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President Muhammadu Buhari has said the Kano-Maradi railway project will be beneficial to 80 million people within the region, when completed.
The rail line traverses Kano and passes through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina and up to the border town of Jibiya and the Niger Republic city of Maradi.
The project is expected to boost import and export of goods among Nigeria, Niger and other neighbouring landlocked countries.
President Buhari spoke yesterday when he presided, virtually, over the groundbreaking ceremony, signifying the commencement of construction work on the rail project.
It was the second major rail infrastructure the President would be attracting to his home state of Katsina, the first being the University of Transportation, which is to be built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) the contractor handling the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line.
The same firm is to complete the third and final leg of the project – from Ibadan to Kano.
Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi performed the ground-breaking ceremony in company of some of his colleagues in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), governors and legislators.
They included Ministers Lai Mohammed (Information), Rauf Aregbesola (Interior), Suleiman Adamu Kazaure (Water Resources), Olorunnimbe Mamora (Minister of State, Health), and Mohammed Babandede (Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service).
Others are: Governors Aminu Masari (Katsina), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and Mohammed Abubakar (Jigawa).
Stating the economic viability of the project, President Buhari said: “This vital infrastructure line will establish an end-to-end logistics supply chain in railway transport services between northern and southern regions of the country, reaching Nigeria’s southern ports of Lagos and Warri.
“The entire route encompasses territory inhabited by close to 80 million people across 10 states of the country. This project has a branch line to Dutse, the capital of Jigawa State, to open up this corridor which is endowed with vast agricultural and mineral resources.
“The Kano-Maradi rail line has been identified as a viable line that will significantly enhance the movement of passengers and freight to the hinterland, especially raw materials from both agricultural and mineral resources, for our industries.”
He added: “The project, when completed, would serve import and export of goods for Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through the Nigerian ports.