By Ismaila Chafe
The Abuja – Kaduna railway service will be boosted with additional rolling stock on Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.
President Muhammadu Buhari made the promise in his New Year broadcast on Monday.
He also announced that negotiations would be concluded in the first part of 2018 for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri railway line.
The rail line covers Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu.
He said the Abuja to Itakpe railway line would go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.
According to him, negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, “first from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic, passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.
“Secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar.
“In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people,’’ he added.
With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, the president revealed that progress had reached 98 per cent completion, as at 64 per cent completion when he assumed office.
He stated that only test runs remained before start of operations, and expressed hope that the train service would stimulate economic activities in the federal capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system.
He said the 12 railway sub-stations around the capital over a 45.2 kilometre route would serve as a catalyst and a pull factor to the economy of the area.
President Buhari expressed optimism that the light rail system would reduce traffic congestion and carbon emission in line with the administration’s policy on climate change.
On road reconstruction and rehabilitation, the president stated that the Management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) had been reconstituted.
He said the agency had been charged with a 12-week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones.
He further revealed that the Federal Government had embarked on repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.
President Buhari said that 25 major highways would be funded under the N100 billion SUKUK facility.
According to him, each geo-political zone will benefit by an equal amount of N16.67 billion.
“The following major highways are to receive special attention: Oyo – Ogbomosho; Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu; Yenagoa Road Junction – Kolo Otuoke – Bayelsa Palm and Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way.
“Others are Onitsha – Enugu Expressway Kaduna Eastern Bypass; Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road; Dualization of Abuja – Lokoja – Benin Road and the Dualization of Suleja – Minna Road.’’
In addition, according to him, government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano road which is in a state of disrepair.
“Work will soon start and is expected to be completed in 2019,’’ he said.