FEDERAL government has flagged off Iju – Abeokuta Railway Transport service with a three-month free rail transport services.The flag off ceremony which took place on Friday in Abeokuta , Ogun State, was led by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
This was as the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was earlier slated to perform the flag off ceremony was neither present nor represented by anybody at the event.The government disclosed that the current railway project in Nigeria being executed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) has resulted in job creation for over 11,000 Nigerians by the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC).
The Minister, who stressed that the program was not a commissioning ceremony but a flag off of the free rail transport services to the host communities, urged the people to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo on Saturday, to enable them complete the rail contract as proposed.
In his words, “this is not a commissioning ceremony. We just decided to put the train on the track to convey passengers for three months free of charge. We are done here and we are grateful that Ogun State government organised this to welcome the third standard gauge in Nigeria. Itakpe-Warri is the first while Abuja-Kaduna is the second.
“The first tunnel in Nigeria is in Ogun State. This work is not free of charge, you will have to pay for it and the only way to pay is for you to vote. If you want us to take the project from Ibadan to Kano, then we need your vote.Vote for APC; this is what we are asking for.
“This train will be running from tomorrow free of charge. The train will be going three times in a day so that more people can be conveyed to work in a day; one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. After three months you begin to pay your money.
Amaechi also commended the Abeokuta community for making the execution of the project hitch-free, noting that they were the only ones in Nigeria that did not demand compensation.
Speaking at the event, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said that he was not in support of Amaechi turning the flag off ceremony to a political campaign, noting that he decided to grace the occasion because it is a development in his state.He stated that he was not interested in who brought the project but his concern was that the railway infrastructural development would be for the benefit of his people.
“I disagree with the last speaker; this is not a political event. I am here because of the railway infrastructure brought to my place. I don’t give a damn who puts it there. It doesn’t matter whatsoever as long as we have the railway working for the benefit of our people
“There is this Yoruba proverb which says: if it is a man who sees a serpent and it is a woman who kills the serpent, what does it matter? However, this one is not a question of killing; this is being creative. This is not a do-or-die occasion but a do-and-do occasion. Congratulations everyone involved in this enterprise”, he said.
In his goodwill message, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, commended President Buhari for making the rail project a reality, noting that had brought a lot of socio-economic development in the country while appealing to the people to re-elect the President.
He said that the rail contract had activated the Nigeria Railway Corporation, propelling it to employ over eleven thousand Nigerians while over two thousand Nigerian students went to China to study various aspects of engineering, to prepare them take over from the Chinese engineers in due time.
The Senator said, “I want to first and foremost appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari for having made a promise in 2015 and that promise has been kept. He promised Nigerians that his focus and priority was going to be in the areas of infrastructural development; and he specifically mentioned rail.
“Now, that promise is being seen by this standard gauge rail line from Lagos to Abeokuta. It is going to Ibadan and it will end in Kano.”The National Assembly has played its own role by providing the legislative framework within which this project can drive, and we are looking forward to seeing how it can translate to jobs. It has already started that.
“There are over eleven thousand Nigerians employed by the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) and its affiliates. There are about two thousand Nigerian students who are in China now studying various kinds of engineering, waiting for the period when they are going to take over from the contractors.
“Please remember that that President and the Vice must be given that room through what we are seeing particularly this railway for this axis, to come back the second time , ” he said.
The flag off ceremony also had in attendance the Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun among other dignitaries.