You may recall that I commissioned and flagged off the Abuja-Kaduna train service for both Passenger & Freight in July 2016 which was Nigeria’s first ever Standard Gauge train service. I am glad that this service has become very useful to commuters and has since become the preferred mode of transport for the journey between Abuja and Kaduna.
2. In response to the increased demand for this service, we are today launching and commissioning 2 additional locomotives and 10 additional Passenger coaches to improve the service. At the same time, we are flagging off the other leg of the journey. Trains are scheduled to take off at the same time from both Kaduna and Abuja.
3. You may also recall that during the commissioning in 2016, I restated our resolve to vigorously pursue rail development in Nigeria through the implementation of the 25-Year Strategic Railway Master Plan.
4. I am happy that today a number of the projects are progressing very satisfactorily. The Lagos to Ibadan segment of the Lagos to Kano double track standard gauge rail line project is targeted to be completed by the end of the year.
5. The Itakpe to Warri standard gauge central line is expected to be commissioned by July this year and the extension from Itakpe to Abuja is being pursued vigorously.
6. Additional critical projects which I am particularly keen to start include the Coastal Rail line (Lagos-Calabar) with branches to Benin, Agbor and Onitsha; Port Harcourt to Maiduguri Standard guage rail line with branches to Owerri, Awka, Abakaliki, Yola and Damaturu; and Kano – Kazaure – Daura – Katsina – Jibiya to link with Maradi in Niger Republic as part of regional railway interconnectivity in the ECOWAS sub-region.
7. Other supporting projects which have been approved are the procurement of more locomotives, coaches, wagons, workshops and equipment that will be used for new standard gauge lines.
8. By way of encouraging private sector participation in our rail development, negotiation for the concession of the narrow gauge railways with a consortium led by General Electric is in progress. We are looking forward to a more efficient rail service on the narrow gauge lines to be driven by the private sector.
9. It is on the basis of this that we are creating a more conducive environment for private sector participation by strengthening our legal and regulatory frameworks. The necessary Bills namely, Nigeria Railway Authority and National Transport Commission are already before the National Assembly.
10. Let me once again reassure Nigerians that we are strongly committed to linking all major commercial and production centers as well as state capitals with railway systems as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the quality of life of the citizens and promoting national integration.
11. This is not only a statement of intent but a benchmark which we are using to measure the performance of our administration. Our resolve to develop our rail system to a world-class standard remains. To achieve this, I am using this opportunity to solicit the support of all relevant stakeholders especially the National Assembly and our development partners in realizing this objective.
11. Finally, I acknowledge the great efforts and hard work of the Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi and his team for ensuring that we realize our objective of providing a functional and efficient rail system to Nigerians.
Thank you and May God bless all those who ply this route.