Boost for haulage, human movement as Buhari flags off Lagos-Ibadan rail services
…roads cordoned off, residents trek long distances, markets shut for president
It might well be a new dawn for haulage services and human movement in and out of two Nigerian major cities – Ibadan and Lagos following the inauguration of commercial services on double-track standard gauge rail covering about 156 kilometres by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
The project which cost over $1.5 billion was financed by the Chinese Government with Federal Government providing counterpart funding. The rail line will cut travel time by two hours.
Africa’s biggest economy continues to rely on decrepit road infrastructure for the movement of goods and people as its rail system which thrived during the colonial era up till the early 1970s, had been left to collapse.
Over the last ten years, the Nigerian government has, however, been seen making efforts to revive and launch the rail system back to national consciousness as contracts worth several millions of dollars awarded to upgrade rail tracks, build new stations and acquire coaches for operations across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari, while inaugurating the Lagos-Ibadan rail commercial services, at the Mobolaji Johnson Railway Station in Ebute Metta, Lagos, on Thursday, described it as a milestone in railway transport revival in Nigeria.
“This is another milestone in the drive of this administration to revitalise the railway system and establish it as a choice mode of transportation for passengers and freight,’’ he said.
He pledged his administration would continue to prioritise the railway system as a transportation backbone that could transform industrial and economic activity in the country.
On the benefits of the Lagos-Ibadan corridor as well as other ongoing railway projects across the country, the president said “this vital line establishes an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport within its short corridor, Lagos – Ibadan’’.
He explained that goods coming into the hinterland would now be transported by rail directly from the Apapa Port Quayside straight to the Inland Container Depot, located in Ibadan from where it can be distributed to other parts of the country.
“In clear recognition of the challenges posed to our economic growth by the absence of strong and effective infrastructure, we have embarked on the completion of the outstanding segment of the Lagos – Kano railway, which is Ibadan – Kano.
“The Lagos – Kano railway project, when completed, will link the Kano – Maradi line at Kano and a rail link from the Nigeria southern ports of Lagos to Maradi in 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 will be beneficial to the economy through employment from new business opportunities and wealth creation,’’ the president said.
The president expressed delight that his directive to the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Finance on reaching financial agreements with appropriate co-financiers to partner with the Federal Government for the development of the Ibadan – Kano railway was yielding results.
Buhari said the Ibadan – Kano project would have a connection to the Tin Can Island port and the West– East Coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar linking Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo.
“From the beginning of this administration, railway infrastructure development has been given the priority it deserves.
“Various milestones have been reached, right from when the Abuja – Kaduna railway was flagged-off for commercial operation in 2016 to this Lagos – Ibadan railway project being commissioned today for full commercial operation.”
Buhari commended the minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and his team, for their drive and tenacity in achieving the milestone. ,
The president shortly after inaugurating the project took a ride from Ebute Metta Station to Energy Nature Light, Terminal, Apapa Port, Lagos. He was joined by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, governors of Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Kayode Fayemi, Seyi Makinde, and Dapo Abiodun respectively, and Rotimi Amaechi, minister of Transport, and Gbemisola Saraki, minister of State for Transport, among others.
Meanwhile, Buhari’s presence in Lagos unleashed untold hardship on thousands of residents who had to trek long distances to their destinations as some roads, including Ojuelegba inward Tejuosho and Yaba, Herbert Macaulay Way and Murtala Mohammed Way, and part of Oyingbo were cordoned off as early as 7 am by security personnel as part of security measures to protect the president.
Also affected were the Main Tejuosho Market and all adjoining markets within the Yaba axis, as they were locked up with traders unable to access their shops and stalls for a better part of the day.