Senator Sahabi Yau Kaura representing Zamfara North Senatorial District, Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transportation in this interaction with journalists in Kaura-Namoda, assures Nigerians that the challenges on land transportation would soon be over as the Federal Government is poised to provide railway lines in all parts of the country. He also says his political future would be determined by his people. Our Correspondent,Ibrahim Sidi Muh’dwas there. Excerpts:
As chairman Senate Committee on land transport, can you shed more light on the ongoing railway rehabilitation and construction projects embarked upon by the present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan?
I am the chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport. Since the inception of this tenure from 2011 to date, we have been working assiduously with the Federal Ministry of Transport to see how best we can rehabilitate the railway lines of both the western and the eastern corridors. If you want me to elaborate more, the country is connected by two corridors. One of the corridors is the western which connects Lagos through Kwara to Kano and the other one is the eastern corridor which runs from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
You are all aware that the railway system in this country has been completely neglected to a point that it was completely forgotten. When this administration came on board, it discovered that the only thing it would do to uplift the transport system for the common man, as far as transportation is concerned, is to rehabilitate the railway lines. Like you have known, the rail lines we have in this country are outdated, compared to some advanced countries. So, due to expensive nature of railway project, we came to the conclusion that, what we should do is to first of all, rehabilitate what we have. Because if we can do that, the two corridors can connect the whole country, that is, the east, south, west and the north.
Therefore, the Federal Government awarded contract for the total rehabilitation of these railway lines. The first contract awarded was that of Lagos to Kano and the work was completed. Now, I am certain that trains are currently plying Lagos to Kano at least three times a week. The rail lines have connected southern and northern parts of the country. The rail now conveys goods and services from the two regions. Another work is from Zaria-Funtua and runs up to Kaura-Namoda and the contract for the rehabilitation of the rail line was awarded, and as I am talking to you now, 50% of the job has been completed and hopefully, before the end of this year, the rail will run from Zaria to Kaura –Namoda. The train now runs from Zaria to Funtua conveniently. In addition to this, feasibility study has begun for the rail to run from Kaura-namoda to Maradun, Talata-Mafara to Sokoto. Another one will run from Kaura-Namoda- Shinkafi, Isa- to Illela and from Illela to Sokoto and to terminate in Yauri. Contract for the feasibility study has already been awarded and as soon as it is completed, the contract would be awarded.
In addition to that, we have two new standard rail lines that are being constructed. One is from Lagos to Ibadan and the other one from Kaduna to Abuja.
The Kaduna-Abuja rail line has been completed, while that of Lagos to Ibadan is about 50% completed. The journey from Kaduna to Abuja is just an hour now because the modern train covers about 200 kilometres per hour. So, you can now imagine the safety of lives and property as well as the convenience of the passengers. Somebody can now park his car in Kaduna to go to Abuja for work and come back same day in a fair time. So, you can see the convenience. While the eastern corridor is also about 70 percent completed, by the time the two corridors are completed, as well as other lines, we will start thinking of constructing modern ones.
There has been a plan by the Federal Government to link the country to Niger Republic with a railway line, how real is this project?
Yes, it is a national plan but, what we are doing now is to make sure that we have good railway lines at home first. We are making efforts to ensure that our railways are perfectly functioning before we embark on linking with other countries.
Can you elaborate on the amount of money Federal Government is committing on these projects?
Well, you know railway is a very expensive mode of transportation. But I can tell you that the feasibility study of Kaura-namoda, Illela-Sokoto-Yauri alone is about N300 million. That is just for the feasibility study which only involves the viability of the project and the design. This year again, the sum of about N500 million has been added to the job. So, you see the feasibility study of that railway line is costing the Federal Government almost one billion naira.
The rehabilitation work of Zaria- Kaura-Namoda was awarded at the cost of about N3.5billion and almost 80% of this work is completed. You can now join train from Zaria to Funtua, and I am sure, the work is supposed to have reached up to Gusau by now. But there is a bridge under construction and I think it has been completed too. Therefore, towards the end of this year, the rail will operate to Kaura-Namods.
Do you have any ambition to re contest your position, or you look forward for governorship come 2015?
Well, as a politician, it is God first, then my people. I am praying very hard for God to guide me. And my people are the deciding factors whether to go for the position I am currently holding or whatever position. But as for now, I don’t aspire for any higher position. Even the position I am holding now is the choice of my people. They decide what I will contest. If they say ‘Sahabi go and contest for a councillorship’, I will go; and if they feel that I have done well, so I should retain the Senateship, with all pleasure. I am by the side of my people, the decision is not in my hand.
But we learnt that your party, (the PDP) is trying to bring you up to contest for governorship, how true is that?
Who told you this? I don’t work on speculation and I don’t believe in it.
A threatening number of people in the state have dumped APC for PDP.
What is the magic behind this?
Well, in politics, the determining factor is what you have done for your people, and if you have done well, the people would definitely rally round you. So, don’t forget the people are becoming politically conscious by the day. They have ears and they can also see. So politics is so dynamic and you cannot determine what would happen tomorrow. The only thing you should do is try to serve your people well; try to reach out to your people; try to improve their living standard and certainly they will always want to go with you.