Construction of Nigeria’s first Wagon Assembly Plant begins

Cyril Okonkwo/David Adekunle/Shiktara Shalangwa, Kajola

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The construction of the first plant that will leverage Nigeria’s railway modernization programme began on Saturday with the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kajola Wagon Assembly Plant in Ogun State.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo flagged off the construction, signaling a major landmark in Nigeria’s railway reconstruction efforts, which has seen developments in the Abuja-Kaduna and Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail lines.

The wagon assembly plant is co-located and built with the Kajola Locomotive and Rolling Stocks Depot, LRD, of the Lagos-Ibadan Railway in South West Nigeria.

The plant is a direct investment of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC.

While the raw and auxiliary materials of the plant are manufactured in China, the processes such as welding, assembly, painting, drying and testing will be done in Nigeria.

With a capacity to produce 500 wagons per annum, the Kajola Wagon Assembly, when completed, will create over 5000 direct and indirect jobs.

It is also expected that the plant will meet the assembly function of open wagon, container flat wagon, tank wagon and box wagon that will serve Nigeria and other countries in Africa.

The Kajola plant has large parts unloading sheds, car body production workshop, inspection and acceptance workshop and painting and drying room.

Other sheds and workshops at the plant are metering room, equipment maintenance room, hazardous cargo warehouse and depot office building.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said that the event was a historic turning point in Nigeria’s railway transformation programme.

“For us, the railway is not just 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 and out of Africa’s largest market will be completely transformed.

“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 region.”

Vice president Osinbanjo said that establishing the plant in Nigeria and the commitment of the CCECC to employing Nigerians and doing business with indigenous firms affirm President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives in Executive Order 5 on prioritizing Nigerian content  in the innovation, production and procurement of engineering projects and services.

“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 in particular and across the country wherever rail networks are in existence.”

The vice president delivered President Buhari’s message to the CCECC, charging the corporation to move on quickly to the next phase of the project—the assembly and construction of coaches and locomotives—which would be a major breakthrough for the administration.

“After completing the Abuja – Kaduna Railway project in July 2016, this administration commenced construction works on the Lagos – Ibadan Railway modernization project in March 2017, following which we initiated the rehabilitation and completion of the abandoned Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri rail line which was started over three decades ago. 

“Furthermore, last month, 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.

“Also we are optimizing the Lagos-Ibadan rail modernization project by extending it to the Apapa Port, the nation’s busiest port  for the efficient movement of cargo from the port to various destinations.

“This will expedite import/export flows, decongest the ports, and depressurize our roads in the process.” 

While commending the host communities in Kajola for the support they have shown for the project, Vice President Osinbajo urged them to co-operate with the contractors in safeguarding and protecting the investment.

In his speech at the event, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, said that the ministry encouraged Messrs CCECC to establish the plant, considering the ongoing rail modernization efforts in Nigeria.

He said the Nigerian government signed an agreement with the CCECC in March 2018 to set up the plant and that the corporation consequently carried out feasibility study and decided to site the plant at Kajola.

“This project therefore is a direct investment of Messrs CCECC in the country and will remain as part of the gains of the contract signed for the supply of rolling stock.”

Amaechi said that the first batch of the wagons that would be assembled in the production line of the plant would form part of the rolling stock for the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna railway operations.

He said other rolling stocks would be produced as the capacity of the plant increases while in the long-run Nigeria would manufacture the product, not just for the country, but also for other countries in Africa.

“Moreso, we will be able to conserve our much needed foreign exchange which can be deployed to other areas of development,” Amaechi stated.

Also speaking the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, represented by the Economic Attachee to the Embassy of China, Lu Yiang, said the plant would energize the Nigerian economy.

He said the embassy would continue to encourage Chinese companies to increase investments in Nigeria, especially in manufacturing and agriculture.

“Preliminary research shows that Chinese direct investment in manufacturing sector in Nigeria has grown rapidly and is about US$3billion in cumulative terms, creating thousands of jobs in local communities and giving strong boost to the Nigerian economy,” he said.

The Managing Director of the CCECC, Jiang Yigao, had in his speech, highlighted the various parts of the plant and what it would contribute to Nigeria’s railways modernization programme.