Peter Obi
Peter Obi

By Peter Obi


On Monday, the 23rd of December, 2014, we travelled with the Vice President, His Excellency, Arc Namadi Sambo, GCON to Port-Harcourt. The Vice president was there to flag-off rail transport from Port Harcourt, via Umuahia, to Enugu. After the flag-off, some of us on the entourage of Mr. Vice President – the Minister of Transport, Sen. Umar Idris; the Governor of Abia State, Chief Thoedore Orji, the SA to the Vice President, Mallam Abba Dabo, the Minister of the Niger Delta, among others, rode with the Vice President in the train from Port Harcourt to the Imo River Station in Imo State. The ride was significant in many ways.

Peter Obi
Peter Obi

Besides confirming the re-birth of rail transport in Nigeria, it has deeper implications for national productivity. Though it was the first time I entered train in Nigeria, but all of us riding in the train remind one that political leaders all over the world use that mode of transport as Mr. Joe Biden used railway regularly for over 30 years as a Senator from his Constituency in Delaware to Washington until he became the Vice President. I look forward to that day our politician will use train to Abuja and I believe we are on our way to getting there. It was indeed a glorious era because I last saw train in Nigeria as an under graduate in the early 80s

As we rode past several towns, adults and children came out en masse to see the train and wave to the passengers. Observing everything through the window, I said to myself that these people must be in for long conversations later, as it was a mix of the very old and some much younger ones who must be seeing the train for the first time in their lives. I say this because the railways in the country had collapsed for nearly four decades now. But time was when it was a convenient, constant, reliable and very affordable and most secure means of transportation in Nigeria; the way it has remained in some parts of the world. By its very nature, the train is also better in transporting goods from one part of the country to another. Part of the reasons our roads collapsed is because some of the heavy loads that are ideal for the rail are transported by road.

What can be deduced from the foregoing is that civilization is perpetually evolving. Today, the world has, in fact, moved from being a global village to become a global kitchen. Trains now move from one country to another with frightening speed. From behind the key board one can do almost anything conceivable, without travelling from one place to another as used to be the norm. But the point to note here is that nations must be on tip toes to catch up with the speed. If any nation chooses to remain passive, civilization will leave her behind and this is what Nigeria suffered for many years. Oh yes, because for years we seemed to have wings so weak for the flight into the 21st century that we moved from infrastructural stagnation to infrastructural retardation, before finally plunging into the infrastructural decay inherited by the Jonathan era. This is why one can say with certainty that President Jonathan has been facing more challenges than many understand.

Cast your eyes on Nigeria, you will see that this country failed to plan for many years and we are now reaping the fruits of thoughtlessness. Today President Jonathan is working with a holistic template that is transforming everything, backed by focused and continuous planning and re-planning. Nigeria is poised to maintain and surpass the same pace of development we witnessed in the 60.The way Mr. President manages the country today leaves no one in doubt that he is aware of all that needs to be done and is following a clear sequence in all things. The transformation Agenda is, in itself, an acceptance that many things are bad in the country and that we need radical policies to get the country to where others are in the 21st century. If he was not aware of this he might as well have named as catchword for his Government, Consolidation Agenda or even Sustenance Agenda.
The foregoing and more are the reasons why the Jonathan Government appears to have almost started everything anew, since the foundations it met were shaky. Anyone who tries to build on shaky foundations without reinforcing it, will end up with a collapsed building. He did not want that. This informs the building of new railway lines, such as the on-going Abuja-Kaduna line.

One clear area that demonstrates the past failures of government is railway sub-sector of the transport sector. The railways were one of our colonial inheritance that our people have not been able to manage well. Today, the Jonathan government wants to turn the rail lines into arteries of national unity, as they crisscross the nooks and crannies of the nation. Many past Governments spent Billions of Naira in that Sector, but with appallingly limited results. That explains how a sector that used to be one of the highest employers of labour in Nigeria became so problematic that most of its workers had to leave, because they were tired of doing nothing.

