Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has opened up on Nigeria’s Multimodal integrated railway development plan even as he hailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s strides in the transportation sector as key to unlocking Nigeria’s economic development potentials.
Amaechi said, linking different transportation infrastructure like rails to seaports and roads as is being done by the current administration will quickly drive the economy of the country upwards.
The minister said this while delivering the Founders’ day lecture at his alma mater, the University of Port Harcourt, Monday, titled, ‘The role of Transportation in nation building.’
Amaechi said transportation is about logistics. The duty of transportation is to contribute to the different spheres of economic development. Its absence will cripple an economy and dwarf human and economic development.
“Transportation in Nigeria is a means of economic and political growth in the development of Nigeria. The impact is felt in tourism, real estate development, agriculture and others. Transportation currently contributes about 3 percent of the gross domestic product according to the Nigerian Bureau for statistics”, he said.
He went down history lane to explain the importance of linking different transportation modes, stating that by 1916, the Port Harcourt port had been connected to the Coal mines in Enugu, with the objective of evacuating coal to Britain.
Outlining the work being done in connecting the country for ease of transportation of products, goods and people, Amaechi said the Eastern rail line would be connected to the Western line via Karfanchan, while the Warri-Itakpe line would be connected to the same line via Abuja and onwards to Kaduna-Kano.
“The Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line was extended to Bonny, on the way to Bonny, it’ll pass through the Ogoni axis and terminate at Onne Seaport; then from Port Harcourt to Owerri, it’ll pass through Ubima with a connecting line to the Western line at Karfanchan. The Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line is also extended to Damaturu and Gashua in Yobe State. What makes this line unique, is that you’ll have a University and an Industrial Park in Rivers State.
“Hopefully the segment from Ibadan to Kano will commence this year”, he added.
For Seaports, Amaechi said, “you can’t have an efficient transportation system without seaports. You must end at the seaports for importation of goods or export to boost your economy. For this reason, President Buhari has approved the construction of three major seaports. The first one is Lekki deep seaport. It’s under construction and will be completed in 2022. The second one is at Bonny, and we’ll commence construction later this year. We chose Bonny because, it is right there at the ocean. So we don’t have a problem with the draft. Even if we get 14-15 metres, we can dredge up to 2-3 metres more and we get 17, than to get just 10 in Port Harcourt. The deepest in Nigeria for now is the Onne seaport with 11-12 metres draft.
“But these days, vessels of 11metres draft have been abandoned for those of 16-17 metres. That’s the reason why we go to the high sea for transfer of cargoes to vessels with lower draft size. So these three new seaports will have the capacity to take vessels of 16-17 metres draft. The third seaport is at Warri and another one is being done by the Akwa Ibom State government with a private investor. “I believe that with these seaports and rail lines, we’ll move from 3 percent GDP contribution to between 6 and 10 percent”, Amaechi said.
He also noted plans for sustainability of the projects being put in place by the Buhari administration. “When Nigerians ask of our plans for sustainability and maintenance of these projects, my response is ‘transfer of technology.’ So the Chinese cannot just come here and dump the technology on us. We insisted that they create a Transportation University for us. We told them, for 5 years, you hire lecturers, pay the lecturers, let them train our people who will take over from them, and that is what we’re doing in Daura, Katsina State. For the one in Rivers State, I felt that Transportation University in Daura is enough, so we told the Portugese company that will build the Kano-Maradi line to come to Port Harcourt and build a Multi-disciplinary University with different faculties, including a transport faculty. Before September, we will start construction.
“As a short term measure, we also sent 300 Nigerians for training in China. They are being trained in railway engineering. This year, in September, we’ll be sending another 300 to Portugal to study the technology in the building of the Kano-Maradi rail line, which is purely European.”
For maritime security, Amaechi said the deep blue project will be in full effect before the end of the year, adding “We plan to launch the security personnel into the water before June.
He also assured Nigerians that the Federal Government has not abandoned the planned coastal rail, adding negotiations are still on to secure funding for the Lagos-Calabar rail line.
Second Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt and Chairman of the Founders’ day celebration, Prof SJS Cookey lauded the minister for his contribution to the growth of the country as Minister of Transportation and acknowledged him for continuing to give back to the University years after graduation.
Acting Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof Stephen. A Okodudu in his speech said the University of Port Harcourt founded in 1975 has come of age.
He thanked the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi for the lecture and for always taking advantage of every opportunity to market the university.