As China prepares to host the forthcoming Belt & Road Initiative in Beijing this week, Nigeria and the Asian country revisit an affair of a thousand days, the bilateral cooperation on the Abuja-Kaduna Train Service as well as the Abuja rail mass transit project, Bukola Ogunsina writes
As China continues to relentlessly work on assisting to develop some countries across Africa, specifically Nigeria, it comes as news to several that this relationship is a part of the Belt & Road Initiative introduced by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
The Belt & Road Initiative seeks to establish connectivity across the globe through investments, building of infrastructure, security, trade, people to people exchange among others. The Abuja – Kaduna Train Service as well as the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project is a clear example of what the Belt & Road is poised to achieve.
Achieving one thousand days of development and accident free existence, members of the media were taken on a tour of the Idu Train Station in Abuja.
On October 30th 2006, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigeria signed a contract agreement regarding the construction of Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project running from the southern city of Lagos State to the northern city of Kano.
The director, Rail Transport Service, Engr T Mohammed Babakobi during an interview said, “We have spoken about expectations and we want government to meet the expectations of the citizens.
“We talk in terms of the surge in passengers onboard this service from Abuja to Kaduna. There are two major reasons, one is the ticketing, and the second is the size of the station itself.”
He also spoke about buying tickets in the confines of one’s home to book for days ahead which is almost at the final stages. There is an increase in passenger number. The government has already planned and procured more rolling stop for passengers, more coaches, locomotives. In essence it means more trains. At the moment it’s four going to Kaduna. To meet up with the surge, eight is required.
The Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Freeborn Okhira noted, “The Rail has operated for 1000 days without major accidents, without major failures for example out of the 1000 days, there is no day that we declared that we cannot run, and we have not had staff that say they are not going to operate the train…it’s a major achievement.
“Our people may complain that we are not providing enough service and we know when you start working you move at a pace, and I am promising them that this year we will increase the number of trains we run.
“I think by the end of the year we should be able to target every hourly trains that will operate one train up and one train down every hour, that is our target. And as we are all aware we have already ordered the coaches and some of them are going to be different from what we are used to.” He added that it’s a matter of patience before the government and the Corporation gets the Rail project to the promised land.
“The e ticket is at an advanced stage, this is government system that we have to pass through the process, we advertised over one hundred companies bidded the passed to another stage.” He further added that the e ticketing will involve a lot of money which the corporation does not have.
In a speech given by the Managing Director of CCECC,Jiang Yi Gao, “NRC and CCECC have been working together to provide safe comfortable and convenient service for all the passengers. According to passenger survey from April 8th to April 12th 2019, over 98 per cent passengers are satisfied with Abuja – Kaduna Train Service.
“Abuja- Kaduna Train Service creates a major transportation channel from capital city to the important industrial city, Kaduna, which has improved the investment environment, promoted business trade,travel and cargo transport between the two major cities in the country.
“It has boosted economic development along the railway line and nearby cities. In particular, it has driven the commercial development around the passenger stations.
“As we all know Abuja- Kaduna Railway is the first phase of Nigerian Railway modernisation project. The second phase Lagos – Ibadan Railway is under construction.”
According to the Cultural Counsellor, Peoples Republic of China and director of the Chinese Cultural Centre, Li Xuda, “Today we are gathered here to celebrate 1000 days safe operations of Abuja-Kaduna Train Service. I would like to appreciate Nigeria Railway Corporation for inviting me to attend this ceremony.”
He, on behalf of the Chinese embassy thanked the corporation for the smooth relationship and cooperation between both countries on the Belt and Road Initiative.
“China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative since 2014 to build a trade and infrastructure along and beyond the Silk Road economic Belt and the 21st Century maritime Silk Road, which offers opportunities for cooperation and development for all countries amid a sluggish world economy.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is an international public good that benefits all parties especially for developing countries. I am sure that Nigeria as a Belt and Road member country and the largest economy in Africa, will benefit much from the initiative.in the 21st century a new era marked by the theme of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, it is important for us to jointly build, the Belt and Road.’
He hoped Nigeria and China can move closer to promote a mutually beneficial cooperation.
While Abuja-Kaduna Railway section is the first section of the Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project, using China railway technical standards and connecting the capital city of Abuja, the state of Niger and the state of Kaduna, with a total length of 186.5 km and a maximum speed of 150km/h.
By July 26th 2016, Abuja-Kaduna Railway Project officially started commercial operation, becoming the first modern railway in operation using China standard in Africa. Nigerian Railway Corporation is in Charge of Operations while the CCECC offers technical support, training service and assistance to the commercial operation.
Currently NRC has 534 staff working on the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Project. CCECC has a technical team of 17 specialists providing technical support.
The second Train Service has been put into operation since January 5th, 2018. The speed of train from Idu station is 90km/h and Rigasa station 100km/h. There are five passenger stations and four crossing stations along the railway line, taking about one hour and 56 minutes to run from Idu to Rigasa station.
Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project is situated in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, the completed phase 1 is composed of two lines as Lot 1 A and Lot 3, Lot 1A is 18km from Idu industrial area to satellite town Kunwa and Lot3 is 27.245km from Abuja central area to the international airport of the capital, the total length of phase1 is 45.245km.
There are 12 stations set along the route of Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project Phase 1, 8 stations for Lot3 and 4 stations for Lot 1A. Apart from the main line project, a rail depot with an area of 24 hectares was also constructed close to Idu station to serve the Abuja Rail system as control centre, parking area and maintenance centre.
Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project (Phase 1) was signed by CCECC and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and began commercial operations on July 13th 2018. It is known as the first light rail in West Africa.
During construction of the rail an estimate of 20,000 local staff were employed. Since commencement of operations, this project has directly provided about 1000 jobs. During construction and operation, the project indirectly established an estimate of 200,000 jobs mostly in areas of material production, subcontracting works, equipment manufacturing and related services.
Meanwhile, to show achievements of the Belt and Road Initiative ahead of this year’s forum in April, the Chinese embassy in Nigeria, hosted the Opening Ceremony of the Photographic Exhibition of the Belt and Road.
The exhibition is said to comprise of not only photos selected from more than 8000 works by 330 photographers around the world, but also photos from over 200 works by Nigerian photographers and Chinese people living and working in Nigeria.
The Charge d’Affaire & Minister – Counsellor of Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, Mr Zhao Yong stated at the opening ceremony of the exhibition that the photos capture the natural beauty and tell stories about the Silk Road around 8 topics.
He also said that the Belt and Road Initiative aims at creating new opportunities for global growth and providing a new platform for fostering closer ties between countries.
“Just as emphasised by President Xi, that while the Belt and Road Initiative is launched by China, its benefits should be shared by the world.
“Next week, the second Belt and Road Forum will be convened in Beijing. Around 1000 guests from over 148 countries and 73 international organisations, including 40 national leaders, have confirmed their attendance.
“Of course among them, there would be a ministerial delegation from Nigeria. We hope that the forum would provide good opportunities for all parties involved to jointly address global challenges and promote global growth,” he averred.