NIGERIA’S federal government appears to have backtracked on plans to build a railway linking Kano and the town of Maradi in neighbouring Niger Republic with the presidency saying that it will only be responsible for the Nigerian end of the line.
On Wednesday, Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council presided over by President Buhari approved a $1.9bn contract to build the line linking Kano-Dutse-Katsina and Jibia to Maradi in Niger Republic. Transport minister Rotimi Amaechi who revealed the news, said that the 248km line is designed to connect Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states as well as seven senatorial districts and will aid transportation of crude oil.
However, the move had dumbfounded everyone, as Maradi, with a population of just 267,249 people has no significant economic value. It would have made more sense were the line being constructed to Niger Republic’s capital Niamey, which has a population of 1.24m people and is the country’s economic hub.
Attracting widespread criticism, the move has also led to several civil society groups threatening legal action against the government. Coming at a time when Nigeria is cash-strapped due to the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, the plans have generated a lot of anger, as the country’s own infrastructure is being neglected because the federal government says it cannot afford any investment.
Reeling under the pressure of the concerted attacks, the federal government has come out to say that it never planned to build a railway line into Niger Republic. President Buhari’s spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu, took to Twitter to explain that the Nigerian end of the rail line would terminate at the country’s border with Niger Republic.
Mallam Shehu said Nigeria and the Niger Republic signed an agreement in 2015 to build a track, explaining that the two projects, named the Kano-Katsina-Maradi Corridor Master Plan (K2M), would meet at the border. He added that Nigeria would only be responsible for building the line on its side of the border.
“Nigeria isn’t building a rail line into Niger but only to the designated border point. An agreement between Nigeria and Niger in 2015, coordinated by the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Cooperation has a plan for Kano-Katsina-Maradi Corridor Master Plan or (K2M) as it is called.
“Going by this, the two nations would each build a rail track to meet at the border town of Maradi. Nigerian delegates to that meeting comprised officials from the ministry of foreign affairs, the National Boundaries Commission, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources as well as those of Kano and Katsina states.
“The objective of the rail is the harnessing of 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 sub-region, starting with the neighbouring Niger Republic for their export and import logistic chain,” Mallam Shehu added.