The federal government has come under attack over its plan to construct a rail line from Nigeria to the Niger Republic, a project some have described it as a “misplaced priority”.
Although Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said the rail line will end at Nigeria’s border with Niger and not extend into the country, those against it still believe it is not worth the $1.96bn investment.
Among those that have kicked against the project is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which said in response that “the problem of this regime is that it has never got its priorities right”.
“What is the economic benefit of this project to Nigeria,” Kola Ologbindiyan, PDP spokesman, had asked in a media interview.
Interestingly, the rail project was first conceived during the PDP administration in 2013.
The government of then-president Goodluck Jonathan had announced plans to construct a rail line from Zaria in Kaduna state to Niamey, the capital of Niger Republic.
Then-Vice President Namadi Sambo, who made the announcement, had said the rail line will run through Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states.
When he visited the emir of Zazzau at the time, Sambo had said: “I am glad to inform you that rehabilitation of the rail line from Zaria to Kauran Namoda has commenced. I am equally happy to state that rail services from Kano to Lagos are in progress.
“The survey on the new rail line from Kauran Namoda to Sokoto to Birnin Kebbi has begun. We hope to link the rail line to Niamey in Niger Republic.”
Now that the project has returned to the limelight, the president said it was part of a masterplan in an agreement signed in 2015 between Nigeria and Niger, and coordinated by the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Cooperation.
How beneficial is it to Nigeria? Shehu had said the rail will help both countries harness raw materials, mineral resources and agricultural produce.
“When completed, it will serve domestic industries and play the role of a viable transportation backbone to the West African subregion, starting with the neighbouring Niger Republic for their export and import logistic chain,” he said.