By Ejike Ejike, Abuja
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said the Warr to Itakpe rail line is fully funded by the Nigerian government, adding that eight of the ten stations are in the Niger-Delta/ South-South region of the country.
The minister, who stated this at the official inauguration of the project for commercial use, said, “There is no loan on this project, it was funded from the budget and I had the directive of the President to go and revive it and complete it as soon as possible.”
Amaechi further explained that the project started under the military era in 1987 but ‘‘underwent protracted hiccups, prolonged abandonment, and massive vandalisation,” before it was resuscitated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
In his remarks, Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa commended President Buhari’s bi-partisan approach to governance, saying “it is a thing of pride and joy that this rail line was completed under your watch.”
“Deltans are excited that this day has come,’’ he said, adding that the Ika nation is glad of the recognition accorded former President Goodluck Jonathan, in naming the railway complex in Agbor after him.
Okowa urged the private sector to take advantage of the historic corridor by establishing investments that will create jobs for locals, curb youth restiveness, and stem the tide of criminality.
“It is imperative that the federal government in collaboration with the States provide adequate security cover for this rail line corridor,” he said.
Also in his remarks, Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki congratulated the President on the feat of completing the project, saying it is quite fortuitous that few days to the country’s 60th independence celebration, the President has achieved the completion of this critical infrastructure.
“For us in Edo state, we are excited that we have a few stops that have been completed and we are going to be working with you to utilise this infrastructure,” he said.
The Edo governor appealed to the minister of transportation to extend the rail line to the industrial park in Benin City to facilitate the movement of goods to the northern part of the country.
It would be recalled that the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway, otherwise known as the Central Railway Line, was originally designed for the transportation of Iron Ore to Ajaokuta (Kogi) and Aladja Steel Rolling mills (Delta State).
It was also designed to transport processed steel to the port in Warri, Delta State.
The project was initially planned to be delivered in five years, however, it was abandoned for over 30 years due to paucity of funds.
The construction of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway line was abandoned after about 254 kilometres had been constructed.
The Itakpe-Warri railway line was redesigned to provide passenger service. It was originally conceived as a cargo rail.
In 2017, the new administration of Mohammadu Buhari announced that they funding the revival of the Itakpe-Warri rail line at a cost estimate of $200 million (N72 billion).
The plan was to get the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line ready for commercial operations by 2019.
The project was re-awarded to three construction firms. They are Julius Berger, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), and ZTE.
12 new stations were proposed between Itakpe and Warri in a new arrangement. Two stations would be between Itakpe and Ajaokuta. The remaining 10 would stretch between Ajaokuta and Warri. They include Itakpe; Eganiy; Adobe; Itogbo; Agenebode; Uromi; Egehen; Igbanke; Agbor; Abraka; Okpara and Ujewu stations.
The railway line connects three states: Kogi, Edo, and Delta State and lately, the FCT, Abuja.