PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has commissioned the $823.5m standard gauge rail line from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to the Abuja metro station which is the first Light Rail Project of its kind in West Africa.The 45.245km standard gauge rail line project was flagged-off by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007 links 13 communities with 12 stations at the Abuja Metro, Stadium, Kukwaba 1 and 2, Wupa, Idu, Bassanjiwa, Airport, Gwagwa Dei-Dei, Kagini and Gbazango.
“The completion of this very important project is a dream come true, and clearly demonstrates our administration’s commitment to the realization of critical infrastructural projects,” Buhari said on Thursday.
According to the President, the first Abuja Light Rail system was done in demonstration of the commitment to address dearth of critical infrastructure; stating that transportation is the livewire of any city and expressed optimism that a modern rail service would boost the economy and greatly enhance social life.
“I am aware that what we have on ground today are coaches meant to provide skeletal services as we await the main set of the rolling stock for full operations.’’
He said he had been briefed on the signing of the memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements for the procurements of the main rolling stock.
He assured Nigerians of Federal Government’s continued support for all the negotiations towards the realization of the Abuja Light Rail system.
“Today, what we have in the Federal Capital Territory is another evidence that we are a government that delivers on its promises.
“I have observed keenly other milestones that this Administration has achieved, especially in the areas of education, public utilities and infrastructure development. ‘’
He continued, “I am thankful to the Government and people of China for their investment in the Nigerian economy. I commend the CCECC Limited – the Contracting Firm, for the quality of work and timely delivery of this project.
“Let me place on record the Nigerian government’s appreciation to the Government of China and the EXIM Bank of China for their support on this and many other projects currently being executed in the country.
“This gesture further cements the already existing cordial relations and developmental partnership between Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China. ‘’
Earlier, the Minister of FCT, Malam Musa Bello, revealed that the Abuja Rail Mass Transit System was an integral part of the FCT Transportation Master Plan stating that the implementation of the project had been divided into phases, with phase 1 inaugurated by the president.
He said FCTA had concluded an infrastructure soft loan agreement with Exim Bank of China for the supply of the remaining coaches, including their maintenance for three years at a cost of 194 million dollars.
He said the bank would fund the project up to 157 million dollars or 85 per cent of the total cost, while FCTA would bring in a counterpart fund of 37million dollars (15 per cent).
Bello said FCTA had since commenced work on phase II of the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project.
He said the phase 11 would cover a distance of 32.54km from Nnamdi Azikwe Expressway at Garki Area I via the Transportation Centre to Gwagwa and from Bazango Station to Kubwa.
He said the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2017 approved the project for construction by CCECC at a cost of 1.3 billion dollars.
“We hope that the minister of Finance would consider putting this key project in the next borrowing plans, the minister of Budget and National Planning would agree to it, the National Assembly would approve it and that China – Exim Bank would fund it as a mark of goodwill for the cordial relationship between our two countries,’’ he said.