.
“At the collapse of the Iron and Steel industry concession agreement, this railway suffered neglect and experienced massive vandalization of its infrastructure as well as abandonment of construction activities on its ancillary including the one being commissioned today. Therefore, your excellencies, distinguish ladies and gentlemen, the entire project in 2015 was met in a state of decay, abandoned with the entire infrastructure moribund.
“My Ministry is working in line with Mr. President’s directives regarding the prioritized railway lines and concluding negotiation to realize the extension of the rail line to Warri port and Northward to Abuja and also working on other new lines connecting our State Capitals including our commercial and administrative centers” Amaechi said.