ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – President Goodluck Jonathan has debunked claims by the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCPCO) that the 600-kilometre electrified rail track was a hoax, noting that the Federal Government was sincere about the project.
He assured Nigerians that the contract for the speed train to connect Ibadan and Lagos had been awarded and the project would soon take off.
The APCPCO had last month described as a hoax claims by President Jonathan’s government that a high speed Abuja-Lagos rail service will commence running in three years time.
The APCPCO had in a statement by its Director of Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said that though the envisaged Lagos-Abuja line as proposed by the Minister of Transport is most desirable, and would provide an alternative means of travel between the federal capital city and Lagos, it is the height of irresponsibility for a senior member of government to tell such outlandish lies and give false hope for cheap political points.
Shehu disclosed that a PPP agreement to build and operate a rail line takes at least two years to negotiate and bring to financial closure, adding that the Jonathan government has not even started negotiations with anybody yet on the project.
But Jonathan, represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, gave the assurance at the ground-finale of the press play empowerment seminar for University students held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, at the weekend.
Jonathan said, “I believe we are all aware that in the last 30 to 40 years, railway was not working in Nigeria; as I speak to you, Mr President has brought back 3500km of railway in Nigeria.
“You can travel today by rail from Lagos to Kano; Enugu to Port Harcourt to Makurdi, to Jos, to Bauchi and Gombe.
“In addition to that, we are adding new standard gauge railway lines and I am pleased to inform you that the new rail lines connecting Abuja to Kaduna has been 100 per cent completed.
“The MoU for the construction of coastal rail lines that will go from Lagos to Benin to Delta to Onitsha, to Bayelsa, to River State, to Akwa-Ibom up to Calabar has been signed.
“When we came in 2010, the total kilometers of roads in Nigeria was 35,000 km owned by the federal government and only 5000 km can be considered motor-able and that was why at that period, everywhere, Nigerians were crying for good roads.
“This administration has constructed 20,000 kilometers of roads across the country”, Jonathan said.
The President stressed that Nigeria was on irreversible lane of progress with foreign investments commitments, which has risen to $5 billion, while agriculture is on the track of taking its rightful place as the major source of economic growth and revenue.
Jonathan added that transformation agenda of his administration has seen the country now exporting cement, and 2.1 million tons of parboiled rice are being produced in the annually.
He commended the initiator of the Press Play Youth Empowerment Programme, Mrs Angela Jide Jones, and assured her of government support and encouragement in creating the most conducive environment for prosperity.
Earlier in her remarks, Jones explained that the Press Play Initiative was a series of Youth-centric programmes with the objectives of giving young men and women the opportunity to activate their entrepreneurial potential through training and mentoring.
She explained that the Press Play worked with the existing government agencies to bridge the knowledge gap and introduce the youths to immense possibilities available for them.
She said they were, at the moment, engaging university students across the country to challenge and educate them regarding the available opportunities.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Olusegun Aganga, said government was supporting the initiative in line with the agenda of the Jonathan’s administration to ensure that youths are given the opportunity to achieve their potentials and to address the challenge of unemployment.
He said skill acquisition and entrepreneurship are parts of the initiatives of government in addressing youth unemployment.
Aganga disclosed that the federal created 2.5 million jobs between June 2012 and July 2014 assuring that it would to much more if re-elected.