By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Kano Integrity and Justice Forum (KIJF), an independent organization of elder statesmen, academics, professionals, businessmen, Non-Governmental Organisations and others in the private sector, has thrown its weight behind the state government’s willingness to develop Light Rail Transit Project in Metropolitan Kano.
The KIJF’s position, which came after the Bashir Tofa-led group kicked against the project, was contained in a communique issued at the end of a one-day seminar organized with a view to obtaining private and public responses on the project which held at Bristol Palace Hotel, Kano.
The communique, which was jointly signed by the chairman and secretary, Prof. Abdu Salihi and Dr. Garba Shehu respectively, indicated that Kano city is a major commercial and industrial centre in Nigeria and the African Sub-Saharan region dating back to centuries and therefore, the need for the development of its transportation infrastructure to cope with increasing needs and demands locally and globally.
‘’This decision is the right one considering all that has been examined in this seminar, where it was shown that Kano cannot afford to be lagging behind in these global trends taking place, whereby cities (some even lesser population and resources than Kano) are making efforts at upgrade their transport infrastructures to be in-tune with the 21st century,’’ the communique added.
It said that while considering the economic challenges and disadvantages before every individuals, families, and businesses, the implementation of the Light Rail project will open opportunities for the benefit of every individual nationwide.
To further buttress its claim, KIJF said that various cities in Nigeria, Africa and the world over, are exploring some favorable development and financing options like Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) and concession to develop their societies and build import structures that will improve the quality of life of its citizen.
While citing some of the problems associated with projects that included the higher capital cost, lower proportion of seats to standees, inflexibility of roots, disruption to traffic and business during construction, the communique, however, contended that the benefits out weight the problems.
The communique suggested that ‘’the state government should explore the vast availability of using a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with some serious-minded private sector participants like Dangote Group Investments or a consortium of local financiers as the project commences and progresses, consider the idea of concession, which shall be explored in a similar way to what obtains in the telecommunication and airlines sectors,
It also called for a review of the 2012 Kano State Transport Master Plan, which should serve as a Road Map and means of guiding the city towards solving many transportation challenges now and in the future.’’
On the management of the project, it advised the state government to exercise extreme nationalism by ensuring that Nigerian experts who are very conversant with railway management and technical know-how are fully involved in the project implementation, to work closely with the expatriates.
The forum in the communique commended Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje for his steadfast despite the scathing criticisms on the project and called the people in Kano to avoid politicizing matters of development in the interest of the state.