By Augusta Uchediunor
Lagos – Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says the Rail Wagon Assembly Plant construction in Nigeria will generate about 5,000 direct and indirect jobs when completed and boost socioeconomic activities.
Osinbajo made this disclosure while performing the Official Ground Breaking Ceremony for the construction of the plant in Kajola, Ogun on Saturday.
“The plant which is a private investment to be undertaken by Messers CCECC, is central in the production of rolling stock, spare parts and maintenance of equipment needed for the railway modernisation programme being implemented by this administration.
“This ceremony is not just another event, it is a historic turning point. For us, the railway is not only an alternative and comfortable mode of travel.
“It holds the master key to transforming commerce in Nigeria and across the continent. By linking our ports to rail lines and now, building the rolling stock locally, import and export business within, into and out of Africa’s largest market will never be the same.
“When completed, it is expected that the plant would produce some parts of the wagons for the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna rail lines, but also for the central rail lines and to satisfy the needs of other rail operators within the West- African sub-region.
“The plant would offer an important platform for engineers, technicians, artisans and other professionals to gain the specialized skills required for the production and maintenance of rolling stock.
“This will invariably conduce to spin-off businesses in the region of operation and across the country wherever rail networks are in existence.
“The plant is expected to generate about five thousand (5,000) direct and indirect jobs,” Osinbajo said.
According to him, the siting of the plant here in Nigeria and the commitment to hiring Nigerians and Nigerian businesses affirms the Presidents directives in Executive Order 5.
The vice president said that the Order was prioritising Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in the innovation, production and procurement of Engineering projects and services.
He added that plant would offer an important platform for engineers, technicians, artisans, and other professionals to gain specialised skills required for the production and maintenance of the rolling stock.
According to Osinbajo, the message from President to CCECC is that the company should move “very quickly to the next phase of this project, which is the assembly and construction of coaches and locomotives.
“This for us will be a significant breakthrough and we look forward to hearing from you as quickly as possible when this will come to operation as well.”
Osinbajo highlighted that the Federal Government after completing Abuja-Kaduna standard guage rail line in 2016, moved to Lagos-Ibadan standard guage rail line construction in 2017 which is near completion.
He said that Federal Government had also moved into rehabilitation and completion of the abandoned Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line started over three decades ago.
“We signed an agreement with Messrs China Railway Construction Company International to construct the Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line, which will be extended from Itakpe to Abuja through Baro Inland Water Port in Niger State with a branch line to Lokoja in Kogi State.
“This rail line will link into the new Warri sea port being constructed under the agreement, ” Osinbajo said.
Osinbajo said that the Federal Government had optimised the Lagos-Ibadan standard rail line by extending it to the nation’s busiest port in Apapa for movement of cargos from the ports to various destinations.
The vice president said that the extension would expedite imports and export flow, decongest the port and removed pressure on the road.
“Also, we are putting all mechanisms in place to achieve the swift completion of the Ibadan Inland Dry port, which will off- take containers and cargoes from Apapa port through the Lagos – Ibadan rail line,” he said.
Osinbajo appreciated the support of the host community, Kajola, saying that the continuity of cooperation remained imperative in safeguarding and protecting the project.
In his welcome address, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi said that the Federal Government awarded contract for the procurement of rolling stock to meet the increasing demand of both passengers and freight services.
“The Ministry of Transportation realizing the need of the advantage to set up this type of plant considering the potential need in view of the ongoing rail projects in the country and the sub-region, encouraged Messrs CCECC to establish this plant.
“It is expected that the plant would generate job opportunities for Nigerians and as well facilitate the much-desired objective of the government towards the local content capacity development.”
“This will be the first of its kind in Nigeria and the first batch of the wagons to be assembled from the production line of this plant will form part of the rolling stock for Lagos – Ibadan and Abuja – Kaduna Railway operations,” he said.
According to him, with this, the country will be able to conserve her much needed foreign exchange, which can be deployed to other areas of development.
“It is cardinal to mention that the sustainability of our railway modernisation projects would depend on our ability to develop local capacity to construct, maintain and manage our new railway system.
“It is on this note that we feel that this project is germane to the railway development in Nigeria and that Messrs. CCECC should be given every reasonable support to actualise this investment.
Remarking, the Managing Director of CCECC, Mr Jiang Yigao said that the company would continue to cooperate with communities and government at all level in its commitment to develop state-of-the-art railway system.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was witnessed by several government functionaries, community, religious and traditional leaders.