President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday commissioned the Abuja – Kaduna railway track started and almost completed by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, and flagged off the Abuja-Kaduna train services, in what is Nigeria’s first ever standard gauge rail track to go into operation.
“This project was conceived by a previous administration, started by the last government and I am pleased to complete and commission it,” the President said, an acknowledgement that Mr. Jonathan’s governnent was not only about bad governance, theft and corruption.
Mr. Buhari, who was overthrown in a 1985 military coup before coming back to power in a democratic process in 2015, said “it is on record that between 1963 and early ‘80s, Nigeria had a vibrant rail system which conveyed agricultural and livestock and solid mineral resources to Lagos and Port Harcourt sea ports from where they are exported to other parts of the world”.
“It is our vision and hope that those good old days will soon be back with us and indeed in a more prosperous way with the restoration of rail transport system which today’s occasion symbolises,” he said.
He said the construction of the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge rail track commenced in 2009 and “happily, sixteen years after, we are on the threshold of presenting to Nigerians a Standard Gauge Railway Train Service that will be safe, fast and reliable”.
The Abuja-Kaduna train service will provide the much needed alternative transport link between the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna State, a corridor which has a huge potential for industries, agricultural activities and a growing labour force, the President said.
He tried to also take some credit, saying that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and his team “have put great efforts in the last few months to ensure the successful completion of this project under this Administration”.
“Completion and Commissioning of this project is indeed in keeping with our vision of bringing about the desired change to make life easier for the generality of Nigerians through the development and provision of the necessary social and physical infrastructure,” he said.
Mr. Buhari assured Nigerians that most State capitals and major commercial and production centres will be linked with railway system as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of the Nigerians and promoting social and regional integration.
“Furthermore, I wish to also reassure Nigerians that due attention will be placed on pursuing the 25-Year Strategic Railway Master Plan which is aimed at rehabilitating the existing 3,505km narrow gauge rail line and developing and constructing new standard gauge rail lines across the country,” he promised.
He added: “As we celebrate the symbolic return of rail service today I wish to reiterate the commitment of this Administration to pursue with greater vigour and determination rehabilitation and construction of other rail lines including the major Lagos-Calabar and Kano-Lagos lines.
“As we get down to work, I look forward to flagging off many more lines outlined in our transport policy programme”.
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