FORMER Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi has said the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan initiated the rail project executed by President Muhammadu Buhari in Niger Republic.
Amaechi was reacting to insinuations that the project was a misplaced priority given Nigeria’s economic challenges.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard Newspaper, published on Tuesday, November 22, the former minister said Buhari’s administration met the design by his predecessor and implemented it.
He said, “It is their choice, but don’t forget that we belong to many international organisations as a country. One of the international organisations we belong to is called the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS). That is an ECOWAS project that was signed under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. We just met it at the table.
“We met the design and had to follow it up by implementing it. So what is the misplaced priority here when we have an agreement with ECOWAS and they expect Nigeria as a country to do the railroad up to the Niger Republic? How can it be misplaced?”
The former minister further explained that the said rail project is ” just 45 kilometres into the Niger Republic”.
“Even if we cut off the 45 kilometres, are they saying that we shouldn’t do rail projects in other parts of Nigeria? Assume the route is no longer Kano-Maradi but Kano-Jibia because Jibia is in Nigeria, is it wrong to build rail from Kano to Jibia? It is only from Jibia to Maradi that there are 45 kilometres”, he said.
Amaechi added that the rail project would facilitate trade which he said was a big issue in the African continent.
“What those Nigerians who feel the rail project to Niger is a waste should ask themselves is why all the other neighbouring landlocked countries use Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana, and Ivory Coast and not Nigeria?
“This is because there are many customs and police checkpoints, as well as criminal checkpoints and other setbacks that they carefully avoid. And so the cost of doing business has become very high, and our ports are not able to compete with those of ordinary Benin Republic.
“However, in order to get our seaports to a competitive advantage, we have to ensure that we are able to provide the critical infrastructure that will enable those landlocked states to use our seaports, and the only infrastructure that can enable the use of our seaports is to build a rail line. That is what we did”, he said.