Faced with backlash over Federal Executive Council approval of $1.96bn for the construction of a rail line to link Kano, Dutse, Katsina, Daura and Maradi in Niger Republic, the Presidency backtracked on Thursday as Presidential Spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, denied that Nigeria was building rail line to Niger Republic.
Rather, Shehu said the plan was to construct the rail line up to the border Nigeria shares with the neighbouring country and not into the country itself.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had after the FEC meeting on Wednesday announced the approval of “the award of contract for the development of the proposed Kano-Katsina-Jibia to Maradi rail line in Niger Republic and to Dutse, the capital of Jigawa, for a total cost of $1,959,744,723.71, inclusive of 7.5 per cent VAT.”
The announcement generated angry reactions from Nigerians with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party accusing the government of misplaced priority.
But Shehu, in a series of tweets posted on his Twitter handle, @GarShehu, on Thursday, claimed that Nigeria would only construct the rail line to the border it shares with Niger Republic in Maradi.
According to Shehu, “Nigeria isn’t building rail line into Niger but, only to the designated border point. An agreement between Nigeria and Niger in 2015, coordinated by the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Cooperation has a plan for Kano-Katsina-Maradi Corridor Master Plan, K2M as it is called.
“Going by this, the two nations would each build a rail track to meet at the border town of Maradi. Nigerian delegates to that meeting comprised officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Boundaries Commission, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Water Resources as well as those of Kano and Katsina States.
“The objective of the rail is the harnessing of raw materials, mineral resources and agricultural produce. When completed, it will serve domestic industries and play the role of a viable transportation backbone to the West African sub-region, starting with the neighbouring Niger Republic for their export and import logistic chain.”