The motivation and philosophy behind the Kano- Maradi rail project are the same as that of the 403-kilometre highway linking Enugu to Bamenda in Cameroon.
According to the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, it would be sheer hypocrisy for anyone to condemn the rail project but remain silent on the highway project in the South.
“We find it strange that many people, including opposition elements who saw everything wrong with President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of a rail project linking three States in Northern Nigeria to a border town in the Niger Republic, are unusually silent about the government’s decision to stick with the 2007 agreement with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Cameroon.
“But for us, the same economic factors that the Buhari administration took into consideration in committing itself to the $1.96bn standard gauge rail project are not different from the decision to link one of the major cities in Southern Nigeria to a city in Cameroon.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the 387-km railway line is to run through Kano, Jigawa and Katsina States which are significant trade hubs with massive markets including Dawanau which is believed to have an annual trade volume of $2.5bn, to Maradi which is the major transport and agriculture hub of Niger’s south-central region.
“It is also important to note that 11 out of the 12 stations on the route are in Nigeria with the terminal point at the border town of Maradi which is 622 kilometres from Niamey, the capital of Niger while the highway into Cameroon will terminate within 300 kilometres of Yaounde, the capital city.
“The Enugu to Bamenda highway will drive a lot of economic activities in several Nigerian communities in the South, up to the border with Cameroon, but it is only the rail project that has the potential of opening up a vibrant export route into our landlocked neighbours, especially as it is to be linked to the Lagos-Kano rail line which already has an extension to the Apapa Ports via the Lagos-Ibadan rail line.
“So we make bold to affirm that the economic considerations for the two projects are similar and both will add a lot of value to commercial activities along the corridors”.
BMO also took a swipe at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which was critical of the Kano-Maradi rail project.
“Of all the criticisms that trailed the project, the one that many discerning Nigerians found hard to live with was that of PDP which through its media handlers described it as wasteful.
“However, it is the same party under the Goodluck Jonathan administration that conceived the idea of linking Nigeria to Niger and in fact had a more elaborate plan that would have began in Zaria, in Kaduna State and terminate in Niamey which is almost 700km from Maradi where the current project is ending.
“So on President Buhari’s watch, Nigeria is making considerable investments on two major cross-border infrastructure projects and the administration deserves credit for remaining committed to actualising them even if it did not originally conceive them.
“And as the President said in one of his recent TV interviews, it’s all about economics though some sceptics opted to ignore his justification of the Kano-Maradi project”.
BMO reassured Nigerians that the President will keep to the terms of his vow to improve on the country’s infrastructure, regardless of dwindling oil revenue.