The roll call was massive. From the number one citizen of the nation, President Bola Tinubu, to the number two citizen, Kashim Shettima, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, Hon. Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, Deputy Senate President, as well as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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Also on the roll call was the Hon. Minister of Transportation, Senator Saidu Alkali and Hon. Minister of State for the FCT, Mariya Mahmoud among other top dignitaries.

And the event was the formal inauguration of the kickoff of commercial activities for the Abuja Rail Mass Transit, which signifies a milestone for the first one year of President Bola Tinubu in office.

While launching the light rail into operations, President Tinubu who referred to the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike as Mr. Projects, commended the Minister for delivering the project as scheduled.

Nonetheless, the President used the opportunity to extend the duration of the free ride earlier offered Nigerians by the FCT Minister from two months to end of the year.

Addressing the Minister, President Tinubu said “Our dear landlord and his team, I heard you saying two months free ride. I appeal to you to make it till the end of the year free ride, since today you are not going to charge me. Let me give the people hope and reason to celebrate.”

He continued, “Today, what we have in the FCT is another piece of evidence that we are a government that delivers on promises. I observe keenly other milestones that this administration has achieved especially in the areas of social services and other public utilities.”

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It would be recalled that the Minister had on May 23, said the facility would offer Nigerians a two-month free ride. The rail project, started by a previous administration, is being developed in six phases.

Before yesterday, the FCT Minister, during a Ministerial briefing, had said “If you are going to the airport, from here to airport is 20 minutes. Seeing is believing. Go on Tuesday. We are going to allow free rides for two months. You know Mr. President, he can even say extend it to six months just to reduce the pain of our people. That is renewed hope agenda.”

When fully completed, the Rail Mass Transit is to consist six lots, covering a distance of approximately 285km.

Lot 1, which has been completed, has two lines and 12 stations connecting the Abuja city centre with the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. It has stations at Abuja metro, stadium, Kukwaba 1, Kukwaba 11, Wupa, Idu, Bassanjiwa and the airport.

Lot 2 (Not yet started) is to start from Gwagwa via Transportation Centre (metro station) to Nyanya/Karu.

Lot 4 (Also not started) is to start from Kuje to Karshi with the remaining legs of the transit-way line 2, while the Blue Line (Lot 3) is expected to pass through Idu to Kubwa, with stations in Idu, Gwagwa, Deidei, Kagini and Gbazango.

Lot 5 is expected to be from Kubwa via Bwari to Suleja, and

Lot 6 from the airport via Kuje and Gwagwalada to Dobi.

The completed train system has 12 diesel multiple units each, with a capacity to accommodate a minimum of 700 passengers.

Each train was designed to run a minimum of 14 trips per day, and transport approximately 9,800 passengers per day.

The two lines, that is Lot 1A from Idu Station to Gbazango and Lot 3, from Metro Station to Airport, will operate two trains each simultaneously every day. This will bring a total daily passenger count to 39,200 commuters and 980,000 commuters in 25 operational days in a month.

Currently, the Federal Capital Territory Administration is working with the Chinese company handling the project, CCRC, and Nexant Consult, an ISO certified railway consulting firm, to train Nigerians who are going to eventually mount and run operations.

The unveiling of the rail project is expected to provide relief to commuters, encourage greater use of the metro rail system, enhance inter-modal connectivity and reduce transportation cost.