Perhaps one should sum it all up by stating for the record that the flag-off of the Port Harcourt line was part of the larger 25-year Railway Strategic Plan comprising rehabilitation of the existing 4000 kilometres old, narrow gauge and the building of standard guage across the country. Out of this, the 1,124 Kilometres Lagos- Kano (western Flap) line passing through Ibadan, Ilorin, Minna and Kaduna is completed and is running 6 times a week. On this, the Minister of Transport, Sen. Umar Idris gave an insight: ?On December 2012, we flagged-off the commencement of passenger services and haulage of goods on the Western Line from Lagos ? Kano, a distance of 1,124Km. As a result of the restoration of services along that Line, economic activities are being further stimulated, thereby engendering increased confidence in the citizenry.?
The Port Port Harcourt- Enugu line that is completed is part of the longer, 1657 kilometers Port Harcourt- Maiduguri line. The Markudi-Kafanchan-Jos line, which is part of it will be completed in January to be followed by the Jos- Bauchi- Gombe.

Mr. Obi was the immediate past Gov. of Anambra State
Mr. Obi was the immediate past Gov. of Anambra State

This is in addition to the Kafachan-Kaduna line, connecting the Western and Eastern flank, which is also receiving attention and will be completed in January, 2015. The rehabilitation of Zaria- Kaura Namoda ( Zamfara) line used to carry cotton and hide as well as Kano- Nguru lines will be completed in June, 2015. The more interesting thing here is even that, while the rehabilitation of the old, narrow gauge is on going, new standard gauge, which is part of the 25-year Strategic Plan is also going on simultaneously. The Kaduna- Abuja line is 90% completed, remaining the rolling stock which is due for arrival between January and February, 2015. The Warri-Ajaokuta double standard gauge is 95% completed, as only the interchanges are remaining. The contract for the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge has been awarded.
Part of the standard gauges under construction is the Coastal Lines traversing (11) states of the Federation namely: Lagos ? Ogun?Ondo – Edo ? Delta ? Bayelsa ? Rivers ? Abia ? Akwa Ibom ? Cross Rivers and Anambra with the following alignment Lagos ? Shagamu ? Ijebu Ode ? Ore ? Benin City ? Sapele ? Warri ? Yenagoa ? Port Harcourt ? Aba ? Uyo ? Calabar with an additional line from Benin City to Onitsha including the Onitsha Rail Bridge.
Plans have also been completed for the rehabilitation of 9 Railway Stations, which will involve remodeling. This initiative is being undertaken under Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. The stations to be remodelled and redeveloped as made known by the Hon. Minister of Transport under the first phase are: Iddo Terminal Station, Lagos; Ebute Metta Junction Station, Lagos; Illorin Station; Kaduna Junction Station; Kano Station; Port Harcourt Station; Enugu Station; Jos Station and Gombe Station.
While this transformation is going on, it is pertinent to understand that the Federal Governemnt is also evolving eneableing legislation to bacvk up the results that are anticipated. Thus the following bills are almost ready for the National Assembly, namely, Nigerian Railway Authority Bill; National Transport Commission Bill; Nigerian Ports and Harbour Authority Bill; National Inland Waterways Authority Bill.

The transformation at the ports are also awesome. Before the inception of Jonathan Government, our ports worked only for 9 hours, but today it works for 24 hours. The expansion of existing ports are ongoing, while administrative measures have been taken for the overall good, and enhanced service delivery at the ports.
With the flag-off of the resuscitated Port-Harcourt-Umuahia-Enugu rail and the on-going rehabilitation and outright construction of new railway lines, we have every reason to acknowledge that the Jonathan Government is on the right track in the area of providing cheap and effective mass transportation. The Minister of Transport, Sen. Idiris Umar, needs special commendation for working round the clock in the implementation of the Strategic Plan that is part of President Jonathan?s Transformation Agenda.
It behoves on us all to support President Jonathan in his task of re-engineering the country.

Source: Mazi Odera


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