The Federal Government has revealed that the extension of rail construction from Lagos-Kano-Katsina to Marradi in Niger Republic was approved based on economic and commercial benefits.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gave the explanation on Friday when he featured on Nigeria Television Authority live programme, “Good Morning Nigeria”.
Specifically, the Minister said the rail extension is intended for Nigeria to take economic advantages of import and export of Niger Republic, Chad and Burkina Fasso, which are landlocked countries.
Mohammed said contrary to the disinformation by some commentators on the rail extension project, the decision was taken in the economic interest of the country.
Some Nigerians had queried the rationale behind Nigeria’s borrowing to fund the infrastructure of a neighbouring country.
The Minister, however, explained, “I think there has been a lot of disinformation and total lack of information over that linking of Lagos, Kano, Katsina railway to Marradi.
“The wisdom behind it is that Niger, Chad Burkina Faso are all landlocked meaning that they do not have access to sea.
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“What this means is that most of their imports and exports have to go through neighbouring countries’ seaports like Cotonou in Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. Because we do not have a road infrastructure that will encourage Niger republic to use our seaports, we believe that we will be able to take over their imports and exports with the rail linkage.
“The simple reason, therefore, is to strengthen the economy of Nigeria.”
Mohammed added, “For now, Niger Republic used seaport of Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana and the exporters go through the stress, challenges and time of being on the road from Cotonou, Lome or Accra to their country.
“But by the time we link them from Katsina to Marradi, it will be easier for us to take over the business.
“There is nothing like territorial expansion, it is purely economic, we are taking advantage of the proximity and efficiency of rail system.”
The Federal Executive Council on September 23 approved over $1.959 billion for the construction of the rail line from Kano to Marradi in Niger Republic.