Senate charges FG on completing economically viable rail lines

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Nigerian Senate
Nigerian Senate has charged the Federal Ministry of Transportation to take immediate steps to complete the construction of the rail line from Ajaokuta in Kogi State to Otukpo in Benue State with a view to facilitating operations of the Ajaokuta Steel Company and boost economic activities through ease of transportation.
It also directed the ministry to incorporate construction of siding rail to Okaba in Ankpa local government area of Benue State to the backbone rail to ease transportation of coal to the various end-users companies.
These resolutions were sequel to a motion on the need for expeditious completion of the rail lines sponsored by Senator Jibrin Isah and co-sponsored by six other Senators on Tuesday.
Senator Isah, while presenting the motion, noted that the project commenced from Ajaokuta across the River Niger to Ukpo village in Itobe where it stopped and abandoned, with no step taken to continue with the project for several years.
He recalled that “the already constructed rail bridge across the River Niger, spanning about three kilometres is the longest rail bridge in Nigeria and accounts for about 30 percent of the cost of the entire rail line from Ajaokuta to Otukpo.”
According to him, there’s abundant commercial deposit of coal in Okaba, which is indispensable and critical to revamping of Ajaokuta Steel Company, “as coal serves as both fuel and reducing agent in melting iron ore”, adding that Dangote Cement Ltd at Obajana and the Kogi State Super Cement Company at Allo-Itobe are major users of coal from Okaba, and that their products are transported by road.
Senator Isah expressed worry that three major ceramic companies in Nigeria, that is, the West African Ceramic Company Ltd., BN Ceramic Company Ltd., and Royal Ceramic Ltd, which are located in Ajaokuta, are major users of Okaba coal and are currently utilising road transportation to move coal to their various locations, with attendant high costs, which are passed over to the final consumers by way of high prices of their products.
The lawmaker added that Kogi East, being an agrarian district, the project would facilitate transportation of farm produce like cashew nuts, palm oil, palm kernel and various grains through Otukpo to other parts of the North and South.
In his contribution, the Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North) stressed the urgent need for the federal government to complete the project due to its benefits to the people in particular and the country in general.
Meanwhile, Senate has also urged the Federal Ministry of Aviation and other relevant authorities to upgrade the Ibadan domestic airport, Alakia to the status of an international airport with modern facilities.
This was sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Kola Balogun and co-sponsored by 37 others across political parties and geo-political zones of the country.
Leading debate on the motion, senator Balogun said it has become important to upgrade the airport “because of the potential of Ibadan to attract economic development both locally and internationally, due to the presence of institutions like the University of Ibadan, University College Hospital, International Okerete Market, Bola Ige International Business Complex.”
He noted that the presence of an international airport in Ibadan would complement the activities of the Ibadan inland dry port and accelerate the derivation of the expected socio-economic benefits from the inland dry port.
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan after putting the resolutions of into voice votes, referred them to the Committee on Aviation for further legislative work and to report back within eight weeks.