Published On: Wed, Apr 24th, 2019

Ensuring connectivity through rail transport: The BRI example in Nigeria

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Director of Rail Transport Service in Nigerian Ministry of Transportation, Engr T Mohammed Babakobi felicitating with CCECC Boss during the event.

As part of countdown to successful hosting of the forthcoming Belt & Road Initiative in Beijing this month, China and Nigeria look on the gains of BRI in Nigeria by assessing the impacts of Abuja-Kaduna rail system and Abuja Light Train service which were built by Chinese Construction Company, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). Ochiaka Ugwu was at the event for Peoples Daily.

In August 2018, Chinese President, Mr. Xi Jinping underlined thorough and solid cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to benefit people in countries involved and build a community with a shared future for humanity.
Xi also solicited for efforts to uphold dialogue and consultation, joint contribution, shared benefits, win-win cooperation, exchange and mutual learning and to promote political mutual trust, economic integration, and people-to-people exchanges with the Belt and Road countries in order to advance the initiative step by step, producing achievements.

Abuja Kaduna Train Service customers in a group photo with officials.

It is important to note that in2013 when Xi proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road — the Belt and Road Initiative for short not many nations accepted it, but as of July 2018, more than 100 countries and international organizations had signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China including Nigeria.
There is no doubt that Nigeria as a member has benefitted from the high-quality development this initiative offers which is the priority of jointly advancing development to realize full economic growth at its best.
The Abuja – Kaduna Train Service as well as the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project stand out as a big testimony to the gains of Belt & Road Initiative as it has pushed for progress in transportation sector of the economy, by delivering real benefits to Nigeria peoples.
The effectiveness of the project came to fore when it celebrated one thousand days of development and accident free reality. Members of the press were also taken around to explore the Idu Train Station in Abuja.
Recall that in 2006, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Transportation signed a contract agreement regarding the construction of Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project running from the southern city of Lagos State to the northern city of Kano to boost connectivity in economic system of the nation.
Speaking during the event at Idu Train Station, the representative of Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Transportation and Director of Rail Transport Service in Nigerian Ministry of Transportation, Engr T Mohammed Babakobi who thanked China for developing the rail system at a faster rate said they have always spoken about expectations and want government to meet the expectations of the citizens.
In an interview later, Babakobi said, “We talk in terms of the surge in passengers onboard this service from Abuja to Kaduna. There are two major reasons, one is the ticketing, and the second is the size of the station itself.”
He also spoke on the possibility of buying tickets at one’s convenient and choice of place to book for days ahead which he noted was almost at the final stage.
He stated that there is increase in passenger number saying that government has already planned and procure more rolling stop for passengers, more coaches, locomotives. In essence it means more trains. At the moment it’s four going to Kaduna. To meet up with the surge, eight is required.
Also speaking, Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) Mr. Freeborn Okhira noted, “The Rail has operated for 1000 days without major accidents, without major failures for example out of the 1000 days, there is no day that we declared that we cannot run, and we have not had staff that say they are not going to operate the train. It is a major achievement”.
“Our people may complain that we are not providing enough service and we know when you start working you move at a pace, and I am promising them that this year, we will increase the number of trains we run.
“I think by the end of the year we should be able to target hourly trains that will operate one train up and one train down every hour. That is our target. And as we are all aware, we have already ordered the coaches and some of them are going to be different from what we are used to”.
He added that it’s a matter of patience before the government and the Corporation gets the Rail project to work optimally.
According to Okhira, “The online ticket is at an advanced stage. This is government system, we have to pass through the process, we advertised and over one hundred companies bided and passed to another stage.”
He maintained that the online ticketing will involve a lot of money which the corporation does not have.
The Managing Director of CCECC, Jiang Yi Gao, said “NRC and CCECC have been working together to provide safe comfortable and convenient service for all the passengers. According to passenger survey from April 8th to April 12th 2019, over 98 percent passengers are satisfied with Abuja – Kaduna Train Service.
“Abuja- Kaduna Train Service creates a major transportation channel from capital city to the important industrial city, Kaduna, which has improved the investment environment, promoted business trade, travel and cargo transport between the two major cities in the country.
“It has boosted economic development along the railway line and nearby cities. In particular, it has driven the commercial development around the passenger stations.
“As we all know, Abuja- Kaduna Railway is the first phase of Nigerian Railway modernisation project. The second phase Lagos – Ibadan Railway is under construction.”
