President Buhari has virtually commissioned the Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri Rail Line and the Railway Ancillary Facility Yard for Commercial Operation.
Speaking during the commissioning, the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi says ninety percent of the Warri- Itakpa railway is domiciled in the Niger Delta.
Amaechi said 9 out of 11 stations of the railway were in Delta and Exo, while two were in Logo, nothing that discounted naysayers who feel the President has done nothing for the Niger Delta region.
“This project that we are here to celebrate and commission started in 1987 during the Military era but underwent protracted hiccups and prolonged abandonment which attest to more than 3 decades of investment, hope and despair, Amaechi said.
He further sais that the project, with a passion to realize for Nigeria, an effective and efficient transportation especially, the railways, was resuscitated by this administration.
The statement read partially, “Historically, this project conceived 33 years ago, started with the linkage of Itakpe Iron Ore Mines with Ajaokuta Steel Mill and extended to Aladja, Warri in the South-South zone of the Country by the contract awarded in 1991 for the extension. 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.
He further said that with the priority attached to the provision of railway infrastructure by President Buhari and in readiness to complete this project, the Federal Government in August, 2017 approved the contract for the reconstruction of the 54 Kilometer of the Itakpe – Ajaokuta section of the rail line, construction of 12 ultra modern station buildings as well as intermodal bus terminal in Itakpe Station was awarded to Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited. Also the construction of siding tracks to service the buildings in the Ancillary Yard including locomotive workshop, Rolling stock depot, maintenance workshop, fueling depot, goods platform in this facility yard was awarded to the contractor. The Government also approved the completion of other structures including admin block, communication towers, medical bay, quarters for workers within this railway ancillary facilities yard to Messrs. Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.
“Today, we are looking at a brand new, modern, fully fitted functional railway of 326 Km single track standard gauge railway line.
“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.
On his part, the Delta State Governor, Patrick Okowa, commended the President for his non-partisan approach to governance, while congratulating the Minister of Transportation, for completing the project during his tenure as a Minister. He also commended the present administration for naming the biggest station after former President Jonathan. He further noted that the project has potentials of aiding the revamping of the economies, in the post covid-19 era.
Okowa reiterated the assurance by the Honourable Minister of Transportation to extend the railway project from Itakpa to Abuja and from the Warri station to the seaport.
He urged the people of the state to embrace the project and tap into its economic potentials.