Thursday, September 24, 2020 3:32 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
When an elephant dies or a whale is washed ashore dead, different types of knives and machetes will materialise from every nook and cranny. That goes for the reactions that have greeted the proposed rail line that will link Kano in Nigeria with Maradi in Niger Republic.
This major revelation came out of the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, 23 September, 2020. That is an approval was given by the Federal Government for the construction of a $1.9billion from Nigeria to Niger.
Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, told journalists that day that the sum “approved for the development of the proposed rail line linking Kano-Dutse-Katsina-Jibia and to Maradi in Niger Republic is inclusive of Value Added Tax.” He further told correspondents that the council also approved “the award of a contract worth N3.049 billion for the design, manufacture, supply, testing, and commissioning of one railway crane for the purposes of clearing rail tracks in situations of accidents.”
Is the railway a white elephant? On the opposite side of the spectrum are people who daily wax conspiracy theory about a grand agenda by highly placed individuals to settle the Fulani in Diaspora in Nigeria. They extended the argument further that most Northern politicians have their relations scattered across Nigeria, Mali, Chad, Senegal, Sudan and other far flung places. So for those of them in power, “it is pay back time for their kith and kin across the border.”
People who argue on government side, however, said it is expected to facilitate the movement of fuel from the Refinery and Petrochemical company in Maradi in Niger Republic “which is already sending some refined petroleum product to Nigeria.”
Kayode Samuel, a former Information Commisioner in Ogun State, started on jovial note: “Kano-Maradi rail line; Lagos-Cotonou rail line; PH-Douala rail line! Let the rail links spread everywhere. No be only Kano people sabi trade.” He, however, threw in punch line:
“I find all of the ongoing ineffectual noise and grumbling on the Kano-Maradi rail extension quite irritating. If it is the Fulani, for whatever selfish reasons, that show seriousness about the sub-regional and continental destiny of Nigeria, I think they should be left in peace to claim and enjoy their prize. The same myopia and pettiness that made the old Eastern region lose Southern Cameroons while the Northern region gained Northern Cameroons is still alive and kicking – 60 years later. May the common sense of southerners return before Jesus Christ comes back.”
Temitope Ajayi, a public affairs analyst, argued: “From where do some of our southern ‘intellectuals’ get this condescending notion that major infrastructural projects in the North are not worthy of government’s spending? To start with, every part of the country should be developed and opened up for more socio-economic prosperity.
Those ranting about a rail project that will terminate at a border between Nigeria and Niger Republic should know that Niger was doing its import and exports through our ports before now as a landlocked country. Because of bad roads and poor infrastructure they moved to Benin and Togo ports.
There is also the fact that Kano-Kastina-Baradi is an international trade route with huge volume of regional trade between Nigerians, Nigeriens and others from West and Central Africa up to Sudan. I still dont know how doing a rail to a border between us and Niger became a problem.”
Then, Garba Shehu, one of the Presidential Spokespersons, went into the ancestry of the project to justify it.
In his words: “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 a viable transportation backbone to the West African subregion, starting with the neighboring Niger Republic for their export and import logistic chain.”
-Ademola Adegbamigbe, Editor of TheNEWS, has been reporting business, politics and entertainment for the past 26 years