The Cultural Counsellor, Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China in Nigeria and Director of China Cultural Centre, Mr. Li Xuda said “Today we are gathered here to celebrate 1000 days safe operations of Abuja-Kaduna Train Service. I would like to appreciate Nigeria Railway Corporation for inviting me to attend this ceremony.”
He, however on behalf of the China Embassy thanked the corporation for the smooth relationship and cooperation between both countries on the Belt and Road Initiative which is promoting connectivity.
“China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative since 2014 to build a trade and infrastructure along and beyond the Silk Road economic Belt and the 21st Century maritime Silk Road, which offers opportunities for cooperation and development for all countries amid a sluggish world economy.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is an international public good that benefits all parties especially for developing countries. I am sure that Nigeria as a Belt and Road member country and the largest economy in Africa, will benefit much from the initiative in the 21st century a new era marked by the theme of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, it is important for us to jointly build, the Belt and Road.’
He believes that Nigeria and China can move closer to promote a mutually beneficial cooperation.
The highpoint of the event was the presentation of sourvenir to the 1,500,000th passenger, Mr. Abdusalam Abubakar as part of activities of belt and road Initiative to mark 1000 days of smooth operation of the rail system in Nigeria by the M.D, CCECC Nigeria Ltd, Mr. Jiang Yiago.
It is important to note that Abuja-Kaduna Railway section is the first section of the Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project, using China railway technical standards and connecting the capital city of Abuja, Niger State and Kaduna State, with a total length of 186.5 km and a maximum speed of 150km/h.
On July 26th 2016, Abuja-Kaduna Railway Project officially started commercial operation, becoming the first modern railway in operation using China standard in Africa. Nigerian Railway Corporation is in Charge of Operations while the CCECC offers technical support, training service and assistance to the commercial operation.
NRC has 534 staff working on the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Project. CCECC has a technical team of 17 specialists providing technical support.
The second Train Service has been put into operation since January 5th, 2018. The speed of train from Idu station is 90km/h and Rigasa station 100km/h. There are five passenger stations and four crossing stations along the railway line, taking about one hour and 56 minutes to run from Idu to Rigasa station.
Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project is situated in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, the completed phase 1 is composed of two lines as Lot 1 A and Lot 3, Lot 1A is 18km from Idu industrial area to satellite town Kunwa and Lot3 is 27.245km from Abuja central area to the international airport of the capital, the total length of phase1 is 45.245km.
There are 12 stations set along the route of Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project Phase 1, 8 stations for Lot3 and 4 stations for Lot 1A. Apart from the main line project, a rail depot with an area of 24 hectares was also constructed close to Idu station to serve the Abuja Rail system as control centre, parking area and maintenance centre.
Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project (Phase 1) was signed by CCECC and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and began commercial operations on July 13th 2018. It is known as the first light rail in West Africa.
During construction of the rail an estimate of 20,000 local staff were employed. Since commencement of operations, this project has directly provided about 1000 jobs. During construction and operation, the project indirectly established an estimate of 200,000 jobs mostly in areas of material production, subcontracting works, equipment manufacturing and related services.
Moreover, to show the gains of Belt and Road Initiative ahead of this year’s forum, the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, hosted the Opening Ceremony of the Photographic Exhibition of the Belt and Road.
The exhibition is said to comprise of not only photos selected from more than 8000 works by 330 photographers around the world, but also photos from over 200 works by Nigerian photographers and Chinese people living and working in Nigeria.
The Charge d’Affaire & Minister – Counsellor of Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, Mr Zhao Yong stated at the opening ceremony of the exhibition that the photos capture the natural beauty and tell stories about the Silk Road around 8 topics.
He also said that the Belt and Road Initiative aims at creating new opportunities for global growth and providing a new platform for fostering closer ties between countries.
“Just as emphasised by President Xi, that while the Belt and Road Initiative is launched by China, its benefits should be shared by the world.
“Next week, the second Belt and Road Forum will be convened in Beijing. Around 1000 guests from over 148 countries and 73 international organisations, including 40 national leaders, have confirmed their attendance.
“Of course among them, there would be a ministerial delegation from Nigeria. We hope that the forum would provide good opportunities for all parties involved to jointly address global challenges and promote global growth”.
Lastly it is on record that President Xi noted that BRI was not only aimed at economic cooperation but also an important pathway to improve global development patterns and global governance and promote the healthy development of economic globalization.
The wide support the BRI is enjoying from Nigerian peoples given its projects which are spreading prosperity by opening more economic corridors, it clearly shows that Nigeria is ready to collaborate with China as a dependable ally for mutual benefit and shared prosperity.

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